It’s that time again—you know, that period where you think long and hard about how you intend to become a new and improved version of yourself in the new year. While you’re still workshopping your resolutions, we’d like to throw another worthwhile contender in the ring: embracing more eco-friendly practices over the next 12 months.
In the spirit of this altruistic endeavor, let us introduce you to one item that some shoppers believe is a secret weapon when it comes to drastically reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfills: the Lomi countertop composter. Designed by Pela, this innovative device is designed to help make disposing of food waste easier. This is important, considering that discarded food—which doesn’t always break down easily—is responsible for about 24 percent of landfilled waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Furthermore, the World Wildlife Fund estimates that about 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from wasted food, so that means this item could be a game-changer in terms of how you can personally help lower your carbon footprint in 2023.
Here’s what happened when we put the Lomi to the test.
What Is Lomi?
Although it might sound like a Pixar character and look a little like something that pairs with your Apple products, the Lomi is a countertop electric composter made by a certified B Corporation, essentially meaning a for-profit business that has met the highest standards for social and environmental performance, and that uses its corporate platform as a way to do good deeds around the world.
Pela, the maker of the Lomi, previously established itself as an industry leader in compostable, plant-based smartphone cases and carrying cases for AirPods (also, the brand counts Jay-Z as an investor). Lomi, which retails for between $451 to $627 depending on which bundle option you choose, hit the market after an extremely successful 2021 crowdfunding campaign, and within roughly the last year, has already been used in more than 112,000 households.
Like some other personal electric composters on the market, the appliance is meant to simulate the composting process and breaks down food (as well as some consumer products and packaging) into a flaky, dirt-like substance (or nutrient-rich soil) in a very small fraction of the time it would take compared to using traditional composting methods.
According to the brand, a Lomi can make the contents you put in it disappear in as little as three hours, with just the push of a button. It can take up to 80 percent of most food waste too, including stale bread and grain products, fruits and vegetables, meat, and more. The company also claims that the carbon-neutral product is energy-efficient, using 60 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per 100 cycles, and those 100 cycles can add up over time, diverting about 220 pounds of food waste from landfills and preventing about 18 pounds worth of methane emissions.
After watching the promotional video and reading copious amounts of generally positive customer feedback on both Amazon and the product site, it still seemed too good to be true. To me, composting has always seemed gross, complicated, and like too much hassle despite knowing it was something I should be doing alongside recycling, avoiding single-use plastics, observing meatless Monday, and taking public transit when possible. I aspired to become a zero-waster but I just couldn’t get my hands to cooperate and follow my mind’s eco-friendly lead. But this? This I could handle as long as it made good on its promises. With that in mind, I reached out to Pela and requested a sample to test.
How the Lomi Composter Works
The Lomi measures 16 inches wide by 12 inches high, and weighs about 22 pounds, making it comparable in size to a large air fryer or toaster oven. Designed to sit on a countertop or table, it contains two filter compartments that you can fill with activated charcoal pellets, as well as an airtight lid and a 3-liter pail with rotating blades at the bottom to consistently aerate the food.
The unit also has three modes that take varying amounts of time: Eco-Express, Grow, and Lomi Approved. Eco-Express is the fastest (it composts contents within three to five hours), uses the least amount of electricity, handles only food waste, and is best for people who want to reduce the amount of food waste they send to landfills but don’t really need fertilizer (although according to the brand, dirt from the Eco-Express mode can be added to plants). On the other hand, Grow mode turns food waste into garden-ready compost but takes far longer—between 16 to 20 hours—because it uses low heat to preserve microorganisms and bacteria; Pela claims you’ll get the best dirt if you stick to using fresh fruit, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells in this mode. The third option, Lomi Approved, allows users to add certain approved bioplastics, packaging, and compostable goods in the bucket for breakdown and takes about five to eight hours.
There are also certain products that should never be tossed into the device, including liquids, oils, and non-organic materials. Hard bones, un-popped popcorn kernels, human and/or animal waste, and styrofoam also make the list, among other items.
To use the Lomi, the user simply tosses waste into the pail. When it reaches the fill-to line or has been sitting for more than three or four days, just plug it in, select the mode, hit the button, and let the magic—a combination of engineering, physics, and biology—happen. Between three and 20 hours later and after a cooling cycle, you can dump the results into your green bin or garden depending on which mode you chose, then rinse and repeat.
Lomi Composter: The Pros
Pela sent me a unit with the starter pack of charcoal filters and a handful of LomiPods, which are mint-sized pucks featuring a proprietary blend of probiotics that can be added to the mix to further aid in breaking down food waste, minimizing odors, and fortifying the end product with more nutrients. That means you could end up with better fertilizer for your potted plants or garden.
The unboxing and setup were a breeze. All the packaging is either fully recyclable or compostable, further proving Pela’s commitment to the environment. Setup consisted of filling the two filter areas with the provided charcoal (which can muck up your hands and the unit a bit, depending on how steady of a pourer you are), attaching the power cord, placing it on the counter, and plugging it in. Thorough, simple directions minimize human error from the first use.
I’ve been testing the Lomi out for roughly four months and, honestly, I don’t know how I ever lived without it. I especially enjoy the feeling that washes over me whenever I dump in another bucketful and realize that I am a composter now. As a California resident, it also makes me feel better knowing that I am a law-abiding citizen, as the state’s mandatory composting law went into effect in January 2022. (Some cities and other states have or are considering similar laws, so depending on where you reside and your living situation, this might be another good reason to consider purchasing a Lomi.)
For the most part, the device does exactly what it promises: It takes full buckets of watermelon rinds, moldy cheese, banana peels, and more and condenses them by more than two-thirds in a matter of hours with minimum human effort. I kept mine on the kitchen counter next to the sink, which made it very easy to scrape the last few bites off dinner plates directly into the bucket while doing dishes, or to dispense with the inedible parts during vegetable, fruit, or meat prep. This also eliminated the need for either a stinky container or multiple trips outside to the green bin.
The two charcoal filters and fitted lid helped to annihilate unwanted smells. I routinely had cheese, coffee, and onions stewing in the bucket for a couple of days, waiting for enough waste to justify running it and yet I only caught a whiff of them when I opened the lid to put in more. The LomiPods are unique, as they add an extra microbial boost to the finished product created in Grow mode, which is a bonus for customers who plan to use the “soil” in their gardens.
Additionally, the Lomi operates at a low-noise volume. I generally ran it overnight and despite being a light sleeper in a small house with no closed doors—my cats demand the ability to roam freely in the wee hours—the sound never kept me awake or woke me up. It runs on what amounts to about a kilowatt or less of electricity. I don’t have the capability or tools to test this officially, but I can say my electricity bill didn’t spike despite running it every few days.
However, I did find it generally operated on the long end of the cycle-time window, especially in Grow mode—a cycle once took more than 21 hours. The dirt produced does not retain any food fumes, either. I can’t say it smells good, but it certainly doesn’t leave you gagging the way that taking out the trash (or walking behind a restaurant in the summer) sometimes does. How the soil-like byproduct looks, or more specifically, how dry and flaky it is, depends on the density and moisture content of what you put in and the ratio of green (food) to brown (yard waste, compostable goods) ingredients. A few times on Grow mode when, say, we added a lot of hummus or fruits with a high water content like melon or grapes, it had a gross, gloopy consistency akin to very chunky olive tapenade.
But even when the end product was more soiled than soil, it was a far more pleasant experience than what I had been doing to comply with the Golden State’s new rule before. I had been walking rotted veggies individually to the side of the house to toss scraps into the green bin for the city to handle the next step. The bin got gnarly fast, made the entire area smell, and attracted flies and other pests by the boatload.
Lomi Composter: The Cons
There are no two ways around it—the Lomi is expensive, and you will have to replace the charcoal and pods, which can add up over time. How often depends on usage, but the company recommends doing so every three to six months. If you sign up for a quarterly filter subscription at the time of purchase through Lomi directly, you immediately save more on the appliance. The VIP bundle currently costs the most (it is on sale for $627 right now) but comes with a lot of filters and pods. But no matter how you slice it, it could be cost-prohibitive for some families.
The second negative involves the cleanup. For the most part, it cleans like a dream. There is a nonstick coating on the pail so most of the contents fall right out or come off with a light rinse. The bucket can also go in the dishwasher, but if you are even a little bit type-A (guilty over here!), you will be driven nuts trying to dislodge the last little pieces trapped under the tiny space between the blade bottom and the floor of the bucket. I found myself using toothpicks, dish-scrubbing brushes, and even letting it sit for long soaks. Slowly, I’d pry chunks loose, but it was time consuming and I’m sure there are renegade broccoli stalks that live there now.
Sometimes, the lid is persnickety and lining it up right or getting it back on can take a little concentration and extra time. But trust me, you definitely do not want to leave it open when there is food in there. On the same note, during a couple uses, I heard slightly more sound than usual coming from the appliance, like a low but persistent groan with every rotation, as if the blades were having a harder time than usual stirring up the contents. I think it might just be a matter of how densely the pail was packed or how big the contents were. (The brand recommends cutting things like melon rinds into smaller pieces.)
Is the Lomi Composter Worth Purchasing?
If you can swing the steep price tag and have room in the kitchen, you should definitely consider ordering this composter. Anyone with some counter space, an electrical outlet, and the ability to push a button can become a composter with a Lomi. With it, you don’t need access to a green bin or outside space to house a bulky tumbler or barrel. Furthermore, you’ll save time and won’t have to worry about the weather as you sometimes might with traditional composting. The Lomi also reduces the likelihood that you’ll have flies, critters, or worse, maggots around a compost pile, all lured by the smell and promise of secondhand supper.
Even apartment dwellers can benefit from owning a Lomi. If you don’t have a garden or a green bin and your only option is to throw the “soil” into your regular trash, it will still help you lower your carbon footprint. The reduced volume of waste you generate and the lack of smell means the bag won’t fill up as fast and the trash doesn’t have to be taken out as often. And it also means that food waste arrives at the dump already broken down.
Whether you use a Lomi to cultivate nutrient-rich fertilizer to feed your pots and flower beds or to drastically reduce the amount of food waste you produce (and therefore, the methane in the atmosphere your household is responsible for), the device gives you an easy win. You barely have to do anything to make a dent in your own carbon footprint, and that means you have a good chance of turning that new year’s resolution from a gimmick into positive, actionable change you continue to do well beyond the month of January.
And if you still aren’t sure it’s going to clean up your food-waste act enough to justify the cost, never fear. Pela is so sure you’ll be another satisfied customer that they offer a 30-day, risk-free home trial.