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Stink-free compost right in the kitchen

Automatic indoor composter turns banana peels and rotten lettuce into usable fertilizer in two weeks--and it does it without the stink.

NatureMill automated indoor composter
NatureMill's automated composter can fit in a regular kitchen cabinet.

The quest to make kitchens around the country more eco-friendly just got a little easier. NatureMill, a San Francisco-based company founded by an MIT grad in 2004, is adding to its lineup of indoor automatic composters.

NatureMill's composters speed up the process of composting by heating, mixing, and aerating the waste that gets put into it. After two weeks, fresh food waste can be turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer for the garden, according to the company. They're small enough to fit into a regular kitchen cabinet (20 inches long by 12 inches wide by 20 inches high), and to reduce the stink, air is forced through a carbon filter when it gets sucked in to oxygenate the waste.

The regular "Plus" model will run you $299 and can process up to 120 pounds of waste per month. And although it's small enough that it could probably fit in a smaller apartment kitchen, it's only useful if you've got a yard in which to use the compost you make. One batch of compost is good for 10 - 40 square feet, according to the company, so you'll need to have a big enough yard to accommodate a fair amount of fertilizer. For people considering setting up a more traditional compost bin, though, the NatureMill system can be kept inside the house to reduce the need to take out kitchen waste so often; used outside, it works faster than passive composting and doesn't require the same kind of attention to acidity, temperature, and aeration that so-called managed composting does. And the company says the composters will hold up in the rain and snow.

NatureMill pet-friendly composter
Don't look so guilty, little one. One pup's trash is another man's tulips. NatureMill

NatureMill also makes a professional version that's intended for heavier use. It comes with a foot pedal for hands-free operation, has components made of stainless steel, and can be switched into vacation mode for times when the kitchen is closed. There's even a version for pet owners, which can accept pet and kitchen waste. The pet-friendly composter has its limits though; NatureMill does not recommend it for use with horses or other large animals. Both of those models go for $399.

For those wondering about the trade-off in power usage, the company says it consumes less energy than a standard night-light and costs about 50 cents per month to run.