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The Smart Cara review – is it the solution to food waste?

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smart cara food waste system zero waste weekThe Smart Cara is described as the ‘State of the art solution to the food waste problem’.

It sounds too good to be true, right?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be trialling the Smart Cara for the past month and I’m eager to share my thoughts with you.

I started my trial with the assumption that everyone in the UK had food waste collections from the kerbside.

Apparently not.

In fact, only 60% of us do, meaning the other 40% of residents have to deal with their own food waste. And with many of us having fortnightly or even three-weekly collections I’m curious to know how they deal with this issue. Not everyone has the space, time or ability to compost, right?

Smart Cara – a revolutionary kitchen composting system

I’m happy to report that the Smart Cara is simplicity itself to operate. You fill up the bucket with your food scraps (the unit will happily deal with cooked food waste, meat, fish and even small bones), turn the machine on when the bucket is full and in a few hours the Smart Cara will have drawn 80% of the water from the food, leaving you with a lightweight substance. You can use this to light a fire with or add to your raised beds and containers as a soil enhancer.

The unit also has a wash cycle, which I admit I thought was a bit of a gimmick. Until I needed to use it! At one point the bucket looked as if it was coated in a burned mix, which I could not shift. Running it through the wash cycle bought that bucket back as good as new. I was super impressed.

smart cara revolutionary breakthrough for food waste disposal - zero waste week

It’s reasonably quiet to operate – not whisper quiet – but then I’m very sensitive to sound. It whines a bit and sings in major thirds, but I just sing back to it. And sometimes it sounds like a paddle gets stuck and it might squeak or groan. But I’ve just got into the rhythm of turning the machine on before I go to bed and coming down in the morning to everything done for me without having to listen to it.

How much does the Smart Cara cost to run?

I monitored my electricity usage throughout the month and it costs 0.7 – 0.8 KWh per cycle. For me, this equated to around £2 for the month, using it about a dozen – 14 times. In addition you’ll need to replace filters every so often, which will cost another £2 per month. For me, spending £4 a month on dealing with food waste is acceptable; I’ve probably spent more than that in previous years on bin bags and disposable products such as kitchen roll.

How much does the Smart Cara cost to buy?

The unit itself currently costs around £400. And I’m wondering how prohibitive this could be for people. I spoke to a range of people (who are NOT into the zero waste lifestyle) to ask what they would pay for it. Prices ranged from £40 – £350, although one person thought it might be WORTH £1,000 as it appears to be relatively new technology. I can see a market for people who live in high rise flats, who don’t have food waste collections, who like to ‘do the right thing’ or simply love to have the latest gadget. Let’s not forget that the machine was designed in an country where people also have to ‘pay as they throw’ – in which case the Smart Cara could well pay for itself relatively quickly.

Personally, I’m a convert. I like the choice of being able to compost or use the Smart Cara. It’s very simple to use and its effective. And it’s a talking point when people come to my house. I think it might be better suited to a commercial market – make one as big as a top loading washing machine and offer it to pubs, hotels and schools around the country and I think you’ll be onto a winner. And you could make it even more fun by making the top or the front panel see-through so you could gawp at what’s going on in there. I want to see those cleaning fairies at work!

What about you. Do you have food waste collections? If not, would you consider a Smart Cara or do you have another method for dealing with food waste?

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Rachelle Strauss

29 Comments

  1. Avatar zerowasteweek on March 31, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    The SmartCara is a great device. It’s actually packed with clever ‘SMART’ circuits and mechanisms to turn a bucket of food waste into a tiny pile of dry crumbs is a few hours at very low cost. Good-bye smelly bags of rotting food waste! Hello useful soil conditioner, fire tinder, or YES, dried soup mix…

    It’s not silent, but emits a gentle musical hum that is quite acceptable compared to a washing machine, food mixer, or electric kettle. The reduction in bulk from a bucket of food scraps to dried crumbs is very impressive and you can store this indefinitely, without risk of it rotting or going off.

    The real issue is the cost, especially in the UK where many of us have food collection from kerbside. If you’re an eco-warrior living in a high rise apartment on the London embankment, you’ll want one of these, otherwise it’s steep outlay. The benefits are definitely worth the investment. As A model of how to turn food waste from a rotting problem to a sustainable resource, it wins every time!

    Well done Smart Cara. Good luck finding your market niche.

  2. Avatar Terry Verney on September 21, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    We’ve had one for a few months now and find it very easy and quiet to operate. Genuinely does what it says on the tin. Eats tea bags, chicken, lamb and softer bones. Doesn’t really like the outer husks of sweetcorn but it deals with it and leaves a soft, dry result. Try it, you’ll like it!

  3. Avatar Terry on September 22, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Does anyone have an idea for where I can find some filters for the cara? I’ve only had it for about 4 months but I think they need changing…

    • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on September 22, 2017 at 11:26 am

      Hi Terry, which country do you live in? I have a contact at Smart Cara who I will ask about filters when I know where you are 🙂

  4. Avatar Tony on September 29, 2017 at 1:49 am

    I’ve purchased this product last frìday from Costco they are selling them at £299 and free delivery.
    I’ve used it 3 times however it isn’t going through the cycle I’ve had to turn it off as if had been running for 24 hours and still on the drying cycle I’ve gone through the book which comes with it to see but I am going anything wrong but no mention of this issue.

    • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on September 29, 2017 at 11:05 am

      What a great price, Tony! I’m no expert on this machine, just a happy customer. Are you putting anything particularly wet in there? If not, perhaps you need to get back to Costco with your query.

  5. Avatar Char on October 30, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    We have had ours for 3 years now. To prep, we place our scraps in a paper towel-lined container for a day before using the food cycler, thus removing a lot of the moisture content and shortening the cycling process. You will know when the filters need replacing, because of the off smelling odour that is produced. We love our cycler and use the remains as compost in our gardens. I live in Canada, so we have to store the bits through the winter (6 mos) which is easily accommodated in a 15 L container. You can stop the cycle early if you prefer a coarser texture than the fine dust it will produce.

  6. Avatar Miranda on November 26, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Please can you let me know what happens to the water? Does the machine condense it or does it all end up in the air? The water vapour might well be an issue in a small kitchen.

    • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on November 27, 2017 at 3:15 pm

      I don’t personally have issues with condensation or humidity. However, I have an open plan kitchen, living area and dining area, so there’s lots of space for the moisture to go. Plus I run a woodburner so the air tends to get dry. I’m guessing there could be an issue if you had the smart cara in an enclosed cupboard. Hope this helps :)

  7. Avatar Raymund Dixon on January 2, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    I really love my Smart Cara . Just recently when I check it there two lights flashing , the drying -up light and the cooling light. The waste is composted. In my booklet it tells me its Error 5 , Exhaust temperature problem but not how to deal with this problem?

    • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on January 3, 2018 at 6:40 pm

      I’ve had the same error but mine isn’t properly composted and I think it’s to do with more moisture in the mix of foods. I just reboot and it sorts itself out 🙂

      • Avatar Raymund Dixon on January 3, 2018 at 11:23 pm

        I was thinking it might be that the food waste is too moist.I’ll try the reboot. Thank you.

  8. Avatar Natalie Hitchcock on January 26, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you so much for your review it encouraged us to get it. But we now have a problem. We recently replaced the filters ran it through a cycle and it stopped and all 3 green lights are now flashing. We have turned it off, checked the filters, checked the bucket was in properly and still the lights flash and it omits 5 beeps. We can find the instruction book either! And i cant find anything online ro help with this prooblem. Do you by chance have any form of contact with the company?

    • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on January 28, 2018 at 9:08 pm

      Hi Natalie – I have a contact – I’ll pass on your message to him and see if he can help 🙂

  9. Avatar Raymund Dixon on February 21, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    Hi Rachelle I seem to be having the same problem as Natalie. Three green lights flashing . I have changed the filters. Any help would be gratefully accepted.

  10. Avatar Aleks on March 2, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    I have the same problem, all three lights flashing with five beeps, tried everything I could think of as others who posted here with same problem any assistance would be appreciated thank you

    • Avatar Kym Ng on March 3, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you for the purchase of Smart Cara.

      All inquiries on our machine please write to us at [email protected] please?

      Thank you!

  11. Avatar Kym Ng on March 3, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Hi,

    Thank you for the purchase of Smart Cara.

    All inquiries on our machine please write to us at [email protected] please?

    Thank you!

  12. Avatar Tara Miller on October 24, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Hi Rachelle,

    Thank you for the great information. My borough in London is about to stop curbside compost collection (apparently only 17% of residents use it) and I’m looking for another option. For the mulch that comes out after the food recycling process, I understand it’s okay to put on your garden, but does it attract vermin / pests at all? If it’s more like dehydrated food I’m just wondering the impact. I imagine it doesn’t otherwise you wouldn’t be such a fan, but I feel like I need to double check as I am very new to this (and also not a gardener!).

    Thanks so much,
    Tara

    • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on October 24, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      Hi Tara, how frustrating that your council is going to stop food waste collections 🙁

      I’ve not found any problems with the mulch attracting vermin. I’ve used it in pots right outside the back door, so I’d know if anything had tried to have a scratch around.

      I hope that helps 🙂

  13. Avatar Francine on December 5, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Hi, I have had my smart cara for several months now and it has been in use almost constantly since then. I absolutely love it, does everything it says it will and has saved heaps of scraps going to landfill or being dug into my garden. It now is not working efficiently, I have had a bucket of scrap in and put it through 3 times but it remains whole, will not dry or grind. Any ideas?

  14. Avatar Karol on December 29, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Hi I am thinking of using a Bokashi bucket (for liquid fertilizer) in combination with the Smart Cara system to dry the Bokashi bucket content and get dry fertilizer. I have 0 space to bury the Bokashi content so I wan to dry it out and reduce the size, that is where Smart Cara comes into the mix. Any ideas if that would work since Bokashi already has bacteria introduced to the mix?

  15. Avatar Karol on December 29, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Hi I am thinking of using a Bokashi bucket together with Smart Cara. I want the Bokashi for the liquid fertilizer, but have no space to bury the bucket content so I want to dry it out and reduce the “space” with Smart Cara. Any ideas if / how it would work since the food scraps have bacteria introduced with the Bokashi and Smart Cara is a no additives system? Thank you

    • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on December 29, 2018 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Karol, this sounds like a brilliant solution. I can’t speak to the safety aspects of using the Smart Cara in this way, but I can’t see an issue unless the bacteria doesn’t take too kindly to be heated!

  16. Avatar Eleanor on January 7, 2019 at 9:18 am

    is there anything you can’t put in the Smart Cara?

    • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on January 7, 2019 at 9:35 am

      Food wise, Eleanor – nothing I’m aware of. You wouldn’t put anything especially large in there, like a chicken carcass, but small bones and cooked food are all ok.

  17. Avatar Abi on February 24, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Hi there, just to respond to Karol regarding using the cara unit alongside bokashi bins: I am just another user (have been using bokashi bins solely for composting for about a year now) with no expert knowledge… But as far as I can see, if you are using the bokashi bin to extract moisture as a liquid feed from the waste using the effective microbe additives as recommended, they will then be killed off when you put the waste through the cara system. If you don’t need the end product to still have the live microbes, then I assume this is not a problem? The only other thing I would guess might be an issue, is whether you might have to change the filters on the cara more often if you are putting bokashi waste in it all the time? Bokashi waste doesn’t necessarily smell any worse than fresh waste, but it may possibly grow white mould, which is fine in the anerobic bokashi bin, and can be part of the break down process. I’ve not used the cara system, but am considering buying one to use alongside the bokashi bins, possibly in combination, possibly just to reduce the load on the fresh compost. I hope this helps, anyway.

  18. Avatar Yenhsi on November 4, 2019 at 8:11 am

    We had a FoodCycler from a Canadian company that looks identical to Smart Cara for 4 months now, and there has been no problems at all. We mainly deal with vegetable scraps but occasionally put a small proportion of meat in there, but never any bones or sea food shells. We also avoid dishwashing the bucket. In fact, soaking with hot water and detergent is completely sufficient to clean it out.

    About filter replacement. We found that we can open the filter from one end and just replace the activated carbon pellets. Is it also the case with Smart cara?

    I am just a bit curious about why there would be two identical machines being sold by two companies. From their own website, it seems that Smart Cara is a Korean company and FoodCycler is North America based?

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