I have written several times that due to the exponential technologies and the fourth industrial revolution, we are already in the era of small, decentralised waste management treatment for neighbourhoods and even for households. A new example came to my attention recently.
Whirlpool recently announced the Zera Food Recycler, which is capable of turning a week’s worth of food waste into usable fertilizer in just 24 hours. Whirlpool’s solution not only aims to help thrown-out food avoid retiring to a landfill but it also looks to provide homeowners with a ready-to-use, homemade fertilizer.
Fully automatic and able to accept a variety of different types of food — i.e. dairy, meat, bread, etc. — the Zera machine automatically monitors its heat, air, and moisture levels while in use. You can find photos and a video at https://www.zera.com
The end of waste management as we know is closer than we think…
Zera is designed to hold up to 8 pounds of food, which according to Whirlpool is the rough equivalent to the amount of waste a typical family of four creates in a week. According the makers, for every 8 pounds of food waste, Zera makes about 2 pounds of fertilizer that’s ready to be stored or to go straight to your next gardening project. The idea is that you’ll use Zera like a receptacle over that week – tossing in apple cores, onion skins, moldy bread and whatever is left on your plate after a meal. Every time you throw in something new and slide the lid closed, Zera is supposed to sense it and initiate a 2-minute process to push the food to the bottom of the main reservoir. This is supposed to help make room for more food to come, but it also serves as an initial step to prepare the food for “recycling” later on.
Although not all the details are available, to correctly operate the machine, owners simply insert a plant-based Zera Additive Pack inside the device before proceeding to fill it with food waste. CNET reported that the small paper baggie contains coconut husks that have been transformed into uniform little pellets . Coconut shells have been used in gardening to supplement mulch for years, as they help retain water and their fiber contributes nutrients to fertiliser. The bags will be sold in four-packs for $12 a pop.
Once completely full, a press of the start button begins what Whirlpool is calling a “transforming cycle,” in which a set of interior mixing blades chop the Zera’s contents while heating it to allow the additive to break down the waste. Additionally, the contents receive a steady stream of fresh air thanks to an attached high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) and carbon filter.
As for the price, according to CNET, Whirlpool plans on launching an Indiegogo campaign for the Zera Food Recycler in early January, giving those interested in adopting the tech early a chance to secure the appliance for just $699 — roughly half of its intended retail price, which is supposed to be around $ 1200.
There is an obvious question of course. Why you have to pay $ 1,200 for something that seems a high-tech composting unit when you can have a home composter for $ 30-100? Of course, if the trend will be as in other cases, someone should expect that within next 5 -10 years the price will be halved, but still it’s going to be a high price. The consumers should decide if the convenient high-tech way to make a kind of compost worths the price comparing to the traditional household composters.
Another question concerns the technical feasibility to produce fertiliser in 16 – 24 hours. I would welcome any of my readers that has a deep knowledge about compost to guide us on the technicalities.
I am not sure if this is the case, but I would find it extremely interesting if Zera would be continuously connected and capable to identify the basic input food waste. This will allow Whirlpool to monitor and optimise its performance according the different food waste mixtures, providing the unique opportunity to customise the product cycles and the process according the input waste. This would also allow to use Zera as a service rather than one more white good that has to be bought.
I have to close with what I consider the most important comment.
Please do not underestimate the trend-line that is more than obvious: for the time being the emerging trend of household waste treatment is simply incorporated in the current business models of waste management and recycling. But if small, decentralised neighbourhood and household waste treatment becomes the rule and not the exception, then be prepared for a radical shift that will break most of the rules of waste management. The end of waste management as we know is closer than we think…