The Lomi Countertop Composting Controversy

Some say it’s “legit”, some say “you should quit.” We take at look at what's really going on with the Lomi smart waste kitchen composter.

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by Rachel Porter
PHOTO: courtesy of Lomi

With Lomi, Pela created a kitchen countertop composter to, in the company’s words, “turn your food scraps, organic waste, certified compostable packaging and certified home bioplastics into compost at the touch of a button.” The notion of turning all food waste into nutrient-rich compost for your garden is appealing to any hobby farmer, especially those spending a lot of time and/or money on compost each year.

But is it worth $500? And does the product actually live up to all the claims? Several skeptics have fired shots at the product, dragging the company’s name through the dirt.

We dug into the dirt around this issue to learn more about Lomi.

Lomi Origin

In 2021, Pela (Lomi’s parent company) began a Kickstarter campaign earning $7,228,029 USD by 19,422 backers. In a company press release, Daanvir Dhir, a materials scientist with Pela, introduced Lomi by saying, “Lomi speeds up the breakdown of organic waste into smaller fragments, similar to how earthworms break down and mix plant tissue into soil, except Lomi does this without the smell and mess! Fragmented waste provides more surface area for microbes to accelerate the composting process. The end result is a natural source of soil nutrients that increase the organic content of the soil, helping boost plant growth and soil enrichment.”

The campaign also claimed, “Lomi produces ready-to-use, nutrient-rich compost that can be made for all your indoor and outdoor plants and flowers.”   

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Skeptics have criticized the validity of these statements, saying Lomi doesn’t make actual dirt and there is no way it can produce the type of compost that takes months to build in a few hours.

Pela has responded to scrutiny with reclaims, written statements, slight (unadvertised) model adjustments and lots of rewording replacing words like “dirt,” “composter” and “compost” with “fragmented waste,” “earth” and “nutrient booster.” 


Read more: Yes, you should compost—here’s why and how to get started.


So What Does Lomi Actually Produce?

The best definition of what Lomi produces was described by their CEO Matthew Bertulli in an interview with Kevin Espiritu on Epic Gardening.

Bertulli defines the product’s output as “pre-compost” (although you won’t find much of that verbiage on their advertisements). Espiritu refers to the texture Lomi produces as a nice add-in to soil mixes, equivalent to a peat or a core. This statement is more or less in line with criticism that nutrients in the Lomi’s output are not as beneficial or equivalent to compost—though the end product is still very beneficial in other ways.

Is the Output Beneficial?

The product Lomi produces is now being referred to as “Lomi Earth”—no longer “Lomi Soil.” According to Pela’s test garden, Helen Acres, studies show applying Lomi Earth to soil increased crop yield on average by 26 percent and crop size by 17 percent.

One application of Lomi Earth can help boost levels of eight essential nutrients. So, while the company has shifted away from the “compost” term, the product does, in fact, produce a nutrient-rich amendment for soil. 


Read more: Compost like a pro with this simple technique.


Target Audience

Ideally, we should all do our part to eliminate food waste. To that end, Lomi can help. One cycle of the machine reduces food waste by as much as 80 percent. That is major shrinkage. Sending less to the landfills is a win for literally everyone in the world. Lomi definitely beats landfills—hands down.

The argument, then, is around if the byproduct is as beneficial as Lomi claims, not if it is better than throwing food and bioplastics away. 

Lomi does make a lot of sense for apartment dwellers or suburban families who do not compost. Since this system does not replace or equal the benefits of actual compost piles, it should not be directed toward people who already compost.

Lomi does have other benefits over green bins, too. The system won’t attract pests, is free of smells and doesn’t leak. It’s a sleek and attractive countertop appliance, and the Lomi does create a usable product for houseplants, landscapes and garden beds. 

How to Use Lomi

It’s important to understand your intention and purpose before selecting a mode.

Grow Mode is the longest cycle, taking between 16  to 20 hours to break down organic waste. It also operates at the lowest heat setting to preserve as many nutrients as possible. Grow Mode is the only mode advertised to create a product that can go straight into soil. 

The Eco-Express mode is the shortest composting cycle and uses the least amount of energy. It takes three to five hours to complete. According to the company, the final product from the Eco-Express mode can be tossed into your compost pile, green bin or waste bin. It does, however, seem counterproductive to use a countertop composter to create something that needs to then be composted. But I can see how this option would be convenient for those with limited trash space who don’t have plants.

The Lomi-Approved setting is for select bioplastics in addition to compostable food waste. This setting takes five to eight hours and is the only mode that can handle things other than food waste. 

How to Use Lomi Earth 

Pela recommends adding Lomi materials to the soil at no more than a 1:10 ratio. When using it as a fertilizer for plants, remove a bit of soil around the base of your plants, add the Lomi Earth, then cover back up with soil.

Because it’s dried and powdered food waste, you don’t want to leave Lomi Earth exposed directly to air and moisture, to avoid mold on the surface of your garden beds. By burying it just under the surface, you’re allowing it to decay in place around your plants and provide its nutrition to the soil microbes and avoid mold.

What Goes in the Lomi?

There are a wide array of things you can put into the Lomi to start the composting process. I would not put some of these items in my compost pile because they would attract pests and rodents. So the options are broader for this type of composting. 

Here are some items to put in the Lomi:  

  • Fruit and vegetable waste like avocado skins, watermelon rinds, banana peels, etc.
  • Leftover cooked food
  • Meat products like fish, beef, pork or chicken
  • Dairy products like cheese
  • Grain products like bread, pasta or oatmeal
  • Soft bones (like fish bones) or shells (eggshells)
  • Tofu, eggs and other miscellaneous proteins like beans and legumes
  • Coffee and tea, along with paper filters/paper tea bags
  • Plant trimmings, flowers or weeds

Items you should not put in the Lomi:

  • Liquids (in large quantities—do not dump glasses of cooked juices)
  • Hard bones or hard pits (i.e. avocado, peaches)
  • Cooking oils or very greasy food
  • Pet wastes
  • Soaps or shampoos
  • Waste products from allelopathic plants
  • Non-compostable items like plastic bags, aluminum foil, diapers or other things that obviously should not be added to a compost pile.

Conclusion

Lomi has a benefit to every user. For people already composting, it provides an outlet to reduce waste and lessen the amount going to landfills. Several types of food allowed in a Lomi would not be thrown into a compost pile because it would attract unwanted pests and rodents—it is good for waste that a compost pile can’t reduce. 

In addition to food waste, bioplastics cannot go in your compost pile either, so the Lomi meets this need as well.  For people not composting, this added benefit makes a far better option than green bins or garbage disposals. 

Lomi Earth provides an irrefutable benefit to your soil—not more beneficial than the material created in a six-month compost pile, but still beneficial. Pela is continually working to improve the product to enhance the amount of nutrients the Lomi adds to soil and how quickly supplement pods helps trash become compost in the machine’s cycles.

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