While most of us have found a way to handle our recycling, with separate bins or bags to take our glass, paper and plastic, food waste is another matter. It’s easy to throw out the vegetable ends and peelings, leftovers and worst of all, the forgotten food from the back of the fridge that never even made it to the table. After all, we think, it’ll just decompose and disappear harmlessly, right?
Unfortunately that’s not the case. When organic matter is dumped in landfill and left to rot, it produces methane gas, which is a major contributor to global warming. So what should you do with your leftover food? Composting your food waste is one solution. Using your local council’s food waste collection service is another.
But not everyone has space for a compost heap and not all councils provide a food collection service. Even when they do, a container of rotting vegetable matter and bin juice on the counter to attract flies is not an ideal option.
That’s where the FoodCycler comes in. It’s designed to solve the problem of bulky and gross food waste. Fill it up with old food, switch it on and a few hours later, you’ll open it to find what looks like a small bowl’s worth of vegetable crisps. These “EcoChips”, as Sage calls them, are light, dry, nearly odourless, low in volume and can be harmlessly discarded. Essentially, they’re pot pourri made out of garbage.
Design and appearance
- Dimensions: 34 x 28 x 32cm
The FoodCycler is a large, featureless grey box, measuring approximately 34 x 28 x 32cm. (The sticker on the front shown in some of the pictures is removable.) It’s bigger than an air fryer or most crock pots. It’s almost as big as a full-size bean-to-cup coffee machine.
And that’s really the issue with the appliance. It will take up a big chunk of your kitchen counter. If you don’t have enough outside space for a compost heap, the chances are that you have a reasonably compact kitchen as well. So, some of the people who would most benefit from the FoodCycler may not have room for it.
Inside the appliance is a porcelain coated aluminium bucket which can hold up to 2 litres of organic waste. You can remove the bucket from the appliance and leave it on your kitchen counter where it’s on hand to collect unwanted food as you cook.
The bucket has a separate lid with a carbon filter that’s designed to capture odours. I found it to be very effective during the testing period. It’s a far superior alternative to the countertop food waste bin that councils provide, which can get a bit stinky over summer.
This means that you don’t need to keep the appliance on the counter all the time but you might find it difficult to find another spot for it, unless you have space on the floor beside a plug point. It’s pretty heavy, so you won’t want to move it often and it probably won’t fit into your kitchen cabinets.
- Minimal set-up time
- Average cycle time of 4-6 hours
The Food Cycler is ready to use pretty much out of the box. Unpeel a couple of safety labels from the filters and you’re ready to go.
Once the bucket is full – and there’s a fill line to let you know when that occurs – you simply place the bucket back inside the appliance and switch it on.
It’s extremely easy to use. There’s an on/off switch on top and three indicator lights to let you know what stage of the process you’re at: drying, grinding or cooling.
The FoodCycler first dries out the food waste, then grinds it up using the blades set into the bucket, and finally lets it cool. The process takes several hours. Sage says that the average processing time is 4-6 hours, with 8 hours being the longest likely cycle.
So, if you’re organised, you can set it going before bed and come down in the morning to find it ready to be emptied. But even if you have it switched on while you’re in the kitchen, it won’t disturb you. The grinding process is very quiet, with only a gentle whirring noise to let you know it’s taking place. The appliance also features filters so that the process is almost odourless as well.
According to Sage, the FoodCycler can handle almost all kinds of food waste: meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, pet food, eggs and eggshells, cheese, grains, coffee grounds and tea bags. You shouldn’t add bones, fruit pits, shells or cooking oils.
You also need to ensure that there’s a decent mix of food in the appliance as it will struggle with too much wet, dense or starchy waste.
Use it correctly and the FoodCycler does exactly what it’s advertised to.
The first time I tried it, I filled it with a stomach-churning mix of abandoned dog food, cooked, deflated cauliflower, vegetable peelings and dodgy leftovers. I was genuinely surprised when I opened up the Cycler to find that unholy mess transformed into 180g of dry EcoChips. The EcoChips are almost odourless, with a not-unpleasant, slightly burnt, savoury smell. The whole process is impressively effective.
The bucket is dishwasher safe as well, so after you’ve run a cycle, you won’t need to clean it by hand, although I did find I had to dislodge some of the dried waste matter caught under the blades.
The size of the bucket, though, is a bit of a problem. While 2 litres of space inside the appliance sounds generous, a family that cooks from scratch most days will probably more than fill it every day. That means you’ll probably need a second food bucket out on the counter to collect scraps while the other is in the Cycler. You could use a sealable container or
buy a spare bucket from Sage for £48.26, but that will add considerably to the expense of the set-up.
Disposing of the EcoChips
EcoChips can be put straight into the bin, which is the easiest option. But as they still have nutritional content, that seems like a waste. The alternative is to use them in your garden, although if you have a garden, why wouldn’t you just compost your food waste and cut out the FoodCycler?
There’s also the slightly worrying 90-day warning in the manual. If you use EcoChips in the garden, they should be mixed into the topsoil and left for 90 days before being used near fruit and vegetables intended for consumption. That’s not overly reassuring.
Price and availability
The FoodCycler is
available from Sage in the UK for £419.95. Although it’s not available in the US, the Vitamix FoodCycler, which seems to be an identical appliance, is
available on Amazon for $299.95, down from $399.95.
As well as the price of the FoodCycler itself, you should factor in the cost of replacement filters. The odour-reducing filters should be changed every 3-4 months if used regularly – the equivalent of 500 hours of cycling time.
Replacement filters cost £39.95 a set, which is quite an additional investment.
Although the processing ability of the FoodCycler is impressive, there are drawbacks to the appliance. It’s expensive, it’s very large and it can only process 2 litres of food waste at a time (which is less than you might think). Plus, there are ongoing costs, not only in the electricity it uses to process food waste, but in replacement filters.
All in all, this makes it a niche appliance that a few people will love but a far larger number of people will find difficult to incorporate into their routines.
We should all be aiming to lower our household landfill and emissions output. For city dwellers with no outside space, the FoodCycler is an effective and efficient option. But people with council food waste collection or space for a compost heap will probably opt for one of those free solutions first.