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This ingenious gadget helped my family save money and reduce our food waste by 90%: 'We want this to be for everyone'

"Individual actions can lead to systems change."

Mill program kitchen gadget to reduce food waste

Photo Credit: iStock

What if I said that you could reduce your food waste by 90% with the touch of a button, support farmers, and potentially save money while doing it?

Mill, a cutting-edge food recycling program, has created a solution that will help you do just that.

Food waste is the biggest category of waste in the U.S., making up about 24% of our total solid garbage and accounting for 8% of planet-overheating pollution worldwide. If food waste was a country measured by pollution, it would be the third largest country, according to Project Drawdown data cited by Mill. 

By diverting food waste from landfills, Mill helps reduce the amount of methane, a toxic gas that greatly contributes to climate change, in our atmosphere. 

🗣️ What's the most common reason you end up throwing away food?

🔘 Bought more than I could eat 🛒

🔘 Went bad sooner than I expected 👎

🔘 Forgot it was in the fridge 😞

🔘 Didn't want leftovers 🥡

🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

What is Mill and how does it work? 

To be clear, Mill – which was conceived and designed by Nest alum, Harry Tannenbaum, and Nest co-founder and Apple alum, Matt Rogers – is not for composting. 

Rogers told The Cool Down, "Mill is an easy, all-in-one food recycling service that keeps food out of landfills and gets it back to farms."

Just imagine a stylish, sleek kitchen trash can, and then picture it equipped with innovative technology that dehydrates any and all food waste overnight, transforming even the most compost-resistant materials, like meat and dairy, into an odorless, coffee ground-like substance that the company has coined "Food Grounds." 

It operates by using a combination of automated sensors and advanced technology to dehydrate, shrink, and eliminate odors from organic waste overnight while conserving the nutrients. The device is equipped with a bucket featuring built-in paddles, allowing it to gently yet efficiently process various types of food waste, including fruits and vegetables, plus other leftovers that are not suitable for composting.

Lunch Leftovers Before
Lunch Leftovers After

While my family was participating in a five-week trial with Mill (or as we like to call it,  "Chomper"), we threw nearly all of our food scraps in the bin – moldy vegetables, eggshells, old bread crust, taco night leftovers, and even whole melon rinds. The next morning, we were greeted by a much smaller pile of odorless, dehydrated Food Grounds. It took us about three weeks to fill the bin, which according to Mill, is about average. 

The only challenge we encountered was when a rock-hard lime that had been petrifying in our fruit bowl for months got stuck under the paddles. We were notified immediately of the jam through a notification from the Mill app and were able to successfully troubleshoot with the step-by-step instructions provided. 

After you fill up the bin with Food Grounds, you pour them into a free shipping box supplied by the company and schedule a free USPS pickup through the Mill app. I was a bit skeptical about the pollution impact of shipping our food waste and whether that was better or worse than throwing the food away, but according to the Mill team, every box of Food Grounds could be transported 15,000-20,000 miles (most of the way around the world) before it could negate the benefits of keeping food out of landfills and avoiding methane pollution. 

After being shipped, the Food Grounds are received at Mill's feed manufacturing facility to be inspected, screened, heated, and blended to create a safe feed ingredient for chickens. My kids and I are looking forward to hearing how many chickens we are feeding with our food waste.

Yes, Mill costs money, but it also can also save you money. 

The benefits of using Mill versus throwing your food in the trash are clear. With Mill, there are no foul odors, no decomposition, and no dealing with messy, leaky trash bags.

The subscription costs about a dollar a day, but it can pay for itself over the course of the year in two different ways: 

First, for those living in cities with "pay as you throw" garbage collection systems, where trash pickup costs are determined by weight, Mill offers substantial cost-savings opportunities. By reducing the volume of waste, households can make significant savings and also contribute to a greener future. 

Second, Mill makes you more conscious of the amount of food you throw out – and the money you're wasting because of it. The average American household wastes about $1,500 a year on food that gets tossed in the garbage. When you pay attention to what you throw out, you're more likely to plan your meals, streamline your shopping, and stop overbuying perishable items. 

As an enthusiastic Mill convert, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative impact it has had on my family's food waste. Over the course of five weeks, with a household of two adults and two picky kids under 10, we've reduced our food waste by an astounding 90%.

The most impactful part of the Mill experience has been facing the amount of food we waste head on – I immediately became more thoughtful about my grocery shopping and started saving money right away. For several days during the trial, we didn't have any food scraps to throw into Chomper, and all four of us were very proud of the progress we had made.  

Coming to a city near you…

The potential for large-scale impact is already evident in Mill's Tacoma, Washington, pilot program. The first-of-its-kind initiative is a partnership between the city and the company, offering priority access to a limited number of Mill memberships to Tacoma residents. 

The program aims to divert the 28% of Tacoma's residential garbage stream estimated to be food waste, allowing residents to downsize their garbage containers, save money, and make significant strides toward the city's sustainability goals. Residents could save up to $25.60 a month on their waste bill. 

"By using the resources we already have more effectively, Mill can make a meaningful difference for people and the cities and towns where they live, the food system, and the planet," Tannenbaum explained. "Cities spend billions of dollars to manage waste. Imagine a better system where cities can free up resources to invest in other community projects, and meet their climate goals."

On a mission to change the world… 

Mill's impact extends beyond individual households and environmental sustainability. 

By repurposing food waste into a valuable resource for farmers and offsetting the high cost and carbon footprint of chicken feed, Mill helps foster a circular economy, where waste is transformed into a valuable input for agricultural production. This symbiotic relationship between Mill and chicken farmers demonstrates the broader potential for innovative solutions to create positive ripple effects throughout the entire food supply chain. 

After using Mill and experiencing how easy and fun it was to virtually eliminate food waste in our household, I'm excited to become a paying member. 

Solutions like Mill are crucial in paving the way to a greener, cleaner future. As Rogers told The Cool Down, "Individual actions can lead to systems change. One decision, one habit, one meal at a time. Small changes can make a big impact." 

A Mill membership is currently available via an annual or monthly membership, $30/month for the annual plan (billed $360 annually) or $50/month plus a one-time $75 bin delivery fee for the monthly plan. The Cool Down does not receive any compensation or commission from Mill.

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