A number of cities around the world now sort their municipal trash, diverting organic matter into giant anaerobic composters that turn it into nutrient-rich soil. Such systems can be very expensive, however, and have a large physical footprint. The composting process can take as little as 14 days, or as long as one year. Nevada-based company Ecologico-Logic, however, has created an alternative system, called The Muncher. Not only is it relatively small, but its makers claim that it can convert organic waste into mulched and liquid compost in less than an hour.

Currently in the prototype stage, The Muncher's patented accelerated waste digestion process starts with it mechanically shredding pre-separated organic garbage, thus reducing its volume while increasing its surface area. Aerobic microbes living within the system, assisted by a proprietary chemical treatment, then break that matter down. As with existing municipal systems, the resulting compost can then be used in city projects, or sold to help offset the cost of the system.

Not only is the organic waste kept out of the landfill, but it also takes up much less space - one ton (0.9 metric tons) of garbage can reportedly be converted to about 600 pounds (272 kg) of solid cake mulch and liquid effluent. The company claims that The Muncher creates no toxic gases, hazardous compounds or foul odors, that it kills pathogens in the garbage, and that the compost it produces contains no harmful chemicals.

Inorganic waste can also be fed through the system in order to reduce its volume, thereby reducing tipping fees and allowing landfills to stay in use longer.

Ecologico-Logic is currently looking at building industrial Munchers that could process up to 50 tons (45 metric tons) of waste per day. Down the road, however, the company also envisions smaller units that could be used by restaurants, or even in people's homes. Because The Muncher's composting process does produce carbon dioxide, the use of integrated algae vats for capturing that CO2 is also being investigated.