Course Blog Projects Course 2018

The Digester: a Bin for a Circular Food Economy

Our project has three goals:

  1. Bring nature to city-dwellers
  2. Design cities for sustainable living by default
  3. Mitigate Nature Deficit Disorder (see the Children and Nature Network for more information)

To accomplish these goals, we created a new kind of waste bin: the Digester.  In addition to collecting food waste as standard waste bins do, the Digester produces fertilizer.  The microbial communities in the intestine-like tube of the Digester extracts nitrates (liquid nitrogen), phosphates (liquid phosphorus) and potassium from food waste while consuming the food waste.  The resulting nutrient-rich liquid fills the gap between the food production and food waste management industries, because the waste from food becomes fertilizer that supports the growth of more food.

Accompanying documentation for the Digester explaining the science behind its food waste breakdown and fertilizer production

The Digester’s contained, visible, and easy-to-use design makes it ideal for home kitchens.  People can use Digester-produced fertilizer to grow their own food, or they can sell it back to farmers.  The company selling the Digester, the Food & Waste Alliance (FWA) provides delivery service to help bring fertilizer to the farmers who need it.

The Digester, uses artificial intelligence technology (AI) to sort all materials put inside it. Any non-organic material is filtered out for disposal into a separate bin. The AI sends food waste (organic material) down the transparent digestion tube of the bin, where microbial communities will extract nitrates, phosphates, and potassium as they consume the food waste. These extracted nutrients are outputted from the Digester as liquids, which can be combined with water to create fertilizer. The fertilizer can be used to grow food at home or can be sold back to farmers.

The label on the Digester explaining how to use it and what to expect from it
The Color Card: a guide for monitoring the Digeser’s health, which in turn monitors your own health and the Earth’s health



The Food & Waste Alliance sells several products to accompany the Digester, including Seed Packets.  The Seed Packet labels have instructions for how to create the appropriate fertilizer for the food the seeds will grow with the nutrient-rich liquid from the Digester.


For more information about the Food & Waste Alliance, check out this video.