Decay Part III: Composters on the Net
by Jeff Lewis


Market Forces

Youíd think that in a metropolis with five million people, with hundreds of garden centers and hardware megastores visible from the motorways, a guy with $150 burning a hole in his pocket could buy an expensive composter.  Before I started looking, I took it for granted that every gardening center stocked composters because I live five miles from the birthplace of Alice Watersís Delicious Revolution and organic gardening is part of the local elementary school curriculum.  Itís the perfect marketplace for upscale organic gardening supplies, but composters are conspicuously absent, as my fruitless visits to six large garden centers indicates.  If I desired, I could buy $10 buckets of ladybugs, $500 Japanese maples or spend a couple of grand on recycled teak furniture, but I was out of luck when it came to high-priced composters.

All over the Oakland Hills, Grandchildren of the Sixties are paying over half a million to move into starter houses, where they soon will be tending to their first gardens.  Unless itís the dead of winter, most barely let the ink on their mortgages dry before going on a shopping binge, snapping up rakes, tool sheds, weed whackers and other items that will clutter their yards and garages, while getting only occasional use.  If composters had been available when we went on our binge, I certainly would have bought one instead of a tool shed.

Apparently, though, thereís no market for expensive composters, because if thereís one thing that Americans are good at, itís exploiting a market.  Perhaps itís because some cities allow you to recycle food with the garden waste, or maybe its that the Farmersí Markets that are springing up in every community have rendered backyard vegetable gardens obsolete.  Most likely, though, composters suffer from the success of the gas grill.  When stores allocate display space for bulky gardening items in the $100-$600 price range, darn near 100% goes to gas grills, even though a stickler could argue that they donít belong in a garden center.

The internet is another matter.  If you donít mind paying a pretty penny for shipping, there are plenty of options.  Composters.com, for instance, offers some sixty varieties, mostly with silly names:

Names That Suggest the Rise of the Machines is Near

Bio-Orb U-Roll System - This is a big plastic ball with holes that you stick waste in and roll around your yard.

Scrap Eater Living Machine - This wonít be threatening humanity anytime soon, as its primary component is a recycled Bordeaux barrel.  To be fair, it is the prettiest composter on the market because you can plant flowers around the rim.

Earth Machine & Earth Engine - These are not machines, nor is there anything ďengineyĒ about them; one is a big box made out of wood and plastic, the other is just plastic.

Flowtron Expandable System - You have entered the game grid of Flowtron!  This looks like a promising composter, but itís nothing more than a polyethylene box with large holes.  If something is called Flowtron, itís got to have a little more panache.

RotoTherm CrankTec System - Weighs in at 110 pounds, costs $559 and is a vivid green.  With three vertical rotating screws, this is as complex as composters get, but did the RotoTherm people really need to use both RotoTherm and CrankTec in the name?  Isnít one miscapitalized fake word enough for a bunch of green plastic?

To be continued...

Copyright © 2005 by Jeff Lewis