Imagine this: You finish cooking your favorite (vegetarian) meal and left on the cutting board are piles and piles of food scraps from onion peels and bell pepper innards to carrot tops and corn husks. You, conscious of your food waste, want to turn it into compost but don’t have all the time in the world. So, instead, you flush it down your sink garbage disposal.
But what if instead of a garbage disposal under your sink, it was a composting mechanism?
That’s what Victoria, British Columbia-based startup Sepura Home is aiming to do. With a $3.7 million seed round, led by sink-maker Blanco, the company plans to accelerate production and delivery of its product, making it available for purchase by July 2023. The under-sink compost units will run for $700, and the company is currently accepting $100 deposits for pre-orders.
According to a video by Sepura, the small smart composter “seamlessly” connects to any sink plumbing, has a universal sink meld, and can move up and down to fit cabinets and be flush with the door. Odors are hidden in a carbon filter under the lid and an LED light shows you how full the bin is. Additionally, it notifies of sink flooding and blockages.
By simply pushing a button on the counter, the machine separates solids and liquids, pushing solids forward into a container that blocks odors, while the liquids are flushed down a drain and into plumbing all in 9 seconds. The company claims its separation is 99.9% effective. Afterward, the machine automatically shuts off.
Optionally, it can be connected to a dishwasher as well. The company says it's very easy to plug into power without any extra electrical work. “You can plug it in like a laptop and that’s it,” the company’s co-founder and CEO Victor Nicolov said in the video.
“Sepura doesn’t actually grind anything,” Nicolov said. “We found it’s better for our planet to keep things as much as they were when we threw them in the sink to avoid crushing things into our drains.” Once it's full, users can dump the bucket into their curbside pick-up or yard composting.
Sepura got started when the Nicolov had a dinner party some years back. He had way too many potato peels on his hands and after putting them down his garbage disposal, it didn’t go well. According to the company’s website, peels flew everywhere, his disposal broke, and the plumbing never recovered.
Because of this and environmental reasons, garbage disposals don’t really exist outside of the United States, and are banned in most European countries because the added food waste overburdens the water treatment system. Sepura says that the issues with garbage disposals are leading to bans across North America too, and they’re right.
A few years back, the state of Vermont enacted a food scrap landfill ban, because food scraps, even when finely grown, pose significant threats to its wastewater treatment infrastructure. Regional solid waste management districts listed backyard composting, compost pick-up, and drop-off composting as ways to adhere to new regulations. Still, many like the sheer convenience of disposals a local publication Burlington Free Press reports.
As more and more states attempt to send less food to landfills for the swathes of greenhouse gas emissions food in landfills causes, solutions like Sepura may be ideal. Plus with nearly 120 billion pounds of food waste generated across the country each year, the need for sustainable waste management solutions has become increasingly urgent. 39% of this waste comes from households, giving individuals significant power in curbing waste.
The design the company plans to put on the market is Sepura 3.0. While working on the final version of Sepura, the composting machine was named one of TIME’s top 100 innovations in 2020. The publication highlighted the convenience stating: “Sepura remedies the annoyance, turning your sink’s garbage disposal into a composting system, and making the entire process mess-free.”
Inconvenience is a big reason people don’t compost. As seen in a 2017 poll by Statistica, 20% of people think composting is too much work, while 38% said they don’t have the space and another 20% said they don’t like having a trash area in their homes. With an under-sink mechanism, hiding the trash and the smell, and eliminating the work and space issue, Sepura could solve many reasons people don’t compost.
According to the company via their press release, by reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfills and converting it into a “nutrient-rich compost,” Sepura is both capitalizing on the regulatory and consumer shifts away from traditional garbage disposals while creating a sustainable alternative.
“Sepura represents a significant step forward in sustainable living. With its advanced technology and user-friendly design, Sepura offers a simple and effective way to minimize waste and promote a cleaner, healthier environment,” Nicolov said in a statement. “We are excited to bring consumers the sustainable solution they are seeking and work to improve how food waste impacts the environment moving forward."