With more municipalities around the country mandating residential composting, now’s a good time to learn how to properly compost food scraps and garden waste at home.
Composting kitchen waste doesn’t need to be difficult, smelly, or complicated. All it takes is a little knowledge of what can and cannot be composted and a suitable container in which to place scraps.
While a simple lidded container will work for storing kitchen scraps before bringing them outside to the compost bin or pile, there are many “fancier” options that promise to absorb odor, speed up decomposition, and fit into your kitchen décor.
One newer home composting product is the Green Cycler from Ecotonix. This counter-top food shredder won the 2013 Pinnacle Award at the National Hardware Show for best overall product, best design, and manufacturing, so we had high hopes that it would make the composting experience easier and more enjoyable.
Users will likely be divided over the utility of the Green Cycler; experienced composters will probably find it unnecessary and overly-complicated, while those new to composting, as well as families with younger children, may enjoy using it as it gives them an opportunity to see the composting process “in action.”
The Green Cycler has many nice features, including the following:
- Disassembles easily for cleaning
- All parts can be cleaned in the dishwasher (but see note below before doing this)
- It’s made in the USA
- An odor-absorbing filter is included
- Food scraps are dropped into top of the unit and shredded by a set of blades that are turned using a hand crank
- Shredded scraps drop through the shredder into a drawer beneath
- The removable drawer is easy to handle and convenient for carrying shredded food scraps out to the compost pile
Shredding Speeds Up Composting
The idea behind the Green Cycler is that shredding compostable material, such as kitchen scraps, speeds the composting process by up to 1,000%. While shredding or chopping up large, hard, or dry material (like leaves, twigs, and broccoli stems) will certainly speed composting, it’s generally not necessary for smaller or “squishier” materials, such as lettuce leaves, tomatoes, or soft fruits – those scraps break down quickly on their own.
Starts to Smell Quickly
Shredding softer material in the Green Cycler results in a soft pulp or juice dropping into the drawer under the shredding unit. Although the unit comes with a ZeoPack odor filter (made with volcanic zeolite crystals) which is supposed to absorb odors, we found that pulp and juice began to smell noticeably within less than 24 hours. Opening the lid to shred more scraps released a wave of rotten fruit/vegetable odors that was most unpleasant.
If you’re going to shred softer material in the Green Cycler, we recommend that you empty and wash it daily, preferably in the dishwasher. Or put it outside.
Difficult to Shred Dense Material
The Green Cycler is best used to shred denser material (like cauliflower or broccoli stems) before tossing it in the compost bin. It shreds stuff well enough but it’s not easy – it takes a lot of back and forth chopping with the blades (i.e., turning the handle in different directions) to shred material and it gets stuck between the blades easily.
The blades are not sharpened (so don’t worry about getting cut when reaching into the unit) which makes it safer to use but even more difficult to cut through tough stems and harder material. It does work, but it takes some effort.
Suction Feet Slide on Countertop
The Green Cycler is designed to sit on a counter top and be held in place with suction cups while you turn the hand crank to shred material. However, the four suction feet on the underside of the unit don’t stick to the countertop to keep it in place. Instead, they slide around on the countertop surface but make it hard to lift the machine off the counter. You end up struggling to keep it in one place as you work the handle but if you want to move it, you have to pry up each suction cup individually to get it off the counter. It works a bit better on rougher surfaces, like butcher block, but not on granite or quartz.
Takes Up A Lot of Space
As a countertop compost ‘appliance’, the Green Cycler is rather large. At 10″ x 12″ (12″ x 14″ if you include the drawer handle and crank handle) and 12″ tall, it takes up far more space than the typical compost pail. Homeowners with smaller kitchens may find it too large to leave on the counter.
Not Entirely Dishwasher Safe
Although the Ecotonix website and the instructions that came with the Green Cycler both say that “all parts are designed for quick (dishwasher safe) clean up”, that’s not exactly true. The shredder unit went through the dishwasher without any problems (although it didn’t come out clean) but the lid melted and came out too mis-shapen to fit back on the Green Cycler. If you’re going to wash the lid in the dishwasher, we recommend only putting it on the top rack (where it may be difficult to fit) and not using a heated drying cycle.
We don’t recommend the Green Cycler for serious home composters, smaller kitchens, or those who aren’t prepared to clean it out every day. It may be of interest to some as a teaching tool, for shredding only dense material, or for occasional use.
Unfortunately, we found that while the overall idea behind the Green Cycler is solid, it simply didn’t live up to its promise.
Where To Buy It
The Green Cycler (starting at $99.99), filters, and replacement parts are available on the Green Cycler website, which also has a wealth of helpful information about composting. It’s available in black, garden green, platinum, crystal and black, crystal and pink, and crystal and lime-green.