Organic Waste Digester FAQ

How an organic digester works

Here are some frequently asked questions, and answers, about organic waste digesters.

Will an organic waste digester help increase the water content of surrounding soil?

Yes. Food has a high water content and any moisture within the food you place in the digester will drain into the surrounding soil

Do I have to do anything to prepare the food before placing it in the digester?

Digesters are designed to break down any and all food waste without having to chop food, layer, turn or add water.

How do I install my organic waste digester?

Simply dig a hole about a foot and a half / half a meter deep and place the bottom of the digester in it a few inches / several cm below ground level. Then pile dirt along the outside of the digester. You’re done!

What is the best location for my digester?

Digesters work best in a sunny location as the cone absorbs heat from the sun which in turn speeds up the food break down process. It is also recommended that you place the digester in an easily accessible location to make continued use as easy and convenient as possible. A flower-bed or garden is ideal as the plants nearby will benefit greatly from the increased nutrients in the soil. It’s not recommended to put the digester in wet and/or shady locations. If you plan to only put pet waste in the digester, make sure it is at least 10 feet / 3 meters from any garden that produces food to be eaten.

What happens to the food in the digester? Where does it go?

The food waste is converted into water, carbon dioxide and a small amount of residue which may only need to be collected and removed every few years, if ever. Note that if you find you do have to empty the digester, the residue is nutrient rich and can be put on a compost heap or dug into the garden. However, you may never have to empty it.

What can I put in my back yard digester?

You can put all kinds of household food waste into the digester including vegetable scraps, raw and cooked meat or fish, small bones, dairy products and other organic kitchen waste; e.g. tea bags, bread etc. You can also put in a small amount of pet waste.

Does the breakdown of food waste produce methane?

Food decomposing in the presence of oxygen produces very little methane.

How much food waste can I put in my digester?

A properly placed digester can easily handle the food waste of a typical family of four. This equates to up to approximately 1kg (2.2lbs) of food waste per day. The amount will vary based on weather conditions as well; warmer, drier weather will allow a greater volume of food to be digested.

Can I put pet waste in my digester?

Yes, you can place a moderate amount of pet waste in your digester.

Do I have to turn and mix the contents of the digester?

No. You can just leave the digester be. Unlike a composter, a digester is able to take care of itself. That is one of the beautiful things about digesters; they’re so easy!

Can I put garden and lawn waste into my digester?

You can put a small amount of garden and lawn waste into your digester. However, it is recommended that you use a separate composter as well if you wish to dispose of moderate to large amounts of yard waste. The digester is not designed for yard waste and placing large amounts of it in the digester will cause the digester to fill up more quickly than it can digest. However, periodically placing a thin layer of yard waste (e.g. grass clippings) on the top layer inside the digester can assist in reducing any potential bugs or odors.

Will my digester produce unpleasant odors?

You may notice a small bit of unpleasant odor when you take off the lid of your digester. However, when the lid is in place you should not notice any odor at all. Periodically placing a thin layer of yard waste (e.g. grass clippings) on the top layer of organic material inside the digester can assist in reducing any potential odors.

Can I use my digester year round?

You can definitely use your digester year round. If you live in a location with very cold winters you may notice that the level of material inside your digester increases during this season. If the food level inside your digester gets close to the halfway point up the inside of the digester you may want to give the digester a break for a month or so. During warm months the food level should not rise very much above ground level.

What do I do if the level of food in my digester is getting too high?

You may wish to try one or more of the following:
– give the digester a break for a month or so
– move the digester to a sunnier, drier location
– as a last resort, you may consider adding a natural accelerator powder which should restore the bacteria population and restart the digestion process.

Will I have to worry about animals being attracted to the digester?

Animals and bugs are normally attracted by food odors. However, odors from the digester should be minimal or non-existent. In a digester, the decomposition process takes place in the presence of oxygen. It’s when a decomposition process takes place in the absence of oxygen that odors are more likely to occur. Also, the lid of the digester fits snugly and will keep any potential odors in and pests out.

Can I use the contents as compost for other parts of my garden?

The purpose of a digester is not to produce compost. If you garden is large enough it will benefit from having the digester right within it. If your garden is too small for this we do not recommend removing the contents of the digester and mixing it in your garden.

What is a kitchen caddy?

A kitchen caddy is a small container that you keep in the kitchen for storing your food waste. See our kitchen caddy page for more information.

How is an organic digester different than vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting involves the use of worms to generate a rich nutrient fertilizer called vermicompost. For more information see our page on vermicompost.