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Composters:  A slick inside model

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A slick inside model

Key Features:
  • Dimensions: 20" high x 20" deep x 12" wide.
  • Installs in any standard cabinet.
  • Capacity: 120 pounds of organic waste per month
  • 2 weeks for completed compost
  • $300 for plus model, $400 for pro model (2008). Add $49 for a cabinet mount kit.
  • Pricing as of 2008.
Ask For:
  • NatureMill Automatic Composter
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by Deborah Holmes, Ebricks.com
I dutifully compost my kitchen scraps in the spring, summer and fall. But in the winter, my environmental sensibilities get buried in the thigh deep snow that stands between my back door and the backyard bin.

I'm not about to move my smelly compost bin inside (where my garbage-loving beagle would be a problem), but I might consider this automatic composter. So too might homeowners with tiny yards, apartment or condo dwellers, or those who live in bear country where outdoor bins draw unwelcome dinner guests.

The high tech gadget uses heat, a fan and a mixer to turn kitchen scraps into high-nitrogen compost. A six-month composting process is completed in two weeks -- without the smell or pests.

Fresh waste enters an upper "hot" chamber where it's rapidly broken down by heat, air, agitation and moisture. Sensors feed information to an onboard computer which turns on heat and agitation as needed. A fan constantly runs, drawing in air and running to through a carbon filter before expelling it. About a week later, the waste is automatically transferred to a lower "cure" chamber to finish composting. The composter handles up to four pounds of organic waste a day, and fresh waste can be handled at any time.

An light indicates when the compost is ready. It can be used immediately or stored outdoors until your garden is ready.

The composter can be used indoors -- even inside a cabinet, as pictured -- or outdoors.

Aside from its fairly steep price tag -- $300 to $400 -- the composter has a cost not associated with a simple backyard bin. Electricity is required to keep the upper hot tank at an even 140 degrees and to power the agitator and the fan. Energy use is about 5 kwh per month (or about 50 cents).

On the other hand, this composter can handle meat, fish, eggs and cheese, animal products that cannot be dumped in a backyard compost bin. The manufacturer says the heat, air and agitation destroy microbes responsible for odors in traditional compost bins. Seeds are also rendered sterile by the process. Can it really be that this machine can accomplish what the human digestive system and municipal treatment plants cannot?

The compost can be used outdoors on the lawn, shrubs, trees or garden. Indoors, it can be used on potted plants. The odor from the compost is described as damp wool, sourdough bread or mushrooms.

The automatic composter is made from recycled and recyclable materials.

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