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NatureMill Indoor Composter: All That?

By Jenn (TinyChoices.com) | June 5, 2008

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Note: I recently reviewed the new NatureMill Pro XE model (April 2010)– click here to read the latest scoop!

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I’ve talked before about my love of, and current inability to, compost. I live in an yardless apartment and so backyard composters are out. I also have an uncanny ability to kill things (well, plants; my cat seems to be hanging in there) and thus I shy away from vermicomposting on the principle of Ahimsa, or non-violence. (Also: is it unethical to make worms spend their whole lives caged up and working for our benefit? Or is that just kind of what they’d be doing anyway? I’ve been wondering about this…)

So for now I’m still bringing my accumulated and frozen food scraps to the Union Square Greenmarket so that the LESEC can compost for me. And then I get to buy back (at least some of) my scraps as New York City Paydirt Potting Soil, thus neatly and wonderfully closing a little loop.

Anyhoo, I’ve been having Naturemill Indoor Composter lust since the unit was in pre-production three years ago, and planning to eventually buy one because it does get a little old carrying thawing food scraps on the subway.  But I recently read a Treehugger review of this baby and you know what?  It seems that the Naturemill isn’t perfect.  I know!  Shocking!  I’ve thought that it would be the final and everlasting solution to my indoor composting dilemma, but, maybe, not so much.

Let me begin by saying that I still think the Naturemill is an amazing product, bringing composting to a group of folks who otherwise couldn’t and/or wouldn’t bother (urban dwellers, folks in cold climates, the elderly/infirm, etc).   But for the first time I’ve learned about some drawbacks: regular feeding with sawdust pellets and baking soda (additional costs and space hogs); it’s not odor-free; it’s louder than a white-noise machine, and I’ve already got one of those rumbling in my home; and the resulting compost needs additional drying-out time (which is the only thing which turned me off the Bokashi composting method).

So, I don’t know if the Naturemill is worth it, for me.  The benefits of it would be that I could stop schlepping those scraps.  The drawbacks are a bit of a longer list, plus $399.  So for now I’m just gonna keep on keepin’ on… but I’m wondering:

Do any of ya’ll have personal experience with the Naturemill?  What’re your thoughts?

Update, 10/13/08: I’ve decided to close comments on this post, as it seems to have become the go-to spot for dissing on Naturemill.   I deeply value the honest input commenters have left here, and think they most likely are a good indicator of the current quality of the composter.  However, I also think Naturemill is a company trying to do right in the world.  So, no more hatin’.

Topics: Food, Home, Waste | 43 Comments »

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43 Comments

Comment by Margaret
2008-06-05 08:05:03

I don’t get it: what is violent about vermicomposting? Your earthworms will live happy little lives eating your melon rinds and you will get some great compost! Try it!

Comment by Jenn
2008-06-05 08:33:27

Hey Margaret– sorry if I wasn’t clear– the “violent” part would be me killing those worms! because I’m pretty sure I would. I just have a feeling that I don’t currently have enough time or attention to make sure the balance would stay right within the vermicomposting container, and thus the worms would die.

I’ve heard both sides of the vermi-story, for some people it’s the easiest thing in the world to get right and for others, their worms keep on expiring. I’m just thinking I’d fall in the latter camp. And thus, I’d be harming, or practicing violence against, those little worms.

Comment by Karina
2008-06-05 17:30:05

and by others, she means ME. I’m going to give it one more try this summer, maybe if I’m successful you can take my lessons-learned and put them to use, Jenn?

Comment by Jenn
2008-06-05 23:17:25

Mayyyybeeeee…..

 
 
 
 
Comment by Beth R
2008-06-05 10:29:55

i’m on the verge of getting a nature mill. i’ve heard about the noise and odor from some, while others say they haven’t had a problem. i’m hoping keeping it in a closet and feeding it a proper balance might help. i hadn’t heard about the extra drying out time, though.

also, you can get the low-end model for $299, or a little less if you can get at least two other people to get one too (i’m not completely sure, but, that might only be available if ordered from their site… ).

Comment by Jenn
2008-06-05 23:17:52

Keep us posted, Beth! Would love to hear about your opinions, if you do purchase one.

 
Comment by Sherry D
2008-09-15 13:42:04

Don’t bother. I had numerous problems, smell, liquid dripping, they suggested to put a book on the lid to hold it down or they could send a new lid in 6 weeks. It stunk up my whole house and they offered little assistance and refused to take it back. They don’t mention who complicated the process is and you can’t add too many “wet” items. I finally got past the bad smell by adding baking soda and cups of wood chips every day. Then a metal piece from inside the unit broke off and jammed it. It was a flimsy metal v-shaped piece that came from the side and now it is unplugged gathering dust. What a useless complicated mess.

 
 
Comment by Ruth
2008-06-05 12:07:53

My sister has one, and based on her experience, I’m definitely going to buy one. I am so envious! Just need to save up – yes it is $299 for the lower end model or $399 for the fancy one with the foot pedal. My sister’s machine is totally silent, and she said their are no odor problems if you follow the instructions. Her’s smells sweet and MUCH better than MY kitchen trash bin. She has the sawdust pellets that they provide, which comes in a tiny bag like a package of coffee beans. And you can buy a 6 month replacement box from them (size of a big loaf of bread) for $6 on their website, which again is better/cheaper/smaller than regular kitchen trash bags.

Comment by Jenn
2008-06-05 23:18:34

Wow, sounds like a success story, Ruth! Thanks for the first-hand input, that’s really great information…

 
 
Comment by Julia
2008-06-05 16:25:14

THANK YOU for writing about this today. I read about it for the first time yesterday and I’ve been hoping someone would give a review! I live in the suburbs of Detroit on a very small lot with no room for composting. Ok – I admit – the worm thing is a bit of an issue for me, as well. This could be a wonderful solution – especially if I can keep it in the garage. Keep the reviews coming!

Comment by Jenn
2008-06-05 23:19:01

Hi Julia– let us know if you purchase one! I’d love to hear more first-hand opinions.

 
 
Comment by Al
2008-06-06 09:26:56

Hi there,

This website http://kitchencomposter.org/ tells the story of people using the Naturemill composter.

By the end of June, I will be borrowing a Naturemill from someone to see if I can make it work better than they can. I’ll be blogging about it too.

Cheers,

Al

Comment by Jenn
2008-06-08 16:43:50

Awesome! Thanks for the link, Al– and keep us posted on your trials and tribulations with the borrowed Naturemill. So what kinds of problems are they experiencing with it, that you’re going to try to get it to work better?

 
 
Comment by Nicole Gauvin
2008-06-06 14:28:40

I just received mine today (took 4 weeks for it to arrive) and I haven’t had a chance to check it out but I am very excited. Here’s a Nature Mill coupon code: CXMZ83. You’ll need to mention my name to get $30 off your order.

Comment by Jenn
2008-06-08 16:42:44

Ooohhhhh thanks, Nicole! Keep us posted on your experience with it, I’m so curious! What do you think so far?

Comment by Nicole Gauvin
Comment by Nicole
2008-07-04 12:28:41

Update… we had to move our unit outside to the balcony because the smell was bothering my husband. Partly because I was adding more “green” stuff than “brown” stuff but we’re figuring it out as we go along.

Comment by Jenn
2008-07-06 22:07:25

Thanks for the update, Nicole! So, you think the smell is because there hasn’t been a correct balance of brown/green scraps? Or is it how the unit itself functions?

 
 
 
 
 
Comment by mes
2008-06-11 21:59:03

We have had the NatureMill for more than 2 months now and had very bad luck with it. FIrst, it stinks. I cannot imagine having it in an apartment or under your sink in your house. We keep it outside and if the door is open to the house and someone put scraps in it, the entire house stinks. The machine continually jams and the compost never drops to the bottom of the machine when finished. We have to scoop it out. In almost 10 weeks we have only gotten two small batches of compost. We keep trying because we want it to work.

Comment by Jenn
2008-06-12 23:56:04

Hey mes– thanks so much for your honest review. Sounds like you’re having a heck of a time with your Naturemill… have you been in contact with the company at all? I wonder if your unit is defective, it sounds so awful! Perhaps they still have some development work to do on the product. From what I’ve heard so far, there are a whole lot of sad complaints about the thing. Best of luck with it, and keep us posted!

ps- I’m loving greenluvin!

 
 
Comment by Susan
2008-06-19 16:37:54

I’ve had the same problem most people have had with the smell. And for a while it was really friggin’ noisy. But I’ve found the best thing to do is re-read the literature that it comes with. And if you’re still having issues, email their customer service dept. They’re really great at getting back to people quick.

Overall, there’s a bit of learning curve when it comes to making this composter a part of your home. Took me a good month or so to get any good compost at all. At first, it’d come out really wet and smelly. After the live cultures established themselves inside the machine and the machine broke itself in a little bit, the smell got better and the machine a lot less noisy.

My advice for those having problems is to make sure you put a handful of sawdust in if it’s looking a bit wet. Add a tablespoon or two of baking soda in it when putting in acidic stuff, and overall, just be patient. It takes some getting used to, not quite as simple as it looks in the videos, but definitely well worth it. Now the bags of trash I take out are sooo much lighter, and all those food scraps are now going into my city compost heap instead of the landfills…small inconvenience for such a big effect.

 
Comment by Carol Horn
2008-07-29 17:38:18

I purchased my Nature Mill composter back in February. I have been having the same problemwith the smell. I’ve went through two composters so far. The first one broke and wouldn’t turn. Customer service was good about replacing the unit. The second composter I sent back to Nature Mill a couple weeks ago to see if they could figure out why it stinks. I haven’t heard from them yet. I’ve been composting for over ten years. I have two compost bins and a worm bin and have never smelled anything so foul in my life as the Nature Maill Composter. I moved the composter to my porch. I could smell it inside my house. I have tried everything to make this composter work. I’ve used the sawdust and baking soda that Nature Mill suggests. I really hope that Nature Mill can figure out what’sgoing on so I can use my composter. Anyone else having such bad luck?

Comment by Jenn
2008-07-31 17:47:46

Hey Carol– WOW. Thanks for the honest review. Sounds like you’ve been having an especially hard time with your NatureMill… I hope the company continues to be responsive to you– keep us posted.

 
 
2008-08-03 11:45:10

[...] scrapings. Rather than worry about how to compost them (though there are a lot of great options out there), how about turning those vegetable peelings into tasty and useful veggie stock? Vegeyum writes: [...]

 
Comment by sally
2008-08-03 19:23:50

I’ve had a Naturemill for a few months. I have to agree that at first it was difficult to get the odors down. But then a funny thing happened – I read the instructions! It says that you have to add sawdust pellets (which are conveniently included but I ran out). When you add sawdust pellets, it somehow balances the chenistry (the old green vs. brown thing) and then the odors go away. Hasn’t been a problem every since. A whole $6 is what we paid on the company’s website – about the same as the cost of trash bags.

Now that we’ve got the odor thing well under control, and the machine quieted down just like the manufacturer said it would, it has been pretty much smooth sailing. Sometimes we forget and overload with bad stuff like a corn cob or a piece of plastic wrapper somehow gets in there. But basically it works as we had expected. We might buy a second one, now that they are available in all the new colors.

 
Comment by inayem
2008-08-05 13:30:17

I have owned the Naturemill for about 6 months now. It sounds like you’re an earth-lover, (Like me) So here are the real-world facts on the Naturemill:

1. Patience- Your first batch must age for 1 week undisturbed. Add equal amounts of the pellets they send you, green (kitchen scraps) and earth (outside dirt) along with 2 tblspns baking soda (they send a box to you also)

2. Add chopping up your scraps to your meal clean-up routine. It will speed up the composting process and cut odors.

3. At 6 bucks a bag, their sawdust can be a painful expense. Grass clippings dried and cut with sissors into approx inch-long lengths will suffice, a hand full per scrap load is fine. Any longer than 1 in. and they tend to wrap around the mixing bar. However any “crumbly-dry” vegetation will suffice for your “brown” mix. If you use leaves crumble them first.

There are 5 in our family (vegetarian) and I use my Nature mill to augment my large compost pile outside for my garden. It has really improved the quality by acting as a “booster” in your case, as an apartment dweller, just allow the tranfered compost to “age” in your bottom collector bin for approx a week and you should not have any problems with odor.

Hope this helps
Best regards,
-inayem

Comment by Jenn
2008-08-07 08:49:49

Thanks for your review, inayem– it’s great to read about your experiences. Personally, I’m not sure where I’d get dried and cut grass clippings, or crumbly leaves (such things not easily found within cities), but it’s great to know that there are alternatives for the sawdust.

 
 
Comment by Doug
2008-08-18 19:12:39

According to the documentation, it automatically drops down every 6 days if the OK button has not been pressed to drop it down previously.This is the vacation mode. I’m not generating enough waste to have to empty within 6 days. So it’s very frustrating to me.

 
Comment by Silversomething
2008-08-23 10:47:45

We received a Naturemill as a gift last January. For about four months it was wonderful. At that point a problem developed that Naturemill diagnosed as a circuit board failure. Board replacement was very simple, remove the front decal, replace the board via a phone jack type connector, and install the new decal that came with the board.

The problem was the board only lasted one day before it too went bad.

It took two months to get a new board and decal. Natuermill said they had a problem with waterproofing and they were back ordered. I phoned and e’mailed multiple times before I got results.

I installed the board Wednesday and it worked beautifully for less than one day. I am waiting to hear back.

Has anyone else had board problems. I will follow-up this post with what happens.

FYI: The mill is located in a workshop attached to the garage. Odor and noise are not a problem.

Comment by Mark
2008-08-29 10:45:27

I have had the same problems as others with the composter. The circuit board was the last item. The same as you got it one day and installed the new circuit board and then next day the unit dead again. They want to send me a replacement unit, but I have decide to ask for a full refund.

 
 
Comment by CJStewart
2008-08-30 11:29:33

I’ve found that any problems we’ve had with the NatureMill have all been attributable to user error. We had smelly compost…just add more sawdust pellets and/or baking soda. We had chunky compost…just cut up the scraps (whole onion skins take a really long time to decompose) and leave the machine alone to do its work (I get an itchy trigger finger wanting to transfer the compost to the drying bin). We had yucky liquid in the exterior drip pan…again, more sawdust or other brown matter (going green is great, but too much green will give you compost mud).

The unit is still a little noisy when it is mixing, but I am assured that when it breaks in it will get quieter.

 
Comment by Shirley
2008-09-01 19:14:53

I’m thinking of purchasing one of the ‘Pet Friendly’ Nature Mills to compost cat litter/waste. Does anyone have any experience with this?

I have never composted anything before. As far as safety goes I’ve read the mill heats enough to handle the waste and our cats are indoor only so parasites are not a problem but I would still not compost veggies or herbs with the compost, I would probably just dump the compost in the woods around our house or use on the few outdoor plants or bushes we may have.

We are moving to a rural area in a few months, and I don’t want to fill trash bags with used litter and waste and haul them to the dump nor do I want to flush anything into our septic tank.

I use pine pellet cat litter and recycled newspaper litter already. We have 5 cats (!) so I scoop and change the boxes a lot. I’d probably have to get 2 of these (site says one will do up to 4 cats).

My main concern is that I would be putting more waste in and putting it in faster than it could compost as I would be dumping the litter boxes into it frequently.

I would like to put the unit on a patio (not covered, but isn’t it supposed to be weatherproof?) to avoid smells…

I also would love one for indoor food scraps (we are vegetarians so no meat) but people have me scared about the noise and smell.

Any advice/experience about the Pet Friendly model appreciated, especially from anyone who has had good luck with it and can help me avoid possible problems. Thanks!

 
Comment by Anne
2008-09-10 19:40:29

I’ve had a Nature Mill Composter for 2 years. Had to send it back (they paid shipping) for repairs after about 9 months. They sent a new machine, so I’m not sure what was broken. Recently the hinges to the lid fell apart–literally–the layers of metal in the hinge are flaking apart, making the lid wobbly. It takes two hands to put anything into the hopper. I have been waiting a couple of weeks for a new lid. Now the jam light is always on. I’ve completely cleared the unit, followed all of the manual instructions (three times), and the rotating wand doesn’t budge. I called Tech Support and didn’t get any help. Now I’m waiting for a supervisor to call me (at her convenience….grrr…some of us have to work). Does anyone have any ideas about how to fix this? It is clearly an older model as their current ones look much different.

Luckily, we have the composter in our garage so the (very) loud noises during mixing don’t bother us. And the chronic bad smell doesn’t either. Didn’t know about the sawdust. That tip is on their website now, but not in the original information. I didn’t have any luck with cross-cut shredded paper for “brown stuff”. That just turned to glue.

Any help would be appreciated!

 
Comment by john
2008-09-11 19:05:47

This is a disaster. When we last spoke (about three weeks ago) you were going send me a repair kit for the broken latch/clip. Mean while, the other latch broke too. Also water has stopped collecting in the white water container. Instead, most water collects in the compost bin and the rest leaks on the floor.
1. The late Replacement parts with instructions be fed-ex’ overnight 2 months later
2. An explanation of why during week 4, the water collected in the proper container and now it doesn’t?
3. A repair srategy for preventing the water from leaking into the lower compost bin and Garage floor.

Many others are curious, I want to tell them it’s great but its Junk product

 
Comment by Dianne
2008-09-18 16:01:01

I purchased a Naturemill product!

I received an upgraded piece because the unit has been on Jam for over a month. I installed the upgrade latches that took 4 weeks to arrived (not a fun project) and completely cleaned the unit. I put the new culture soil in to start over along with the scraps, baking soda and pellets. The unit is still showing Jam after 3 days and is doing nothing. I contacted tech support at NatureMill (Carrie) and there was not call back or e-mail from her.

 
Comment by Gary F
2008-09-23 16:26:15

It sounds like there’s a design flaw with the units. The little clips on my unit is bent and the tray is jammed again. I had gone through the order and replacement of parts, which was not fun. I like the concept. However, having forked over $400 for the unit, I sure wish they had tested the unit better before unleashing it onto the market.

 
Comment by Silversomething
2008-09-24 19:03:01

Just an update on my problems:

It took a while and a little prodding, but I got a replacement composter. Just finished my first batch and everything is working fine. I love the speed at which it works, from start to finish about 4 days.

I will certainly post if I have any problems.

Silvesomething

 
Comment by alice
2008-10-02 16:11:20

we have had a naturemill for about 6 months..
They really need to perfect the product, not produce one and fix all the bugs at the purchasers expense…
We had quite a bit of trouble in the beginning..
But the company is good in that they will send you replacement parts free if you need them.
However you need to be really handy and skilled with things like this to fix the problems, at least some of them.( and i think maybe that most people are not)
The newest bunch which came off the assembly line ( ours i think) had faulty foot pedals and lids and the computer memory gizmo chip , if it got wet,(the company said the product could be used outdoors), failed and needed replacing.
Once again, the company was helpful in that they gave free replacement parts, and if you can get them on the phone, they are very helpful to give you step by step help.

IF you are young, and idealistic and really WANT to make compost , and live in an apartment with some kind of ventilated area, this product CAN work..
You need to baby it.

Oh yes, you really need to chop the items you are composting into small pieces.
Do not put anything HARD like the hard stem of a banana into the bin, or it will Jam.

we are vegetarians and live in a very small apartment.
If the compost in the naturemill starts to smell, we do add baking soda , and purchase this item in large sized boxes. That does help the smell and really brings the odor problem to a very small level..if any..
It is good for the amount of food we eat.. and we eat lots and lots of fruit and veg.

Once we make a batch of compost,, we put it in a small pail to cure.. It is definitely too strong to put into the garden immediately.. it will need to cure and break down for at least another three or four months at least..
When we begin the next batch , we add some of the last batch to incubate the new batch..
Once it has dried in the drying part of the unit ( seperate from the composting part)
it is very dry, and we put this dry stuff into our next batch instead of wood chips.
seems to work to absorb the moisture.

not much help.. but the machine can be useful if you really need a way to compost in a small apartment.. and you are willing and young and able to do this and suffer through the many small inconveniences and hassles this entails.

I feel sorry for the dear lady who has had to purchase so many..on a limited budget.
That does not seem right to me.

There should be some kind of disclaimer on the product, that it is far from perfect, and that the buyers should be wary..

alice

 
Comment by Doug
2008-10-07 20:23:25

I have a strange feeling that most of the people replying lately are the same person who have a problem with NatureMill. They make the same grammatical mistakes and write in a similiar way.

Comment by S.
2008-10-08 03:34:27

Wondered the same thing.

Anyone have any positive experiences with the Nature Mill? Positive experiences with customer service or getting the product repaired/replaced?

 
 
Comment by Anne
2008-10-08 07:04:06

I have had trouble with a 3 year old unit. It failed after 9 months and was quickly replaced with a new unit. The lid (followed soon after by the door) began to fall off broken hinges. I keep the unit in my garage and it is not exposed to the elements or neglected. I called and a replacement lid was ordered. But someone at NatureMill figured out that I had an older model and the new lids won’t fit. During this, the mixing wand jammed and can not be fixed. Carrie, the supervisor, offered me a new unit (my choice of the 2 currently available) for $100 and the unit comes with a 1-year warranty. I’ve taken them up on the offer and chose the less expensive and simpler model because who needs color choices and bells and whistles on their composter? The unit has been shipped and I am awaiting it’s arrival.

I would NOT recommend this composter for indoor use because of the noise and modest odor. But I am pleased with the unit for my purposes and feel that customer service has been acceptable (if it wasn’t slow, it would be excellent).

 
Comment by Rick, S
2008-10-13 15:30:41

I urge anyone reading this, not to ever consider buying this piece of garbage “so called composter”. This whole thing is a scam. My compster has never worked and they do not support the product at all. They refuse to talk to you unless you carry your composter serial number wherever you go. My composter leaks some sort of toxic juice all over my kitchen floor and has never worked. This product and this company are the worst. They ripped my off for $400 don’t let the same thing happen to you.

 
2012-03-13 05:33:49

[...] presents Four Ways To Compost Indoors at Tiny Choices and then follows up with NatureMill Indoor Composter: All That? analyzing the pluses and minuses of this particular [...]

 

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