From Food Waste to Soil
How Lomi makes composting quick and easy
When I first heard about the Lomi composter and its ability to turn food waste into soil overnight, I was more than a little bit skeptical. I have been lucky enough to grow up with a backyard compost, so I know that there are a lot of rules involved to make this magic happen. Fruit and vegetable scraps are fine, but no citrus peels, because “the compost doesn’t like them”. Lawn cuttings are great for the compost, but make sure to spread them thinly on the heap. No meat and dairy and very little cooked food. And then ideally, the compost needs to be “turned” and shoveled from one heap to the other. It’s a whole science involving microbes and earthworms and probably a ton of other factors I don’t even know about.
How can a machine do all that in just a few hours? And can that really be a sustainable option? Since I compost in my garden, I never had a good reason to investigate further, but I was thrilled when I was asked to vet the Lomi for inclusion in the askBelynda plugin.
As much as I love traditional approaches, I know that having a garden is a privilege, and even communal composting and green bins aren’t a given everywhere. In the US, 35 million tons of food waste end up in landfills every single year, and many households are looking to be a part of the solution to this problem.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into the world of the Lomi composter. I wanted to find out how it manages to turn food waste into nutrient-rich soil in such a short amount of time, and how sustainable that process is. Buckle up, my composting friends, because we're about to dig deep and uncover if this machine can truly revolutionize the way we compost.
From compostable phone cases to composting for everyone
One of the first things we check when vetting a product for inclusion in the askBelynda suggestions is the company history. Even though we love seeing large and established companies making their business practices more eco-friendly, a company that starts out with sustainability in mind will always win our hearts.
Pela, the company that developed the Lomi, was founded in 2008 by Jeremy Lang. Appalled by the damage plastic was causing to our oceans, Jeremy started looking for alternative materials – and he didn’t have to look far away. Saskatchewan, the home of Pela, is known as one of the biggest producers of flax worldwide. In oilseed flax production, the straw of the plant is considered a waste product and often burned. Pela decided to change that and uses flax straw in its compostable composite material. The straw or flax shive adds texture and strength to the plastic-like material “Flaxstics”. In 2011, Pela introduced the world’s first compostable phone case, paving the way for sustainable alternatives in the consumer goods industry.
Sustainable Shopping Made Simple
This commitment to sustainability and innovative solutions naturally led Pela to explore other avenues for reducing waste. In 2018, Pela HQ opened in Kelowna, British Columbia, with a dedicated material science department aimed at tackling another pressing issue: food waste. It was here that the concept of Lomi was born. Combining their expertise in compostable materials with the goal of finding a home composting solution for both food waste and bioplastics, Pela's creative incubator set out to revolutionize the way we approach composting at home. And on Earth Day 2021, after a thorough research and development phase, the Lomi composter was launched through a highly successful crowdfunding campaign.
The obvious question from looking at this company history is this: Can you compost your Pela phone case in your Lomi? Absolutely, you can!
So, how does it work?
You know how backyard composting can take months or even years to turn food scraps into soil, right? So how can Lomi possibly do the same thing in a matter of hours?
Just like in traditional compost, the bulk of the magic is done by microorganisms, but those get the perfect working conditions. Lomi grinds the content of the bucket into smaller pieces, so there is a lot of surface area for the little helpers to attack. The temperature and moisture are carefully controlled, and the grinding mechanism also helps aerate the mixture.
Here's a little science excursion: The lack of oxygen is one of the main reasons that organic matter in landfills is so detrimental. While aerobic, oxygen-loving bacteria turn food scraps into great soil that sequesters carbon, the anaerobic process of food rotting underneath other waste in a landfill is responsible for the sizable methane production of food waste.
Lomi offers three different composting modes, depending on what you are planning to do with your Lomi Earth: Grow, Eco-Express, and Lomi-Approved. The Grow Mode, which is the longest cycle, takes between 16 and 20 hours to break down organic waste. It operates at a lower heat setting to preserve as many microorganisms and nutrients as possible, making it suitable if you want to use the resulting dirt as compost to mix in with your soil. The Eco-Express mode is the shortest cycle, taking only three to five hours to complete. While the final product from this mode can be discarded in a compost pile or waste bin, it is not intended to use directly for your garden or houseplants. The Lomi-Approved setting, which takes five to eight hours, is specifically designed to allow for certain bioplastics to be mixed in with your organic matter.
Is it Sustainable?
If I have learned anything from digging deeper into sustainability issues it is this. The answer to the question “Is it sustainable?” is almost always “it depends”.
In the case of running an electrically powered composter, it depends on several factors: How is your local grid powered? Where would the food waste go if you didn’t use a Lomi? What are you intending to do with the Lomi dirt? It seems almost too complex to figure out a straightforward answer, right? One would have to do scientific research and compare a number of scenarios.
That is exactly what Pela has commissioned experts to do to make sure their product has a positive impact! And since I love to get into nitty-gritty details, I love that they made the full paper available with all the numbers, assumptions, and scenarios. If you can relate, you’ll love this Lomi Carbon Impact Report. The bottom line is that only one scenario (conventional energy supply + Lomi dirt to landfill) is unsuitable. And I love how openly they communicate that in their messaging.
Apart from the use of the product, we should always consider the production and disposal as well (the reason why buying a new, energy-efficient appliance is not always the sustainable no-brainer it seems to be). Pela had the carbon emissions of production and shipping calculated by an independent partner, so that the Lomi arrives at your door with a net-zero carbon footprint. Offsetting carbon emissions is only the second-best scenario, and Pela’s sustainability strategy acknowledges that. One of their goals for 2023, in addition to making the newer models more energy efficient and using more biobased materials is to “engage with the Chinese manufacturing facility to encourage a shift to renewable power sources“.
So, there is room to grow at the production level, but the post-consumer stage is sensational. You can send back your old Lomi for refurbishing or recycling in Pela’s 360 program. And guess what they do with refurbished Lomis? They donate them to schools, so kids can learn about the impact of food waste and recycling! I love that!
By donating Lomi's to schools, Learn with Lomi gives thousands of students a hands-on opportunity to learn about how food waste can be turned into a valuable natural resource that feeds the earth in the most sustainable, regenerative way.
How do you compost?
I really loved digging into this topic and rediscovering the magic of composting (I actually resolved to take better care of my backyard compost and even churn it one of these days).
As long as I have a garden, I have less use for a Lomi, but I am pretty sure it will be my first choice if ever I live in a city apartment (or on a houseboat, the less likely but more desirable scenario for me not having a green space).
How do you deal with your food waste? Do you have a backyard that could house a compost? Have your heard about worm-boxes or bokashi buckets for indoor composting? Or will you give the Lomi a try? Let me know in the comments!