Composting, Product Reviews

Lomi Compost: Reviewing the Lomi Composter


Lomi compost device

I have to start this piece on Lomi compost by admitting that I am a compost gadget geek. I was one of the backers who Kickstarted the Lomi Composter – and thus I paid for this device that I’m about to review, with no compensation. I did get it for less than its $499 retail price by being an early bird supporter, as I only paid $299 for mine.

This is not the first device of this type that I’ve owned, so I have prior experiences to compare it to. Most of those experiences were disappointing, and most people would likely have been skittish to try yet another company’s version.

So why, when the Kickstarter for Lomi began, was I willing to risk paying for yet another device? There are many reasons. I’m an optimist, willing to take chances on something that could help people turn their garbage into a sustainable resource. I love the notion of faster composting, and I really like the idea of finding waste reduction systems for people who don’t garden, too. And, well, I did mention I’m a gadget fan – this definitely qualifies!

By the time you finish reading this, you’ll know exactly what my Lomi review is, whether I believe it’s worth the cost, and whether “Lomi compost” is something that will be of use in your gardening adventure. Is Lomi a gimmick, or does it have potential? Read on and find out!

Lomi compost device
This device, the Lomi, claims to make Lomi compost. But is it compost or is it just another fancy machine that fails to deliver? Source: Lorin Nielsen

Prior Machines That Failed

My first foray into electric composters was the NatureMill, a device that used heat and softwood pellets in a machine with a crank to aerate the food waste product you put in and break it down. Its resulting output was actually decent, and likely the closest to a true compost that I’ve seen so far – it used carbon-dense wood pellets at about a 4:1 ratio to food waste and added heat. The downfall of this countertop composter was its poor design. Its crank got caught one day on an overly-large piece of watermelon rind, snapped free from the motor, and shot itself through the repurposed foam exterior of the device. This machine is now sold as the BeyondGreen Kitchen Waste Composter, but they’ve added a plastic back panel to prevent catastrophic unit failures.

My second excursion into electronic composters was the Zera. Produced by WLabs, a subsidiary of Whirlpool, I was sure that this device was going to be a sturdy device that would last years. That description turned out to be only accurate in two ways: it was a 125-pound monstrosity that is still sitting in my garage to this very day, and it lasted precisely two years before it stopped working entirely. My husband now has an $1100 broken toy to play with when he’s next feeling like tinkering with home electronics. To its credit, it produced extremely finely-particulate food waste blended with coconut coir, in large part because of the costly coir and baking soda additive pellets. I did not get my money’s worth out of the machine, especially if you include the extra money I spent on non-recyclable filters and expensive additives.

Between owning these two devices, I had the chance to play around with the FoodCycler. This small-footprint countertop composter essentially turned large bits of wet food scraps into slightly smaller bits of dehydrated food scraps. I was unimpressed, particularly after testing a sample of the product in the garden and discovering it just rehydrated and became slightly smaller, rehydrated food scraps.

Enter Lomi, the newest countertop composter model I’ve had the chance to experiment with. But what exactly -is- the Lomi? Let’s do a composter review to provide you with lots of insight into this interesting product!

What Is The Lomi Composter?

Lomi button
The Lomi composter has one button that controls the entire unit. To switch between modes, you have to long-press. Source: Lorin Nielsen

Much like most other electric composters, the claim that Pela (the manufacturer of the Lomi) makes is that you put your food waste in the device, push a button, and when it finishes running you’ll have compost.

Depending on what waste you add, your resulting “Lomi compost” is going to vary in terms of nutrient density. Pela refers to it as “nutrient-rich dirt”, although this product is not actually dirt – by soil science standards, this is organic matter, where dirt is literally just mineral particulate (sand, clay, silt, or a blend of any or all of the above). You cannot make dirt by putting garbage into a machine, no matter how impressive that claim might be!

We’ll talk more about the output of this material shortly, but first, let’s actually break down the bare bones of these household appliances.

How Does Lomi Work?

Set it up, plug it in, put food waste in, and when it finishes you take a much-reduced product that Lomi claims is nutrient-rich soil back out of the machine. But what’s the operation like?

There are three modes or composting cycle types that the Lomi composter uses to break down your waste products: Eco-Express Mode, Lomi-Approved Mode, and Grow Mode.

Eco-Express mode is the shortest cycle, running anywhere between 3-6 hours. This cycle is good to simply reduce the quantity of waste product you’re running and make room for more, particularly if you plan on running multiple loads in the Lomi before emptying the bucket. 

The next longest cycle, Lomi-Approved mode, takes five to eight hours. This cycle is what they recommend when you are processing Lomi-approved bioplastics, compostable commercial goods, or compostable packaging. However, they recommend running this mode with 90% food waste and only 10% bioplastics or compostable goods/packaging, so you won’t be composting a lot of bioplastics or other compostables beyond your food waste at any given time.

Finally, there is the longest mode, Grow mode. This cycle takes 16-20 hours to complete and runs at a much lower temperature than either of the other two cycles. The lower temperature is to avoid killing off the beneficial bacteria that you add when you include a Lomi pod at the time of starting your cycle.

There’s only one single button on the Lomi device, so to switch between modes, you have to long-press the button until it switches to the mode you desire. Its default position is Eco, so if you just quick-press the button, that’s the cycle you will be operating. 

While it is running, Lomi uses a mixture of heat, aeration, and grinding/mixing to break down the waste in its compost bucket. If you have added a Lomi Pod, one of their proprietary additive tablets, you will also be including what they describe as “a proprietary blend of probiotics that improves the speed of degradation, the reduction of smell, and most importantly help to create the most healthy output to add to your gardens/lawn/planters.” 

Lomi Product Specs

Lomi after a cycle
Lomi after completing its most recent cycle. It’s a little dusty around the interior filter after about fifty cycles going through it, but still performing admirably. Source: Lorin Nielsen

The Lomi composter is made of recyclable plastic with metal interior parts. If you decide to dispose of your Lomi later, they plan to include it as part of their Pela 360 plan so that you can return it to the company rather than place it in a landfill. Presently, Lomi is manufactured in China but is shipped to customers from the Pela headquarters in Canada.

It weighs about 20 pounds and is slightly larger than a toaster oven, with a footprint of 16″ W x 13″ D x 12” H. Included in the box when you purchase your Lomi is the base machine itself, its lid, the metal compost bucket, its cord, a package of Lomi Pods, two bags of activated carbon filter pellets to fill the two filters in the device, instructions, and some Lomi-compostable recycled cardboard packaging. 

How Much Power Does Lomi Use?

Per the Lomi website, the Eco mode uses less than 0.60 kWh of electricity. The Lomi-Approved mode uses less than 0.75 kWh of electricity. Grow mode uses about 1 kWh of electricity. 

It requires 110 volts to operate in the United States and Canada, and future units for the EU will be 220-240V with a type C plug. The planned units for Australia will also be 220-240V.

Lomi admits on their website that they have not yet tested running the device on solar panels as of the writing of this composter review. Nonetheless, they state that the device requires a 500-watt capacity while it’s running. This is comparable to most household appliances like laptops or toaster ovens, but depending on the cycle being run, you could be tying up some of your solar capacity for up to 20 hours.

From my extensive testing over the span of more than a month, I can say that my power bill did not have a notable increase in cost. Compared to other predecessors in the countertop composter market, this is a major plus and lends me to believe that the claims that Lomi is energy-efficient are indeed quite true.

Testing The Lomi Composter

A mix of inputs in the Lomi
A mix of ingredients including artichoke leaves and chokes, banana peels, onion peels, celery sticks, eggshells, coffee grounds, and ground cacao beans. This was part of a fibrous-material test I did. Source: Lorin Nielsen

Because I wanted to know how much food waste I could get through the Lomi composting process quickly, how well the machine held up to the process, and most importantly what the resulting output was like, I put Lomi through over a month of extensive testing, and I’m still testing it right now to see what it’s like over time.

You see, one of the things I learned from using other composting devices is that it’s always great at first; the organic content that is produced from almost every kitchen counter composter always looks viable when you begin. However, over time you begin to learn many things about your device, and so I’ve been doing full-blown crash testing. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

What Can You Put In A Lomi Composter?

There are a wide array of things that you can put into the Lomi to start the composting process. A brief list of fully-approved inputs includes the following: 

  • Fruit and vegetable waste
  • Leftover cooked food
  • Meat products
  • Dairy products
  • Grain products (bread, pasta, oatmeal)
  • Soft bones (like fish bones) or shells (eggshells)
  • Tofu, eggs, and other misc proteins like beans/legumes
  • Coffee and tea, along with paper filters/paper tea bags
  • Plant trimmings, flowers, or weeds

Beyond that, there are a few things that they recommend doing in limited quantities at a given time:

  • Bioplastics (no more than 10% of a load at a given time)
  • The packaging the Lomi came in or other paper/cardboard products such as paper towels (also, no more than 10% of a load at a time)
  • Fibrous waste products or hard peels (things like pineapple tops, corn husks, or corn cobs)
  • Nut shells like pistachio shells, peanut shells, or sunflower seed shells
  • Sticky dried fruit like dried cranberries or dates or candies
  • Gooey additives like nut butter, mashed potatoes, or jam

Finally, here’s a list of what they absolutely do not want you to put into the Lomi:

  • Liquids (in large quantities – no full glasses of orange juice or melted ice cream)
  • Hard bones or hard pits
  • Cooking oils or very greasy food
  • Pet wastes
  • Soaps or shampoos
  • Waste products from allelopathic plants (although there are ways to compost these too)
  • Non-compostable items like plastic bags, aluminum foil, diapers, and other obvious things that can’t be added to a compost pile.

Note that in regards to liquids, there is a maximum limit for allowable liquid in the device, and it seems to be about 50ml or roughly a little over 3 tablespoons’ worth of liquid. 50ml of water is recommended when you add a Lomi Pod. You do not want the moisture levels too high or it may produce steam or not break down evenly.

My Test Findings

Output of artichoke after one eco mode cycle
The output after one run on Eco mode with the artichoke batch mentioned above. Notice how the artichoke leaves turned into fine fibers – adding more waste and repeating the cycle allowed these fibers to break down even more. Source: Lorin Nielsen

I did some extensive testing on a wide array of the approved or limited lists above, and have discovered that the Lomi handles most fibrous inputs surprisingly well, but that it might take more than a single run to break down some of the most fibrous waste products. For instance, the remnants of two artichokes along with other waste products broke down into a lot of fine, stringy fibers after one Eco-Express mode, but it took another cycle or two before the fibrous strings vanished into a homogeneous mass. I have yet to try nutshells, but the device handles sticky things like peanut butter very well, particularly when you add some coffee grounds or tea to the batch to handle some of the stickiness.

Overall, it seems very capable of handling the majority of my food scraps. The only remnants of organic food waste that I’ve been disposing of with other composting methods of late have been avocado pits or hard bones like beef or chicken bones. Typically those either go into my green bin for recycling, into the outdoor space where my compost pile is located, or into a tumbler composter.

I did discover that when you put in weeds that have a dappling of aphids on them along with some Lomi packaging and run them together on eco mode, the resulting output is visually reminiscent of actual dirt – but remember, the claim by Pela that the Lomi produces dirt is a bit spurious, as dirt is mineral and not organic. It was quite a satisfying way to kill off some aphids while eliminating some weeds, though I wouldn’t handle all of my weeds that way!

Indoor plants or houseplant trimmings acted no different than my food scraps did. In fact, they performed identically to kitchen scraps as a whole and were completely unrecognizable when processed just like the rest of the ingredients I added to the bin.

There are better ways to handle some materials that the Lomi is capable of handling. For instance, cardboard or paper are great sources of “brown” waste that work well in traditional compost piles or compost tumblers. Since you can’t add large volumes of these to your Lomi bucket at any given time, it may be best to reduce your carbon footprint on these materials by adding them to your regular composting methods or to the green bins for recycling. 

Problems I Experienced

Whole onions
I tested to see if the Lomi could handle whole, unchopped onions. There are also coffee grounds, cacao beans, and a paper towel in there. Source: Lorin Nielsen

My family has a new running joke because when confronted with fibrous inputs, Lomi makes an interesting sound. I often hear someone yelling across the house that “the Lomi is farting again!” 

When it is busy chopping and grinding the kitchen scraps, the fibrous material can temporarily get caught on the rotating grinder and get dragged along the side of the metal pail. This causes a sound that some describe as groaning… but it could also be described as a farty noise, and this brings us no end of amusement. The first few times it occurred it was a bit alarming, but we’ve all become used to the occasional fart from the Lomi now.

Normally, the farting and grunting of the Lomi is not a regular thing, but it does have normal operation sounds. These noises are about the same volume and pitch as my printer or slightly quieter than my dishwasher… but they do continue for a much longer period of time than either of those devices. My Lomi is near my desk in my office, and while it doesn’t bother me, it does add to white noise pollution. If a constant electronic device sound will bother you, place this in a location where the noise won’t be a bother.

If you do not get the bucket back in place properly when you have filled it, you may not be able to put the lid for the Lomi on. This usually means one of two things: either you need to empty out the bucket and move the inner mechanism around until it fits properly back into the device again, or you need to creatively find a way to shake the bucket until the waste and the inner mechanism shift enough for it to sit back in place. There are some small teeth that fit perfectly into position in the machine, and if those aren’t aligned, they will not smoothly fit back into their placement.

Finally, if you collect waste in a countertop compost pail for a while before you add it to Lomi, be forewarned that the early part of the cycle may smell like the funky, slightly-spoiled bottom of the bucket’s contents. It’s best to get your vegetables, meat, or other organic waste processing in the device as quickly as possible to reduce smell potential. While the carbon filter handles a lot, after a while the odors can build up. This is also why they recommend you don’t let waste sit in the device for more than a day or two before running a batch. This same issue can occur with those back-of-the-fridge bits of food waste you would normally throw straight into the trash as they already have some pungent odors associated with them. It’s best to avoid letting things go quite that far before you run a batch!

Benefits I Discovered

Finished whole onions while still damp
What the onions looked like when their cycle finished, albeit still damp to the touch. After adding more waste and running a second cycle, there was no more clumpiness or moisture. Source: Lorin Nielsen

I was pleasantly surprised that the energy usage did not add a significant cost to my power bill. Lomi genuinely seems quite energy-efficient, and that’s a good sign.

Similarly, I was concerned about how well the heating element would hold up. I was running three Eco modes a day for a little while to test it, and it handled the process like a champ. I was running it almost 24 hours a day for a whole week, and it conquered that too. The device is still easily able to process through the organic waste I add to it, and in theory, will be a great way to reduce one’s carbon footprint – especially if someone has enough solar capacity to cover the cost of power!

I love that it uses carbon filters that can be refilled, and that when you refill the filter with fresh activated carbon, you can add the old carbon into the Lomi or to another composting method. We’re always looking for carbon sources to add to composting methods, so it seems to be a natural source that’s a no-brainer! Better yet, the refillable filters ensure that I’m no longer sending proprietary filter cartridges to landfills, and that helps me reduce my waste footprint even more.

The bucket is dishwasher-safe, and that’s a good thing. While I haven’t actually had to clean it yet, the fact that it’s dishwasher-safe already makes it a step up from many other devices on the market today. I have found that as long as you’re not adding tons of soggy, sticky materials to the bin, it self-cleans itself well too.

It was nice to discover that I did not have to empty out the bin after each load. Pela recommends filling the bin and running it 2-3 times, topping it off with new waste each time, and doing a final batch on Grow mode to finish it. This is excellent as it turns scraps into dry waste, and the older batches get additional processing while new additions break down. The resulting output is a lot more consistent and looks a lot more like soil. I find it looks similar to the output my Zera used to produce, although it’s a bit darker and not as finely powdered.

Finally, Pela claims about an 80% waste reduction while using Lomi. I found that to be accurate overall. While most plants are made up of mostly water and thus reduce in volume pretty significantly as they dehydrate, this is likely the fastest way I’ve seen it done so far.

Does Lomi Really Make Compost?

Zera vs Lomi
A comparison of the output from a Zera electric composter (on the left) with that from a Lomi composter (on the right). The Zera’s is a finer powder, but every batch looks identical in color due to the coconut coir additive. In contrast, Lomi’s batches vary depending on the inputs added (and in this case it had a lot of coffee grounds, making it very dark in color). Neither one is actually compost, but both are organic matter that can go into gardens. Source: Lorin Nielsen

Now we come to the real important question: is it composted? Pela claims that its device is the only device on the market that produces nutrient-rich dirt at the end. We’ve already discussed why it’s not actually dirt, despite their claims. But what is it?

Like most electric composters on the market, the resulting food waste is not broken down in the way that a traditional compost would be. In fact, subsequent testing of the output from my Lomi has shown me that it still heats up readily when added to a traditional composting method, which tells me that as soon as it rehydrates, it still needs time in the composting bin to break down and become true, nutrient-rich compost for the garden.

At best, this can be considered a pre-compost or a fertilizer for your plants, but it is not the same as the output from a hot bin or tumbler. This waste will still heat up, and it still will rot. 

What the output from all modes of the Lomi can be described as is organic matter. Good soil needs good organic content in it; organic materials make up large amounts of commercial soil blends. Pela recommends adding Lomi materials to the soil at a ratio of 1:10, and so far that seems to have worked well for me. I did have some unexpected warming of some of my soil-less potting mixes at higher ratios, which was a sign that maybe sticking to their recommendation would be best for my plants.

As a fertilizer, it still needs to decompose more before it becomes plant-available. Due to the fine particulate size, it’s likely that once it’s blended with soil or buried under soil over a wide surface area, it’ll probably take around two weeks, possibly as long as a month before it’ll become bioavailable to plants. If your soil tends to be microbially active, two weeks is a good estimate given the fine size of the output it produces. 

Finally, it’s hard to say what soil nutrients your Lomi will produce. It all depends on what you put into it to begin with. Even traditional composting produces variable results, and every batch is different. For a more representative idea of the nutrients available in your finished Lomi output, you can send it in for a lab test, but don’t expect that to indicate what your trash will always become!

Who Should Get A Lomi Composter?

Bioplastic sample plus broken-down bioplastic
A piece of the bioplastic bag Lomi was packaged in next to a similarly-sized bioplastic piece that went through one Lomi-Approved bioplastics cycle. It does produce enough heat to break down bioplastics, but you may be running multiple cycles to get them to decay fully. Source: Lorin Nielsen

If you’re putting your scraps in the green bin right now and don’t have other ways to break it down, a Lomi may be the best option for you. It’s a convenient, small-footprint device that will keep your food remnants out of the green bin and allow you to put them back into your soil.

However, there is a relatively high price point that goes along with the Lomi. It is cheaper to use other composter types, although it’s not nearly as convenient. It may be one of the best options for apartment-dwellers who do not have other alternatives for the disposal of food debris, and the higher cost does not seem to impact one’s power bill. Even if you don’t have a garden to use the output in, you can still reduce the quantity that you’re adding to the green bin pretty significantly, resulting in a lower ecological impact. And if you’re squeamish about decomposing peels, skins, and the like, this may be an ideal solution. On the flip side of this, a worm bin or bokashi bin might be similarly useful for you, and a whole lot cheaper overall.

As a result of all of my testing, the result of this  Lomi review is a bit mixed. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but it is assuredly far better than just putting everything in the trash. It doesn’t make “dirt”, nor is it truly composting, but it does produce viable organic output that can go into the soil. It certainly reduces the volume of food remnants much more quickly than traditional methods would. All things considered, it may not be as good as your backyard composting alternatives… but it’s definitely worth looking into!

Frequently Asked Questions

Third run of bioplastics with no visible plastic bits left
After a third run of the Lomi-Approved bioplastic cycle, no large bits of bioplastic were visible. The inputs that were run with the bioplastic were garden weeds, so were not very rich or nutrient-dense; that’s apparent in the dusty color of the finished material. Source: Lorin Nielsen

Q: Does Lomi use a lot of electricity?

A: No, not really – I broke it down above, but it didn’t have a significant impact on my power bill despite extensive testing.

Q: Where is the Lomi composter made?

A: It’s made at Pela’s production facility in China, but ships to customers from the Pela facility in Canada.

Q: How quickly does Lomi work?

A: Its shortest mode takes under 6 hours to reduce the contents of the bin by almost 80%.

Q: What are Lomi pods?

A: These pods are Lomi’s proprietary additive tablets, which they claim include a blend of probiotics that help break waste down.

Q: Do you need Lomi pods?

A: In my experience, you don’t -need- them. However, they do seem to produce a slightly better output. I would recommend using one on a Grow cycle with prior output built up from 2-3 Eco cycles and some new waste to finish off that bin.

Q: How much do Lomi pods cost?

A: Currently, the Lomi pods are only available as part of a subscription service that includes one pack of pods and a refill of activated carbon for $39 every three months. The Lomi itself costs $499 as of this review date.

Q: What are Lomi-approved products?

A: There are a limited number of paper or bioplastic products from Repurpose and ECO Products that are considered Lomi-approved as of this review’s publish date. These have been tested in the Lomi and have broken down optimally. 

Q: Does Pela Lomi actually work?

A: It reduces the size of your waste by 80%, removing moisture and making it a fine particulate that will rapidly decompose in the garden. In that way, yes, it definitely works!

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