Alex is a lover of animals, and an experienced licensed veterinary technician with a BS in Biology and and AS in Veterinary Technology.
What Is a Foodcycler?
The Vitamix FoodCycler is essentially a way for to reduce the amount of food waste that ends up in landfills. The scraps of vegetables, tea bags, coffee grounds, and so on that are put in the bin are heated and then pulverized. Essentially, this machine is dehydrating the items inside and then grinding them until they are in very small pieces. The resulting product is significantly reduced in size.
According the manufacturer, you can then throw this product away, add it directly to soil, or add it to the compost bin. If you are just throwing it away, it will decrease the amount in the garbage bin, not too mention the smells. So, even if you just end up throwing away the end product, you will still be reducing the amount of waste going to the landfill.
What Can Go Inside?
So, what can you put inside? A lot! Essentially, according to the manufacturer, if it is biodegradable and fits in the bin, you can put it in.
I do recommend cutting the bits of food into smaller pieces. They do say that you can add small amount of citrus rinds and banana peel, but that you want to avoid large pieces and large amounts as it will be difficult for the machine to dehydrate and grind. You can even add tea bags, just remove the little metal staples.
They do note that if you add meat or bones (small bones only), that you should discard the end product and not to compost or add to the soil. They don't list a reason why, but in my vet tech learnings I have become very familiar with parasites and bacteria that can be found in the muscle tissue of various animals. I would assume this is a liability against foodborne parasites and bacterial disease.
What Can't Go Inside?
There are some limitations to the FoodCycler that traditional composting does not have. For example, they explicitly say that you cannot add anything that has an oil or another flammable substance. Why? I would assume they want to reduce the risk of spontaneous combustion, which could happen when something flammable is heated to high temperatures.
The manufacturer also discourages nuts and other hard items as they could damage the inside of the machine.
Why I Decided to Purchase This Product
This machine as been on my wishlist for years. Currently, I'm in an apartment and have been trying to have a productive balcony garden. I also would like to be more environmentally friendly and try to reduce the amount of food waste in my household.
What was holding me back? Well, the price was a significant factor, the machine alone is rather pricey and it does require replacement filters periodically.
Some of the reviews also prevented me from pulling the trigger. Some people complained of the machine being so loud they couldn't sleep.
Other people said it just never worked for them. I even saw a review where a woman claimed the machine had melted her drywall.
There were also quite a few people that said the machine used so much energy that their electric bill became too high to justify running the machine.
I did see one person that claimed the dehydrated bits would rehydrate in the soil and rot instead of breaking down to provide nutrients to the plants. However, this person was saying that without having used the machine.
Read More From Dengarden
Every few months, I would go back and read the reviews on several different websites. I literally spent hours seeing what everyone had to say.
I will say that for every person with a negative comment there were two or three that thought this machine was amazing.
I mean it can't be that bad if Vitamix has made several models of this machine, and it has been on the market for over a decade now.
If this machine was really that expensive to run that you couldn't afford your electric bill, or it was so noisy you can't hear anything in the room, or if it never ran, they would've stopped producing them a long time ago. Right?
My Experience With the Vitamix FoodCycler
I'll be honest. I've had this machine for less than a week. I've run it three times. I didn't think I would have run it that many times in such a short period. I thought I might do two loads in a week. I think in another day or so I'll have enough scraps saved to run a total for four loads in one week. That's awesome!
Is the machine loud?
Well, I can hear it when it's on, but I can still have a conversation, I can still hear the TV, and I was even able to take a nap. There is a little noise that comes and goes, but it is mainly when it is in the grinding setting and it doesn't last long.
Did the machine melt my drywall?
No. Why? Because I'm not a moron. The operating manual specifically states to keep it at least 6 inches away from the wall. On the back of the machine are two giant exhaust ports. I have it 8 inches from the wall on my kitchen table and so far I've not melted anything.
Is the machine too expensive to run?
Well, I haven't gotten my electric bill for the month so I can't say for sure yet. However, I can say this. When it runs the power does not dip, it does not trip the circuit breaker, and I've yet to cause a blackout.
When I run my hairdryer the lights in the bathroom dim . . . so, I feel like it can't be using that much electricity. The manufacturer does recommend only plugging the unit in to a grounded outlet and to not use any extension cords or power strips, to prevent the possibility of electrical fires.
I'm honestly impressed with how greatly reduced the end product is. I got a dog food bin to keep the dried bits of goodness until I'm ready to mix them in the soil. In the three loads I ran, that bin would have been full. However, the end product only covers about an inch and a half.
Will the dehydrated bits rot in the soil?
I can't say for sure since I haven't used them yet. However, I would imagine not.
If you think about it, if you are mixing a moderate amount in the soil towards the bottom on the bin, it should continue to break down. It's like composting, but in the soil instead of a bin.
I don't think you want to add a whole lot of the FoodCycler 'dirt' to the soil at one time. I think if you just mix a little in the soil before planting—I think the manufacturer recommends adding to the soil a few days before adding plants—that you would get some added benefits to your garden.
What Have I Been Adding?
I've literally been putting all my veggie scraps, egg shells, and tea bags in the machine since I got it. I even cleaned out the fridge and added some of the blueberries, spinach, and strawberries that weren't moldy but were no longer fresh enough that I would eat them.
I took a medium-sized container and I have been storing all the bits in that until I'm able to run the FoodCycler.
I saw one person gave the FoodCycler a bad review because she 'had to buy an extra basket so she could have one used for collection and swap it out with the one in use'. No, you do not have to do that. She wanted to do that because it was convenient. I've been doing just fine with my container on the counter.
Apparently, when I cook dinner or make breakfast, which is nearly every day, I generate enough waste products to run a load in about 2 days. That's not that long, and so far nothing has been very stinky—so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing until something changes.
Edit After 2 Months of Use
So, I've been using my machine regularly since the day I got it. I run it at least 3-4 times weekly depending on how much produce we use that week. I even became bold and tossed in a lemon (that had been juiced and then quartered) and it did fantastic! I've been putting my clementine peels in and they have had no problems breaking down. Since the weather is warming we've been enjoying crushes on the deck, this mean a lot of oranges. I just cut the rinds into smaller pieces and i've had no problems. I've even cut up some banana peels and its done wonderfully, I believe the most I did was 5 banana peels along with egg shells and coffee grounds.
I had also used some of the 'soil' in my garden. I planted my garden in two stages and I put a spadeful in each section of my raised bed, about three per bed, during stage one. Three weeks later I planted the rest of my garden and I dug around in the beds a bit and I didn't find any mildly bits or any sign that the 'soil' produced by the FoodCycler wasn't braking down. I was thrilled! So, I added another spadeful to each section and finished my planting. I think as the season goes on I will continue to feed the bed by mixing in some of the FoodCycler 'soil' to the beds.
Now, I was curious about my electric bill. Well, I've at two now since using my machine, the second reflects using the machine 3-4 weekly for the entire month. Guess what? I saw no change in my bill. It was nearly identical to the year prior, so I wouldn't worry about the electric costs of running the machine too much. I do see why people wanted a second basket, and I am considering getting one but it is not high on my priority list right now. I'm also pleased that I still have yet to smell an odor from the machine and the change filter light has not come one.
To sum up, its two months in and I still love this machine. We're looking to find a more permanent location for it since its a bit cumbersome to put away and get out when I want to use it, but its not that big of a deal.
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