by Lars Hundley
Recently the folks over at Reencle sent me one of their indoor home composting units at their expense for me to try and out review for Gardening Channel readers. I used it for almost eight weeks and eventually filled it completely and generated my first batch of finished compost. It worked great!
One of the biggest challenges of composting is that you can’t easily add certain kitchen waste to your compost pile because it might stink or attract rodents or other pests. But the Reencle is an indoor sealed container that allows you to add things like eggs and meat scraps, cheese and dairy scraps, along with all the other types of fruit and vegetable kitchen waste.
These are things that I really hate adding to my regular compost bin, because they can attract rodents. In fact, I have had an outdoor bin attract a rat in the past, and since then I have always been extremely careful about what I add to my outdoor bin and ended up throwing away a lot of food waste because I didn’t want to put it in the composter. So it’s an effective addition to my composting strategy and isn’t just a different way of composting for me.
It would be a good choice for apartment dwellers too, who don’t even have an outdoor bin at all.
There are some things that you should avoid adding to the Reencle too. Celery, for instance, is so stringy that it can tangle up in the mixer. So you’d only want to add that if it has been chopped up and not throw in a long stalk. Bones are problematic, and a few other items that the microbes can’t easily consume and break down like peach pits or avocado pits.
The unit is plugged in and has a lid that you operate with a button on top and a separate motion sensor button in front that you can touch with your foot if your hands are full. You start the composting batch by adding a dried brown material and then adding water to it, which activates the microbes that break down all the material that goes into the bin.
You’d think that with a bin that’s the size of a small trash can it would instantly fill up. But because the Reencle has an electric mixer that mixes up the scraps with the microbe activated material you start with, the food scraps shrink in size by up to 90 percent. The microbes inside the bin are breaking down the material into compost really fast, because the bin is also kept at just the right moisture level and temperature for them to thrive.
The smell from the bin when you open it up doesn’t stink like rotting food scraps, because the food is not rotting. It’s being actively broken down by the microorganisms inside the bin. It doesn’t look like a pile of rotting food scraps either, because the mixer is turning every once in a while and burying the scraps within the brown starter material that you pour in when you set up the bin.
You do get a bit of a scent when the lid opens up, but I would describe the smell as the same smell as finished compost. Kind of “earthy” smelling. My wife wasn’t thrilled about an earthy smell each time she would add to the bin. But the vast majority of the time the bin is sealed shut and there are no smells at all.
Additionally, the Reencle has a built-in feature I didn’t discover at first, where you can lock the lid sensor and keep it from opening until you press it for three seconds and unlock it again. Our cat would love to walk past the foot sensor and make the lid open up, so that is pretty much the exact situation where you’d want to hold the button down and keep the lid locked until you were ready to add to the bin again. Keeping the lid locked solved our issue of the cat constantly making the lid open up when she’d walk past it.
The instruction manual says that you can add about 1 1/2 pounds of materials to the bin, up to a maximum of around 2 pounds per day before it’s too much material for the bin to keep up with. In our three person household, we found that to be plenty.
The strangest part to me was how quickly the bin broke down the food waste I’d throw inside. The mixer inside the unit would stir in the waste within a few minutes. And by the next day, I’d typically look inside and you’d just see what looks like brown moist soil. I would rarely see any evidence at all of what I’d put into it.
All the while, the bin never really seemed to fill up. Reencle claims that the microbes reduce the volume of the waste by up to 90 percent, which felt pretty accurate to me.
Another interesting feature of the bin is that it uses a spore based microbe in the bacillus family that works similarly to how the human gut biome works to digest food. This type of microbe is able to withstand lots of harsh environments, and is able to break down carbs, fat and protein. And it’s “thermophilic,” which means it likes warm environments. The bin keeps everything at a good temperature that helps the bacillus thrive, but also makes it a bad environment for any of the microbes that would make the waste rot or stink. It’s literally digesting it.
When the bin eventually gets full, you are not supposed to empty it completely. You’re just supposed to scoop out enough to bring it back down the level it was when you originally set it up. When you scoop it out, it’s really just like earthy soil and very similar to finished compost that you’d get from an outdoor bin.
Like any kind of composting, it’s possible to screw it up if you do it really, really wrong. For example, if you add too many fats and oils, or a bunch of things like bones that don’t break down, you can get ahead of the ability of the microbes to digest it and cause a stinky mess. So it’s important to give the manual quick read, which gives you plenty of easy to understand information about how to do it the right way. I was not at all careful about how I used it and personally did not run into any problems.
Overall, I was impressed that the Reencle really worked the way it was supposed to. I was skeptical that such a small bin would actually be able to handle any decent amount of food waste — especially the specific type of food waste I’d had trouble with in an outdoor composter — and was pleasantly surprised at how well it really worked.