How to Make Composting Easy: Bálint Kőrösi from Can I Compost It? (#7)

How to Make Composting Easy: Bálint Kőrösi from Can I Compost It? (#7)

Dennis Kamprad

Publish Date:September 26, 2023
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How to Make Composting Easy: Bálint Kőrösi from Can I Compost It? (#7)

When it comes to your kitchen waste, have you ever thought that there should be an easy way to figure out which items you can compost and which ones you can’t? Well, then you’ll enjoy our conversation with Bálint Kőrösi from Can I Compost It?

“The vision is to give you the fastest way to identify if something is compostable around your house.”

Bálint Kőrösi, Can I Compost It?

Three Key Points From This Episode

How Bálint’s frustration with search results about composting triggered him to start his own web app…

How early traffic and feedback from Reddit users helped him to improve his composting app…

How he wants to enable his users to quickly see whether they can compost something, based on their camera input…

About Bálint Kőrösi

Picture for Bálint

Bálint works as a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) for a language learning company in his day job. He would describe his professional passion as developing custom email marketing blueprints for B2B and DTC companies for a better ROI (so many buzzwords, right?). But beyond that, he created Can I Compost It? as a small web app because he was frustrated with how “useless” Google was when he wanted to find out whether he could throw something in his garden composting bin.

About Can I Compost It?

Logo for Can I Compost It

Can I Compost It? is a web app to help you decide whether any item is compostable or not. Type in the item you are wondering about and the web app will tell you the direct answer. This app is based on the latest research on composting and is designed to help you make more eco-friendly choices in your daily life. By using the web app, you can easily reduce your waste and help the environment.

Links and Additional Information Discussed

Check out Can I Compost It? and tell your friends and family and share it on social media so that even more people can help the environment by reducing waste and making more eco-friendly choices

Bálint is always happy to receive your feedback to improve the Can I Compost It? app! You can share your suggestions with him via email (found here) or @korosibalint on Twitter

Check out the original Reddit thread that got it all started

The Full Transcript

Dennis: Hello, and welcome to the Impactful Ninja Show. I’m your host, Dennis Kamprad. And today, we’re joined by Bálint Kőrösi from Can I Compost It. Bálint, welcome.

Bálint: How are you doing? Hi.

Dennis: Well, I’m super happy happy having you. I’ve seen a little bit about Can I Compost It already, but Let’s take it 1 step back and follow of yours? What is Can I Compost It before we jump into to the whole podcast?

Bálint: It’s a small web app that I developed. It’s basically The fastest way to find out if something can go into your composting bin or not around the house. And that’s it. That’s just a small web app that helps to be A bit more eco conscious.

Dennis: So, basically, if I wanna figure out I have something I was trying to figure out Can I Compost It or not, I go to the web app Mhmm? Can I Compost It? I type in what I’m looking for and I will get a direct answer.

Bálint: Yeah. Exactly. Boy. It’s not always black and white there.

Dennis: Yeah. I will get an answer and then I can take it from there, basically. Awesome. Now let’s take a step back. Before you started Can I Compost It, what’s your what’s your background? What did you do beforehand?

Bálint: I’ve been working online for 15 years and, basically, Working in the language learning industry Mhmm. And managing online businesses in the language learning industry. And my main specialty is, Email marketing. This is what I do probably.

Dennis: So, basically, you already had some background of, like, doing things online. Email marketing probably might come in 20 years ago when it comes to, basically, marketing your tool. Yeah. And along the along the journey, was there Was there any specific problem you encountered? Like, anything that’s kind of triggered you in the 1st place to basically think about what you’re doing now?

Bálint: Yeah. I was Quite frustrated with Google results when it came to composting because everyone is on the content treadmill. You have to churn out 2,000 word long articles just to answer 1 question because then it ranks better in Google. And it was just so frustrating to digging through all the Forgive my French, to, you know Yeah. Find that little answer. And then I thought that there must be a better way to do this. And Can I Compost It was born out of frustration? You can’t say that. And the that was a second reason. I have a programmer background and a programming background, but I haven’t really worked as a developer. And, I wanted to learn a new A JavaScript framework. And I thought that why not do both? And then I started learning that framework. And with that, I created Can I Compost It.

Dennis: So, basically, it was the frustration for I assume when you when you Google for some things about composting that you were just, like, finding, like, Long articles that didn’t really give you a clear answer. And the 2nd part is, like, with your background as well that you had the ability, 1, to build something on your own, but then also the additional challenge to learn something new And build something new and basically combine these 2 things.

Bálint: Exactly. Yeah. So best of both worlds, I guess.

Dennis: That’s super exciting, like, when you’re showing the the background or how you started because that’s How I started Impactful Ninja. I was super frustrated with, basically, the results from googling. I was like, what? That’s just, like, sometimes just plain wrong or sometimes there are no It sounds like wow. A lot of these things especially when it comes to like sustainable living, like for the composting what you’re doing but then also climate action, ethical living, There’s just not not enough, like, high quality researched articles out there or just, like, the direct answers that you just wanna know to, well, basically make a There are positive impact as well based on that.

Bálint: Well, exactly. And I guess it’s gonna be even worse with the AI development and even more content will be brought on, and I don’t know how that good will be.

Dennis: Yeah. It’s it’s a slight tangent because because I tried tried out, like, what happens if I just post ask my questions there, and I chose wrong. And then I learned about the term like AI hallucinations where they basically just make stuff up based on the highest probability what kind of words could come next. So it’s Yeah. Yeah. That’s an interesting part. But let’s jump back to your to your story because that’s a that’s a more interesting one even. When it comes to To the concrete starting point. So you you already mentioned, like, you saw the problem that you had and figured out probably more people would have it as well. You have the developer background. You wanted to learn, like, a new language. A program language or basically use it. What was the Yeah. Concrete first step then for you? And how long did it roughly take you from seeing this issue and getting started.

Bálint: That was must have been a 4, 5 years ago when I had this idea. But then I took the 1st step. I coded the prototype in a day or two in JavaScript. And it worked with sample data, and I left it for 4 years. And that’s not very impactful. But, last August, so exactly a year ago, I thought that I would learn this new framework. And Can I Compost it would have been a great project for that? And so I took the first step last, August. 

And I started building because it joined a community called Small Bets by Daniela Vassallo who teaches that you know that how we are taught that, Oh, you you have to go on your most impactful idea, and you have to pursue your passion, just that one thing. Now the small bets is the complete opposite of this. So, basically, have as many ideas as you can, try them, see what sticks, and then just manage those. And so I thought that This would be a nice project for that because who knows what can come out of this. So I coded up the new design and then put it up on Reddit. And, amazingly, the moderators allowed me to actually do that just like a promotion. And because I think that they they thought that I’m so pathetically bad at, you know, engaging already that they said, yes, go ahead. And it it took off, and, it went a bit viral. 

So I think about 10, 12000 people came onto the site in 2, 3 days. Mhmm. And that was great because I knew that I was onto something. And I saw comments, like, on on the Reddit thread that 1 lady from, I don’t know, Oklahoma or somewhere, she goes, Oh, I’m just gonna buy a tablet for this specific web app that I will hang in the kitchen so that I know that what you think, that’s Pretty cool. Someone thinks that your app is so cool, and I knew at that time. I said, okay. Pretty cool. So and I got so much feedback about it.

And then I started building Features, and I designed a new design. And I got ideas from Twitter. And so this is roughly how it got started. And then after that, it got a bit Stole because I didn’t have an idea how to grow it. And as you probably know, the niche is quite crowded. And my background was in SEO, so I thought that Why not go into that direction? So but for that, you’d need more content, which is against I’d like to see. But I can’t deny that this is something that Has to be done.

So I started digging and, researching each item, each composting item, and then, you know, expanding the item list and the descriptions of the items. And traffic started to trickle in from Google, and we are up to 15,102,000 visitors a month at this point, so a year end. So it’s definitely not an overnight success.

No. But after a year, I think that’s that’s not too bad. Also from kind of like, before we go on, there’s, like, so many nice tangents as well. Just some background for us. I think for the 1st 8, 9 months, there was pretty much no traffic for us coming through as well. It’s just super slow start, and then I just basically takes off eventually. I like the point as well about you mentioning, like, taking a small bet instead of just focusing, like, wow.

Dennis: That has to be, like, the everything. And if that doesn’t work out, we’ll devastate us more. Well, let’s place a few small bets and let’s see which one works out and follow this. I’m quite happy that that’s the one that seems to be getting some traction. He also had the unique opportunity with Reddit and with Twitter to get a lot of feedback on it. Yet for, let’s say, for a couple of years, you had already, like, the 1st MVP improved it a little. And I’m with all the feedback probably taking it massively forward.

Bálint: Yeah. Definitely. And the feedback and and ideas from Reddit and Twitter, they were good. I would have never ever thought about those features and ideas. And and it’s so cool when people come together without any monetizable money incentives Yeah. Just To to make something cool, and it’s definitely something that is close to my heart.

Dennis: Nice. What’s your favorite feedback that you’ve gotten so far for, like, 1 or, like, what your favorite feature that you developed based on the feedback you’ve gotten.

Bálint: Oh, you put me on a spot. I have to think about that.

Dennis: Don’t worry. We can we can also come back to that later. The other point that you mentioned is Kind of the mix between giving, like, an answer directly to people searching for something, but then also from the SEO part, like, helping search engines basically From technical term, better understand instead of just like a yes or no. What it’s all about in helping you rank. I checked Check the site as well, and it seems like that’s that’s quite a nice combination between us. Like, this super massive, like, here’s your answer. Yes. No. Maybe. Yeah. And then providing some details below.

Bálint: I tried to find a middle ground. This is how Google at this point works, so it needs some context to understand what’s your site or app about. But then I want to make user experience the smoothest, the fastest, the best. So this is why everything’s big and bold and yes, no, Maybe. Read on. And that’s it because I think simplicity is very much undervalued these days, and I like simplicity.

Dennis: Yep. And you also have, like, a nice kind of an avatar that you can picture yourself whenever you develop something new. There’s this lady from the States with the iPad in the kitchen. It’s like, oh, would that help her or not?

Bálint: Exactly. It brings more, like, a human touch to the development, process, and that’s definitely good. I’ve been working from home for 15 years, And it can get lonely, so Yes. Having a bit more human interactivity is good.

Dennis: It’s a beauty about just building, like, having, like, a small community or connection with people. I see that with with just, like, starting an email list and then getting, like, all the feedback, which is just super lovely or just, like, kind of connecting with you now.

Bálint: Exactly. Yeah. It was a complete, Yeah. Random event because I was checking backlinks, for the site, and I saw one from, Impactful Ninja. And it’s like, okay. What is that site? It’s definitely not a spam site, who went there. And it’s like, Okay. They’re linking to me. Oh, yay. So I’d reached out to thank you for that, and, this is how we got together. 

Dennis: Yes. Pretty cool. No. I I like it as well. Because in the end, we talked a little bit before the recording. Doesn’t matter from, like, how big or how small something it is you’re creating. In the end, like, if you’re making a positive impact in one way or The other if that’s the purpose brand, then it’s just it’s just so easy. They’re awesome to connect and then really love the stories. Also

Bálint: I agree.

Dennis: That you don’t have to be, like, when it comes impost has some drama and everything else that you don’t have to be, like, a full on expert to get something started. As long as you’re able to create helpful content for people and able to and basically enable people to make a positive change based on your content. And that’s already, like, an amazing step forward.

Bálint: I struggle with impostor syndrome, at the beginning, Especially with Reddit because they can tear you down Mhmm. Really bad. As I reached out to an expert on Reddit, and I asked him to to check a couple of items, he says, That works pretty cool. Hey. It it works. It checks out, so it’s all good. And that was helpful to alleviate the the figures of of my impostor syndrome. Since then, I’ve learned a ton about composting. Yeah. But it definitely not expert. 

Dennis: Eventually, you’ll become an expert. There’s no question about that. Yeah. Probably, if you speak to people about it And you share your knowledge. I will already perceive you as an expert as well with was, like, 400 plus items that you’ve already researched and put up?

Bálint: Yeah. It’s close to 450 something. Yeah. And the funny thing is when I started out, it was, like, 200. And so one of the first feature okay. Here’s the answer to your previous question. What’s my favorite? So that was the recommendation. So if there’s nothing on the database, you can recommend that item, and I get an email about Research that I put into database. So it basically just became some sort of community thing. And so it wasn’t even half of this size, when I started out. And so most of the recommendation Came from Mhmm. From people who actually use that stuff. Oh, it’s not there. So let’s let’s have it on.

Dennis: It’s also a beautiful sign that, Well, it’s a bad sign for when they’re googling if they can compost the item or not. No matter if they firstly went to your page or firstly googled, they ended up on your page And I was like, well, they perceive you as the authority or as the expert and they want the answer from you. So that’s a beautiful part about that as well.

Bálint: And I’m humbled By that.

Dennis: Nice. When you think about your your journey so far, you mentioned you started, like, like was, like, 4, 5 years ago with the idea, and then the 1st prototype came out quite early. Would you say that you sold for such a long time and didn’t develop it that much because of the feeling being, like, kind of an imposter? How was that basically of because of different priorities or anything else?

Bálint: I wouldn’t say it was because I felt an imposter syndrome. It was more like I had other things going on in my life. But The back burner, in my mind. It was always there, like, simmering the idea. And I liked working firsts, so when something is coming on, then I’m going all in on that. In a couple of weeks, I flash it out. I can’t just do, you know, half an hour a day for months. That’s too boring. And I felt the inspiration because of the Small Bets community Then I jumped on the the ITI. I knew myself that much that I had to do it in one go. Otherwise, I just lose steam and then wouldn’t go anywhere. So That’s how it works.

Dennis: Like a follow on development sprint.

Bálint: I can say that.

Dennis: Was so far, what have have been the biggest challenges for you on the way? The development part?

Bálint: Yeah.

Dennis: Oh, I would have expected you to say, like, growing the platform with SEO content, actually.

Bálint: I had some help both in forms of people and also, Like, AI, I can’t deny that. But these JavaScript frameworks are tricky to work with. I’m using Nuxt. Js, which is a very niche Framework and with a smaller community, so support and documentation isn’t as good. And when I hit a wall and I have nowhere to turn, and that was the Frustrating part. And I wanted to move fast, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t good enough a developer. And so that was definitely something that I I struggled with, but Lots of coffee, pushing through, and freaking and cursing and Yeah. But I’ve got through them.

Dennis: Now, I assume you you must be a much better programmer as well than when you started out.

Bálint: Yeah. So, like, yeah, that 2 birds with 1 stone seems to be a good approach for me. So if Can I Compost it didn’t take off, at least I would have had the experience from, Can I learn a new framework?

Dennis: Thinking about the future a little bit from, kind of, what you’ve achieved so far, where you are now, and What are your plans for going forward with Can I Compost it?

Bálint: I like Can I Compost it because it’s very easy to state the vision? The vision is to give you the fastest way To identify if something is compostable around your house. End of story. Now, currently, it’s, you know, text based. You have to type it in. But my Original idea was that what if I could take a picture and then the app would just tell me that thing is composable, that thing is not, That may be composable, and then you wouldn’t even have to type. You could just, you know, use current technology, snap a photo, and that’s it. And I have the idea how to go about that, but, unfortunately, this might get a bit technical too technical. I I don’t know if it’s ok.

Dennis: Yeah, that’s fine.

Bálint: So, Okay. Sure. So what I wanted is a database of of items that are compostable and A machine learning algorithm that can identify images at those items. Mhmm. And then I can just mash them together into an app. But there’s no machine learning algorithm API at this point that is good enough for that. I tried a couple of food APIs.

They are not not good enough. They they don’t recognize most the items. But then I have a data scientist, a friend, and we got together. And, he said that you could just, you know, create your own dataset and train your own Machine learning algorithm on that whole thing and then build the whole thing into a mobile app. It’s like, that’s pretty cool. That sounds like full time job for a couple of months, but yeah. So that’s that’s the idea. I don’t know when I, will get there, but I know myself. And if if the tools allow, I’ll get there, sometime.

Dennis: So, basically, to try to sum that, like, a little more basic terms. So Yeah. Okay. What’s happening out there so far, there’s, like, All the AI data sets where you can also just put in pictures they’re not good enough yet with with everything that you have in your database to identify on the picture Which items they are in and then for you to enable you to link to your database so that they identify the items you could link back to, well, each of these 2 composites or not. And your approach then would be to say like well for these 450 plus items that you have in your data set Let’s just say you grab 1 item at a time, you put a lot of different pictures in there, you change your own model with all of these pictures so that based on the pictures that you have, the model would be able to identify which of the items that it would be from your database. And then the dream would be, Like, in the future someone can just take a picture of the well, all of the things they want or want don’t want to compost. The I was like hey I have all of these in my database. I know this this could be this item. This could be something else and then to be able to spit out a list I said, like, yeah. These first 3, you can composite. The 4th 1, which is blah blah blah, you might not wanna composite, and the last 2, definitely not. Something that Yeah. Was nice?

Bálint: Yeah. Exactly. It is possible to do that, and it it’s exciting because I know it is possible. It would just take a lot of time, but it’s exciting because I know I can get there.

Dennis: It’s probably the most exciting part when I would assume you don’t train the the model on, like, all of the items at once. But once you manage to train it on one And I consistently recognize that 1 item. That might be super exciting.

Bálint: So basically, building a prototype within the app.

Dennis: And then just seeing how that can be executed at large scale.

Bálint: Well, that’s the other thing. Because each time a user would take a picture, that has to be Sent to server, process that image, and then sending them back. This costs money. And currently, there’s no money involved with Can I Compost It? So that would be something that I need to fund out of my own pocket. I don’t know how much Deppy. But at this point, I’m more excited about the the technical challenges.

Dennis: Nice. Before we go into the final part of getting some some of the learnings from you, One idea, if some person finds what you’re doing valuable enough to spend the money to buy an iPad to put it in the kitchen, I’m pretty sure there might be some people who would be happy to support you so that something like this would be possible in the future just as some kind of reframing. With that being said, about Can I Composite, is there anything that we didn’t have the chance yet to speak about that you would have liked to share In addition?

Bálint: Not really. Just, if people like it, use it, and spread the word. If your website, put a link on it

Dennis: Yep.

Bálint: And that would help, decide to spread. But that’s about it. It’s a love project.

Dennis: Sweet. I like that. We’ll have links in the show notes and also on screen. Now let’s take a Jump to the basic next part. When you reflect about like your personal life and well not just composing but but everything beyond as well. Since you started working on Can I Composite and since you intensified your work, what would you say has has changed in your personal life based on the learnings?

Bálint: I’m definitely more echo conscious Mhmm. Because now my family and my friends come to me to, can I put this in a compost bin? It’s funny funny. Hey. That’s a great app for that. Check it on it. Check it on it. But I think I I got a bit more, conscious about what I’d throw in the in the bin, and that’s good enough, for now. I mean, community waste, Municipal waste, rich was reduced by almost half. Mhmm. But not throwing kitchen scraps and whatnot into the bin And crash can. Sorry. And the fact that now my friends are asking about this is definitely a good sign. And then they started doing that. And now they know that I like to Talk about this. And so when I go over to their house and then talk about this kind of stuff, then I knew that this slowly spreads. And It’s a good feeling to have some sort of tangible impact because, as I said, I’ve been working online for 15 years, which is very abstract. It never ends. It’s very meta. But then when you see something tangible, like, physically putting something in the compost, I mean, that is much closer to impact.

Dennis: It’s it’s beautiful. One of the first steps is always creating awareness. So what you don’t know you just don’t know and can’t change to the better. And it seems like you’re doing quite a bit of that Not just for yourself but then also for your for your friends group and those around you. They perceive you as an expert as well, how it seems. And you’re creating a direct positive Impact, that you can see with doors and that you cannot see with with the ones using Can I Compost It?

Bálint: Yeah. That’s a nice way to phrase it.

Dennis: Now For the final question, if you had 1 tip to share with all the with our audience on how to become more impactful, what would be your number one tip?

Bálint: The biggest impact that I had in in the last 2 years on my personal life in being mindful was because I took up martial arts, namely Kyokushin karate. I’ll step back a bit. So in order to be impactful, to me, that means that I’m on top of my game mentally, physically. I can only have impact if I’m at my best. And practicing martial arts, it brought out a lot of good in me. And not only The strengths are the physical side. We have world class instructor, and his thoughts and how he leads and how he, you know, It’s the the classes. It’s really something that I learn a lot from even at age 40. And I can only recommend people to pick up martial arts, because I like to think about it because their feedback loop is very short. So you learn fastest when the feedback loop is short. And when you get punched in the face, That’s a very short feedback. I’m half joking, but, really, you immediately feel the impact of your action. Plus, you you get strong. And, Yeah. Self defense is definitely something that can’t hurt. Nice. Plus, your attention has always to be there. No? Otherwise, you’ll literally get punched in the face. Thanks. 

Dennis: Thanks so much for joining us today, Bálint. All the best with Can I Compost It. I really like the work of love of the small bet you’re taking. Let’s see if it develops into a bigger bet in the future. Well, thanks for being here with us.

Bálint: Well, thank you for the invitation. Thank you.

Dennis: My pleasure. And to everyone else, thanks for joining us as well and stay impactful.

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