Detailed Review of the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 [2021]

Wondering if the FoodCycler FC-50 electronic composter is right for you? Read on for an unpaid review of the FoodCycler from a self-proclaimed composting nerd. I’ve tested a bunch of different composting methods and love to chat about all things composting at home. Hopefully, I can help you figure out if the FoodCycler is right for you.

Just want a quick answer to know if I think the FoodCycler is a good fit for you? Scroll straight to the bottom of the post for my quick summary!

This post was originally published on Honestly Modern.

Can you compost in an apartment or a condominium? How can you compost without any outdoor space? 

As someone who writes and talks about composting a lot, I get some iteration of this question regularly. A quick Google search confirms there are tons of ways to compost indoors… in theory. But many ways to compost indoors are more complicated than a brief internet search implies. Today, let’s lay out the facts to assess if the FoodCycler FC-50 is your solution to indoor composting.

What Is The Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50?

The Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 is an electronic composting appliance. It’s about the size of a toaster oven (12.6 x 11 x 14.2 inches according to the website where it is sold) and plugs into the wall. After filling the removable waste bucket with food scraps, the FoodCycler heats, dries, and grinds food scraps into a soil amendment that resembles a mixture of bread crumbs and dried spices, depending on what you process.

How Does the FoodCycler Work?

The FoodCycler has a removable food scrap bucket inside of the appliance. After collecting food scraps in the bucket for a couple of days, place the bucket inside the FoodCycler appliance and turn it on.

The FoodCycler moves through three phases to heat, dry, and grind the food waste into a crumb-like consistency called Foodilizer. Due to the high levels of heat, the Foodilizer has no microbial or bacterial qualities like typical compost, which is why it’s not ready for direct soil amendment for existing plants.

Is the FoodCycler Loud?

Nope! I can hear a low humming when it’s running, but it’s not an overwhelming noise by any means.

How Do You Store The FoodCycler?

We store the FoodCycler appliance separately from the food scrap bucket. The food scrap bucket has a carbon-filter lid and is much smaller than the appliance so we keep the bucket on our countertop for daily food scrap collection. The carbon filter in the lid prevents any smells from escaping into our kitchen. We’ve stored food scraps like tuna fish and chicken bits in the bucket for several days before running the FoodCycler and haven’t had any issues at all with unpleasant smells.

We keep our FoodCycler appliance on a shelf in the room next to our kitchen. It’s large enough that I did not want it taking up counter space. Unless you have a lot of empty counter space, you’re probably not going to want the FoodCycler appliance residing on your counter.

You could also store the small appliance in your basement, garage, or even on a balcony when it’s not too hot or cold outside. As long as the temperature is above freezing where you store the appliance, the FoodCycler will operate properly. When purchasing the FoodCycler, keep the space requirements in mind when thinking about how and how often you plan to use it.

How Often Do You Run The FoodCycler?

We have a traditional compost bin for food scraps that can go in our outdoor piles and tumblers, so we don’t run the FoodCycler all that often. We only use the FoodCycler for food waste like meat, bread, and dairy products that I don’t like to put outdoors.

We probably use it once every seven to ten days, because the food scraps start to smell after that time. However, when I was getting to know the FoodCycler, I used it exclusively, and we ran it once every day or two for a family of four.

Is It Better To Landfill Food Scraps Or Use Energy To Run It?

As soon as I plugged the FoodCycler FC-50 into the wall and realized it ran for several hours, I began wondering if my energy use was really any better than tossing the food scraps in the trash. I know it depends, in large part, on the source of energy from which the power to run the FoodCycler is generated. Methane emissions from food decomposing in a landfill are definitely worse than solar power for my FoodCycler but maybe not such a good trade-off if the power to run the machine comes from fossil fuels?

I didn’t see much analysis on the carbon emission comparisons between using the FoodCycler, backyard composting, or sending food scraps to a landfill, so I did the FoodCycler carbon emission analysis for you! It was long enough to warrant its own post, so head on over and check it out. While no solution is perfect, the FoodCycler carbon emission analysis suggests an electric composter is definitely better than sending our food scraps to a landfill (something about which I wasn’t all that surprised).

As with many environmental problems, we don’t reach a perfect solution in one giant leap. We take baby steps through various states of progress that continually improve on previous alternatives. Even if the FoodCycler isn’t the epitome of regenerative living and food waste elimination, it’s a great option for certain populations, and it energizes momentum toward normalizing composting.

In due time, we can only hope that a majority (or even all) of our energy sources are renewable or carbon-free, and appliances like the FoodCycler can capitalize on that paradigm shift.

How Can You Use the FoodCycler Output Or Foodilizer?

The crumb-like output from the FoodCycler is Foodilizer. As I mentioned above, the Foodilizer has no microbial or bacterial qualities like typical compost. You can add the Foodilizer to the soil but need to let it rest for 1-4 weeks before planting in that soil. The Foodilizer tablets speed up this process but still don’t make the output “soil-ready” right away.

If you don’t need the Foodilizer, I’m sure there are neighbors, community gardens, or friends in a local Buy Nothing group that would be happy to take it off your hands!

The Foodilizer can sit for up to a year before spoiling, so you can also collect it over time in a large container and use it to amend the soil in your garden in the spring and fall before planting and after harvesting, respectively. Just be sure you keep it dry while not using it. This is a great alternative to traditional compost if you have the space to store the Foodilizer and the soil in which to use it.

Can You Add The Foodilizer To A Compost Pile?

Yep! If you’re using the FoodCycler as a supplement to a traditional, outdoor composting system, you can add the Foodilizer right into the compost pile without any issues. The active compost will bring the Foodilizer “back to life” and make it ready to go into your garden when the compost finishes processing.

Is The FoodCycler A Complete Composting Solution For Apartment Dwellers?

It depends. As I already discussed, you can’t use the finished Foodilizer unless you have soil in which to let it rest and “come back to life”, even if you add the Foodilizer tablets to speed up bacterial and microbial regrowth.  Thus, if you’re hoping to make fertilizer for indoor houseplants and container gardens, the FoodCycler gets you there but requires the extra processing steps in empty soil.

If you just want to reduce waste and don’t need soil amendment, you can definitely give the Foodilizer away to friends, neighbors, a community garden, or offer it up in a local Buy Nothing group to someone who can use it.

How Does The FoodCycler Help If I Already Compost Outdoors?

We have several compost systems outdoors (because I’m a composting nerd and like to experiment with them), and the FoodCycler offers some composting benefits that I can’t achieve in my outdoor piles and tumblers.

FoodCycler Composts More Variety Than Backyard Composting

Because food scraps are heated and dried, the FoodCycler can compost meat, dairy, bread, and even certain types of small bones. We use our FoodCycler as an additional bucket for many of the scraps that we might otherwise toss in the trash if we only used backyard composting.

Foodilizer Doesn’t Attract Wildlife To Compost

Additionally, the FoodCycler can help reduce the risk of attracting wildlife to your compost pile. Food scraps in a traditional backyard compost pile may smell, especially if not properly managed, and attract mice, raccoons, or even bears (depending on where you live). So long as it’s buried, the Foodilizer won’t smell during the final microbe reactivation process that happens in the soil (before the Foodilizer becomes traditional compost).

FoodCycler Speeds Up Composting Process

The FoodCycler significantly speeds up the time between waste production and soil amendment if you’re not actively managing a very hot compost pile. After 3-8 hours in the FoodCycler, the Foodilizer can be added to the soil and ready for plants in just a few weeks. If you prefer not to labor over outdoor compost piles but still want to feed your garden with your food scraps, the FoodCycler definitely makes that possible.

FoodCycler Makes Composting Easier In Cold Winter Weather

In places with long, cold winters, a backyard compost system freezes and stops processing in winter weather. Electric composters, like the FoodCycler, give people an option to compost their food scraps indoors when the weather is not suitable for backyard composting. Then they have soil amendment that’s ready to add to garden beds when spring arrives.

One could definitely put food scraps into a frozen compost bin and let those scraps process over summer when they thaw out, but outdoor composting in a cold climate can be slow if there isn’t a long enough warm season for everything to fully decompose.

Where Can You Buy The FoodCycler?

The FoodCycler appliance is made by a company also called FoodCycler. When I first started researching the FoodCycler, I was a bit confused about where to purchase the product and who made it. While this company developed the technology and the product, they do not sell directly to consumers.

FoodCycler partners with Vitamix to sell the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They partner with Breville to sell the Breville FoodCycler FC-50 in Australia and New Zealand. These are the same products branded under each respective distribution company’s name. In the United States and Canada, you can buy the FoodCycler from Vitamix. In Australia, you can purchase the FoodCycler from Breville.

If you’re looking to purchase the FoodCycler in other countries, the company has partnered with a variety of retailers to make it available in select countries internationally. You can see the full list of international FoodCycler sellers on the FoodCycler website.

What Is the Difference Between the FoodCycler FC-50 and the FoodCycler FC-30?

The FoodCycler FC-50 and the FoodCycler FC-30 are identical appliances though the FC-50 model comes with a carbon-filter lid for the food scrap bucket that is not included in the FC-30 model. The carbon-filter bucket lid can be purchased separately for those buying the FC-30 model.

We store our bucket on the kitchen counter and use it to collect scraps while the appliance is in another room in our house. If you’re considering purchasing the FC-30 model, I think adding the carbon-filter lid as an accessory is really helpful and worth the additional cost.

Additionally, each of the models are only available through certain channels. The FC-50 model is available through Vitamix and Breville while the FC-30 model is available from other international sellers and directly from FoodCycler through their municipal bulk order programs (described in more detail below).

How Much Does the FoodCycler Cost?

As of the time I wrote this article, the Vitamix® FoodCycler® FC-50 model available in the United States and Canada costs $399.95 in the United States and $499.95 in Canada. Breville sells the FoodCycler for $499AUD. This price includes the removable waste bucket and carbon filter lid as well as two carbon filters for the machine.

You’ll need to replace the carbon filters in the machine about every 500 Cycler Hours. This is once every 3-4 months if you use the Cycler every few days. A set of two FoodCycler Replacement Filters costs $24.95, so expect to purchase those once or twice a year.

FoodCycler Foodilizer Tablets, which costs $24.95 for a pack of two, are optional and will likely last about a year if used as instructed.

All in, in the United States, the upfront cost is about $400 with annual costs about roughly $40 – $50 a year. This is a pretty steep price that is out of reach for many people. I recognize this is not intended to be a solution for everyone. But the FoodCycler has some great benefits, and I think it’s a small piece of the solution to our massive global food waste dilemma.

What Is The FoodCycler Municipal Bulk Purchase Program?

FoodCycler recognizes that the price of their product can be a barrier for many people. To make the product accessible to a larger customer base, they work with municipal groups to offer discounted FoodCycler FC-30 units and accessories when purchased by the municipality or municipal organization in bulk.

Depending on the municipal budget, municipalities can provide these to residents for free through their budgets or simply sell them to residents at cost and pass along the bulk purchase savings to their communities. The second alternative has no ultimate cost to the municipal organization, so it might be an attractive option for towns and cities looking to foster eco-friendly or green initiatives, even if they don’t have large financial budgets.

As of the time I wrote this article, the FoodCycler representative I spoke with confirmed the company requires a minimum order of 100 units to qualify for the bulk purchase program. As is typical in consumer product sales, larger orders warrant more significant discounts, sometimes up to 50% off the retail price. If you think your municipality might sponsor this, reach out and I’d be happy to connect you and answer any questions you have about the product based on my experience.

How Does This Compare To A Compost Pick Up Service?

A compost pick-up service is a logical alternative for many people considering an investment in a FoodCycler. While not offered to everyone, there are composting (or food scrap collection) services like WasteWell in many major cities around the country. A lucky few have municipal compost services, but that’s not currently available for most of us.

The price of a food scrap collection service varies depending on where you live. I’ve seen rates as low as $10/month for weekly service up to $25/month for bi-weekly service. Price often depends on the density of customers in your area.

At the prices above, one could pay for several years of compost service fees before recovering the investment in a FoodCycler. As the owner of a composting service and a FoodCycler, setting your scraps out for the service pick up is probably easier than managing your FoodCycler and the subsequent maintenance for the Foodilizer to be effective soil amendment.

Many of these services also provide finished compost to customers once or twice a year included in their subscription fee. The finished compost from the service provider will often be ready to add directly to the soil of houseplants and container gardens.

Compost pickup services vary with respect to the types of food scraps they take for collection. This is based on what methods of composting they use. Many will not take meat, dairy, and oils, so the FoodCycler could offer a broader range of food scraps to be composted.

Who Should Buy The FoodCycler?

Here’s the big finale. Who should actually buy the FoodCycler? Hopefully, the questions above helped you determine if the FoodCycler is right for you. Based on my experience, I have a few categories of people who I think might be particularly good candidates for FoodCycler food waste recycling.

Home Gardeners Without A Compost Pile | If you have a home garden, want to recycle your food scraps and put the nutrients back in the soil, don’t want to manage a typical compost pile, and have space to store Foodilizer until you’re ready to amend bare soil, then you will love the FoodCycler!

Apartment Dwellers With Access To A Garden | If you live in a small space and have access to a garden, you can definitely use the Foodilizer in your garden like a Home Gardener. You will reduce your food waste and replace nutrients in the soil.

Apartment Dwellers Who Don’t Need The Foodilizer | If you want to compost in a small space and don’t need the Foodilizer, you will love having the FoodCycler to compost in a way that’s really easy, clean, and doesn’t smell. You can give away the Foodilizer to a neighbor, friend, or through a local Buy Nothing group!

Cold Weather Composters | If you already compost but live in cold weather and struggle to manage a pile in the winter, the FoodCycler could be a great option for winter food waste recycling to complement outdoor composting in warmer seasons.

Next-Level Composter | The FoodCycler is a great addition to traditional composting for someone who wants to eliminate food waste like meat and dairy that can’t easily be composted in other home composting systems. If you really want to step up your composting game and reduce your food waste to nearly zero, the FoodCycler might fill the gap that your backyard composting system can’t address.

So What’s The Verdict On the FoodCycler?

The FoodCycler is a really neat appliance. It’s novel and offers some great benefits. It accompanies outdoor composting quite well and is one of the best options for those with no space for an outdoor pile and no composting service in their area.

But the FoodCycler is expensive. Electric compost appliances, in general, are not the seemingly magic, comprehensive solution they seem to be at first blush. The FoodCycler is not a complete solution for an apartment dweller or someone with no outdoor space unless they plan to give away the Foodilizer. There are lots of people who will benefit greatly from and love the Foodilizer, but it’s important to understand how it works and how you can use the output before investing.

Food waste is an immense global issue and will require massive culture change and a variety of solutions to effectively address. The FoodCycler is one important piece of the giant puzzle that we can use to find a way for everyone to get their food scraps out of the landfills and into the soil where they belong.

Any Other Questions?

Did I miss anything? Do you have any other questions? If so, leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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