This year’s CES innovation awards, held in January in Las Vegas, gave us an insight into the future tech that could help transform our lives. Among the usual collection of wearables, entertainment systems and 3D printers designed to make our lives easier, there was also a category honouring the best in eco-design and sustainable technologies.

Taking the title of ‘Best of Innovations’ in the eco category was the Zera Food Recycler, a home solution set on reducing food waste sent to landfill.

In the United States alone, food waste accounts for around 20% of landfills, with the average American family producing upwards of 180kg of food waste every year. That is the equivalent weight of each family throwing away two full refrigerators of food each year.

A product of the Whirlpool Corporation’s ‘innovation incubator’, WLabs, the Zera recycler is built to convert household food waste into ready-to-use, homemade fertiliser. The device is designed to sit at the end of a kitchen counter, and is roughly the size of a large pedal bin, holding up to a week’s worth of food scraps at any one time. Unlike a conventional compost heap, Zera is clean, compact and can break down 95% of all typical food waste, including meat and dairy.

To get the recycler going, you simply need to insert the ‘additive pack’ made from baking soda and coir, a plant-based resource, which works to break down the scraps. Then just keep adding food until the bin is full, close the lid and hit ‘start’. A motor driven blade churns and breaks down the food waste, and with the help of the additive pack and a little extra heat, reduces the contents by two-thirds of its original volume. Once the process is complete, homemade compost is ejected into an ‘output’ bin, ready to spread on your veg patch or houseplants!

Of course, no CES innovation would be complete without an IoT connection and remote monitoring. While a connected compost heap may not seem like a useful tool at first, the device’s mobile connection allows you to start and pause the process remotely and notifies you when the cycle is complete, or an odour filter needs replacing. Additional content through the app provides informative videos, DIY tutorials and even gamifies your composting, unlocking goals for successful recycling.

Joining the Zera recycler in the eco-design category at CES earlier this year were smart radiator valves to control radiators individually and remotely, providing room-by-room temperature control; the world’s first lithium-ion powered, rechargeable hearing aid; and an energy efficient, bill-busting water heater, powered the heat energy of waste water.

Image: “Seedling” by US Department of Agriculture is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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