HINSDALE – Every year in the United States, 17 percent of the trash going to landfills could instead be composted into dirt, according to Hinsdale Central graduate Jeremy Cai.
That adds up to 81 billion pounds of compostable trash a year – 4,000 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower, he said.
Now imagine a product that could dramatically decrease that trash output in a relatively simple process anyone could do.
Sprout Bin is a composting invention created by Cai and fellow Hinsdale Central alumnus Peter Bernardi. Cai, a graduate in the class of 2013, and Bernardi, who graduated in 2011, started the project in late May after getting the idea to create composting for people who live in urban areas.
“Essentially, Sprout Bin is a compost bin for people who don’t necessarily have the space to compost, but would like to go green,” Cai said.
The Sprout Bin container measures about 8-by-8-by-11 inches and uses a process called bokashi. To use Sprout Bin, first you thinly dice food scraps, then remove the liquid, create a layer at the bottom of the bin and then add the bokashi, which composts waste not by rotting but by fermenting.
In a video on IndieGoGo.com, Cai demonstrates the process as he puts excess scraps into Sprout Bin while making a salad. Meat also can go into Sprout Bin without fear of rotting smells.
Bokashi also cuts down the greenhouse gas production and it’s faster than traditional composting methods, Cai said.
Afterward, the bin doubles as a flower pot. So trash goes in, trash turns into dirt and flowers can then be planted in said dirt. There is also a filter to prevent unpleasant odors.
“It’s for people to realize composting is not only possible, but very effective,” Bernardi said.
In comparison with other products, the Sprout Bin speed for composting is one to two months, while regular compost bins can take more than a year, according to the product’s page on IndieGoGo.
“At the moment we’re obviously on a financing part of business,” Cai said. “We’re not making any profits yet, obviously, so really right now we’re just trying to get Sprout into realization.”
Cai said it’s been an educational experience for both him and Bernardi. Bernardi, a student at Indiana University, and Cai, a student at Babson College, both have entrepreneurial experience, but this project was a way to look beyond dollars and into an idea that could revolutionize trash.
“We’re both really passionate about this and see it as something that can definitely benefit the individual consumer,” Bernardi said. “We just need to really focus on having the information about it spread.”
The product is now featured on IndieGoGo.com with a goal to raise $7,500 by Dec. 6 to be used for production. But both Bernardi and Cai said it’s not about being the next panelists on ABCs “Shark Tank,” but rather to help an environmental problem that can be fixed with minimal effort.
“We’re very passionate about this idea and we’re not in it for the money,” Cai said.