Mill’s New Food Waste Bin: Faster and Quieter Than Ever

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When you hear a product is “new and improved,” it’s often best to be skeptical. However, with Mill’s redesigned food waste bin, you can trust the hype.

Like its predecessor, the bin accepts a broad range of food waste—only a few items like oyster shells are prohibited. It grinds and dries the waste to a texture resembling chunky coffee grounds. These grounds can be mixed with garden soil, scattered on lawns, or even sent back to Mill, which then provides it to farmers as chicken feed. Households using the bin can expect to cut down approximately half a ton of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

So, what’s changed? Practically everything.

While the old bin functioned as expected, it wasn’t always as quiet or fast as desirable, sometimes taking almost a day to complete a drying and grinding cycle. That’s not the case with the new model, which I’ve spent the past couple of weeks testing. Every night at 10 pm, my bin initiated a cycle, and by morning, it was always done, just as co-founder Matt Rogers promised. Additionally, it’s much quieter, no longer disrupting evening television time.

Here’s how Mill made these improvements possible.

The design goal was straightforward, said Kristen Virdone, head of product at Mill: each cycle had to be completed overnight. With that objective, and a year’s worth of data, the team got to work.

Mill food waste bin sits closed.
The lid has been redesigned, leaving a cutout for the lock button and status lights, which have been relocated to the base.
Image Credits: Mill Industries

On the surface, the new Mill bin doesn’t seem much different. The visual tweaks are so subtle that only a keen eye might catch them, similar to when automakers slightly alter a model’s headlights for a fresher look. Perhaps the most noticeable change is that the status lights no longer shine through the wood-grain plastic lid—a nifty feature I kind of miss.

Beneath the lid, one significant upgrade is the arrangement of the augers that grind the waste—they’re now vertical instead of horizontal. This allowed the team to flatten the bucket’s bottom, making it easier for the augers to sweep clear and also eliminate certain noises. Previously, the augers would drag food waste across the curved bottom, creating what the Mill team calls “haunted house noises.” The new setup has put an end to those eerie sounds.

The vertical orientation also enabled the design team to add small paddles on top that users can twist to help dislodge grounds when emptying the bucket.

The bucket itself is now entirely metal. The former model had some plastic components, which limited heat transfer from the heating element to the food waste, extending drying times. To assist with dumping the grounds, the bucket is coated with a PFAS/PFOA-free ceramic lining.

Mill food waste bin sits open with grounds inside.
New vertically oriented augers help grind the food more quietly. Plus, they allow for small paddles on top that can be turned to help dislodge grounds when emptying.
Image Credits: Mill Industries

To further cut down cycle times, the Mill team leveraged machine learning algorithms trained on a year’s worth of data, Virdone said. Consequently, the new software is more efficient in determining the required cycle duration.

Each bin is equipped with several sensors, much like the previous version. But now, with more data, it can differentiate between the weight of one strawberry and four raspberries, according to Suzy Sammons, Mill’s head of communications. Two humidity sensors, one at the air inlet and one at the exhaust, assist the bin in precisely timing each drying cycle.

“If you think about it, there are infinite combinations of food that can go into our bins,” Virdone said. “With a year of real families using the bins and putting in all kinds of odd food combinations, we’ve begun to understand the range of what’s in there.”

Additionally, the fans have been completely redesigned, Virdone explained. They’re quieter, and their placement within the bin was rethought to minimize noise emissions. Overall, the changes were effective. During my testing, the new unit’s fan noise was significantly reduced.

One missing feature in the new bin is a power-activated lid. The previous model had a motorized lid that lifted when you stepped on the foot pedal, which was quite satisfying to use and a favorite of my kids. The new lid operates via a more traditional mechanical linkage connected to the pedal, similar to a typical kitchen garbage bin. Virdone mentioned that user testing showed people preferred the mechanical lid, finding it more intuitive.

Like its predecessor, the new bin requires a nearby power outlet. In our home, that means the bin technically resides in the family room, just a few steps from the kitchen sink. While it works well in practice, it looks a bit out of place next to the couch. If I were to create a permanent spot for it, I’d consider relocating it to the kitchen and perhaps adding another outlet.

The only significant deterrent for me is the price. At $360 annually, it’s not cheap, especially compared to my city’s curbside compost service, which costs a third as much. Mill’s new pricing is roughly 10% lower than before, provided you have a place to dispose of the grounds. If not, you’ll need to pay an additional $10 per month for pickup. It’s possible the price could drop if Mill secures subsidies from municipalities. Currently, Pittsburgh and Tacoma, Washington, are the only cities with such agreements.

Considering its current cost, Mill’s bin isn’t for everyone. But for households without access to curbside composting services, or those who dislike the associated smell, it’s a fantastic product that has only gotten better.

Tim De Chant
Tim De Chant
Senior climate reporter. Previously, Tim has written for Wired magazine, The Wire China, the Chicago Tribune, and NOVA Next, among others, and he is also a lecturer in MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing. De Chant was awarded a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT in 2018, and he received his PhD in environmental science, policy, and management from the University of California, Berkeley.

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