Lomi Compost: Reviewing the Lomi Composter
The Lomi is a device that produces "Lomi compost". But is it actually compost, and what does this device do? We provide an unbiased review!
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.
This is not the first composting device I’ve owned, so I have prior experiences to compare it to. Most of those experiences were disappointing, and most people would 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 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 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!
For clarity and accuracy, it’s important to state that my Lomi review is based entirely on the Kickstarter model I tested and wrote about in April 2022. Since its original release, there have been some quiet changes made to the device, although Lomi has not announced a 2.0 model and is still marketing it as the original device. The thickness of the lid has been slimmed down. The bucket has been shifted to a more central position in the device and has changed color from black to a silvery tone. The front of the unit no longer says “Lomi” – instead, it reads “Pela.” Finally, it appears there have been some changes to the filtration system. As a result of these changes, this review focuses on the original Lomi released rather than the model currently available on the market. I expect the current model to function much like the original, but there may have been some subtle changes to address issues I discussed in my original remarks below.
To summarize, my view is that it works surprisingly well, but it may not be for everyone. It’s worth the cost, and there is a use for Lomi compost, but it’s not composted straight out of the machine. Is Lomi a gimmick, or does it have potential? I think it has solid potential, particularly for apartment dwellers, but there are many composting methods, and everyone’s circumstances differ. Is it a good way to reduce your waste? Absolutely – but you should read on to find out why and how!
We now sell Lomi on the Epic Gardening shop. If you want to see if Lomi will work for you, click the button below to find out more!
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 would 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 still sitting in my garage to this very day, and it lasted precisely two years before it stopped working. 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, largely 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?
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.” However, this product is not actually dirt – by soil science standards, this is organic matter, whereas 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 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 for simply reducing the quantity of waste product you’re running and making 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 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 running, Lomi uses 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
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, you could be tying up some of your solar capacity for up to 20 hours.
From my extensive testing over 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 makes me believe that the claims that Lomi is energy-efficient are indeed quite true.
Testing The Lomi Composter
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 learn many things about your device, 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 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 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 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 should not 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 to be too high, or it may produce steam or not break down evenly.
My Test Findings
I did extensive testing on a wide array of the approved or limited lists above. In doing so, I 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 and other waste products broke down into many 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 capable of handling most of my food scraps. The only remnants of organic food waste 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 them that way!
Indoor plants or houseplant trimmings acted no different than my food scraps did. They performed identically to kitchen scraps as a whole and were completely unrecognizable when processed, just like the other ingredients I added to the bin.
There are better ways to handle some materials that Lomi normally accepts. 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 the green bins for recycling.
Problems I Experienced
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 could also be described as a farty noise, bringing 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 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 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.
If you collect waste in a countertop compost pail for a while before you add it to Lomi, the early part of the cycle may smell like the funky, slightly-spoiled bottom of the bucket’s contents. 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. It’s best to avoid letting things go quite that far before you run a batch!
Finally, after several loads, you may see a fine, brownish powder building up around the filters. This is normal; it’s dust from the process. However, for best use, you should remove that. Cleaning the housing for the filters every time you refill them with new carbon is recommended, but I will also use a vacuum to suck out any dust that has built up underneath the long, tubular filter just to keep the system working properly.
Benefits I Discovered
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 ran it almost 24 hours a day for a whole week, and it conquered that too. The device can still easily process through the organic waste I add to it. In theory, it 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 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, which helps me reduce my waste footprint even more.
The bucket is dishwasher-safe, and that’s a good thing. While it does self-clean well, any sticky materials or wet materials can get baked onto the sides of the bucket or get caught underneath the grinding mechanism. Giving it a soak for a few hours, removing any loose material, and then running it through the dishwasher will remove anything caked on and ensure it runs optimally.
It was nice to discover that I did not have to empty 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 Actually Make Compost?
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. 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; organic materials make up large amounts of commercial soil blends. Pela recommends adding Lomi materials to the soil at no more than a 1:10 ratio; 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 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!
How To Use Lomi Compost
Since I first wrote this review in April of 2022, I’ve been running different tests on how to use the output that Lomi produces. It is now October 2022, and I’ve had some interesting results.
When Lomi suggests adding no more than 10% of the Lomi output to a soil blend, there is a very good reason for that. In my experience, anything more than that will start to heat up as it begins to decompose. I added some of the output to a small bag of seed starting mix at about a 20% ratio, and that heated up enough that it scorched tender seedlings. Stick with the recommended ratio if you plan on adding this as an amendment!
The fine particulate gave me another idea. I gathered up some waste paper and cardboard and ran it through a micro-shredder, then combined it in an outdoor compost bin with Lomi output at a 2:1 ratio of paper/cardboard to Lomi output. With regular moistening and mixing, this became a rich, dark composted material that should be phenomenal in garden use. This would also work quite well when using straw, sawdust, or fine wood shavings instead of waste paper and cardboard, but if you have a neverending stash of Amazon boxes (as I do), you can certainly remove all tape and stickers and put them to use as a compost brown component.
Finally, when using it as a fertilizer for plants, remove a bit of soil around the base of your plants, add the Lomi output, then put the soil back overtop. Because it’s dried and powdered food waste, you don’t want to leave it exposed directly to air and moisture, lest you end up with 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 you don’t have that unappealing mold.
Who Should Get A Lomi Composter?
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.
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, a worm bin or bokashi bin might be similarly useful for you and a lot cheaper overall. And, of course, if you do have space, you can always build your own compost bin and skip the Lomi.
Overall, there are pros and cons to this unit, but while the Lomi may not be for everyone, it’s an excellent option for food waste reduction for apartment dwellers or people hesitant to leave the waste in nature’s hands. It may not make “dirt,” as Lomi says, nor is it truly compost that emerges after a cycle, but it is a viable organic output that can go into the soil or another compost method. It definitely reduces food waste volume, and it does so in an eco-friendly format that’s well worth considering.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Q: How quickly does Lomi work?
A: Its shortest mode takes under 6 hours to reduce the bin’s contents 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 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: The Lomi pods are available on Lomi’s website. A 90-cycle supply costs $34.95 for a one-time purchase, but a subscribe-and-save method is available that will save 10% off of the normal cost. They are also available as part of a pod + filter bundle for $84.95, and a subscribe-and-save option is available for that as well.
Q: What are Lomi-approved products?
A: There are a limited number of paper or bioplastic 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. To find a current list, please visit Lomi’s page listing these products.
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 works!
Q: Can I put meat in Lomi composter?
A: Yes, meat can be broken down by the Lomi, as can some fine bones like fish bones. However, large bones should not be added.
Q: Is getting a Lomi worth it?
A: If you have limited space to use traditional compost methods, Lomi is an excellent option and well worth it.
Q: How long does a Lomi last?
A: While Pela has not released information on how long their devices ran during development, my Kickstarter model Lomi has been working since I received it. My initial writing of this review was in April 2022, and I have now updated it in October 2022. I had one problem that I contacted customer service about (an issue with the original bucket), and they sent out a new bucket at no additional charge, as it was within the first year of use. I would advise considering purchasing their three-year extended warranty to ensure you have no issues, but overall it does seem to function well for now. Only time will tell whether it will last for years.
Q: Can I put watermelon rinds in Lomi?
A: Yes, but remember that if you add many at once, they may take more than one cycle to break down. I find that if I’m adding particularly wet waste products like watermelon rinds, adding some bits of cardboard to the Lomi at the same time will absorb some of the moisture and enable the machine to break the waste down more readily.