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Behavior Change
Will Mill Be a Game-Changing Solution to Home Food Waste?

The Mill system offers a practical, circular solution for reducing home food waste and the resulting, climate-changing greenhouse gases — with minimal effort on the part of users.

This week, the team that brought us the Nest Learning Thermostat and other smart home products launched Mill — a new system to prevent waste, starting with food. Mill takes food scraps and spoiled food from home kitchens, conserves the nutrients, and converts it into chicken feed for farms. It’s a practical, impactful way to reduce home food waste and the resulting, climate-changing greenhouse gases — with minimal effort on the part of users.

Mill was founded in 2020 by Matt Rogers and Harry Tannenbaum, who worked together at Nest. The lessons they learned about encouraging new habits at home that are good for people and the planet are incredibly relevant to changing our perception of waste, starting in the kitchen.

When the 119 billion pounds of food wasted in the US alone each year is left to rot in landfills, we waste the nutrients and resources that went into creating it; but worse — it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than CO2. Retailers removing confusing best-by dates and brand consumer-education campaigns are part of ongoing efforts to help reduce food waste at home — but our kitchens remain the single largest source of food in landfills.

Municipal composting, where available, can be a alternative to landfill — but it’s available at a pitifully small scale in the US: Less than 2 percent of US consumers have access to municipal composting, particularly in metropolitan areas. And as most kitchen composters can attest, fruit flies can quickly suck the joy and ease out of the process.

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A Mill Membership includes a Mill kitchen bin that dries, shrinks and de-stinks your kitchen scraps overnight — turning them into nutrient-rich Food Grounds, minus the fruit flies. Once the bin is full — which takes a few weeks — users can schedule a pickup for their Food Grounds in the Mill app to be sent back to the company, which then turns the Food Grounds into an ingredient for chicken feed.

"Food isn't trash. But until today, it was hard to do anything except throw uneaten food in the garbage,” explains founder and CEO Matt Rogers. “From my time at Nest, we know that a small step at home can have a positive impact for people and the planet. Resources are increasingly scarce — wasting food at home is a solvable problem that we can tackle together."

As head of product Kristen Virdone told Fast Company, the priority for the team was making the user experience as simple as possible — in terms of both process and appearance.

“We could have made it look like anything,” she said. “There was no reason it had to look like a trash can. But when you’re trying to ask people to engage in behavior change, you don’t want to put a lot of mental load on them.”

Mill also lets users track the positive impact they’re having — including the amount of food they've diverted from landfill and more; the company estimates that Mill members can avoid about a half-ton of greenhouse gas emissions per household per year. This estimate includes the manufacturing of the bin, energy usage, and the transportation of Food Grounds back for processing into chicken feed. To learn more, go to mill.com/impact.

"Waste doesn't exist in nature; yet we create it everywhere and have been trained to ignore it — or worse, believe it's inevitable," says founder and President Harry Tannenbaum. "Food in landfills is one of the most solvable climate problems facing us today. At Mill, we're building a pathway to connect what people can't eat at home with farms that benefit from a more sustainable feed ingredient. Our approach is a practical and easy way to stop wasting food at home, prevent rotting garbage on the curb, and reduce methane emissions. Together with our members and the communities and policymakers we work with, we can make progress towards a better planet."

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