Apartment Composting, A Beginners Guide

Apartment Composting

Is apartment composting possible? Of course, it is. You don’t need a backyard to compost and composting is a great way to reduce waste in your apartment. 

You’d think that food will easily break down and decompose, but food waste that ends up in landfill doesn’t break down simply because landfills aren’t aerated. For decomposition to take place you need a mix of ingredients, air being one of them. Because the materials in a landfill are deprived of oxygen the organic matter will release methane, a greenhouse gas. Methane is more powerful than CO2 which means it has a big impact on the climate crisis. 

Sadly, the garbage that ends up in a landfill can become mummified. There have been instances of items that remain preserved like an order of guacamole, which was thrown away sometime in 1967 and discovered perfectly intact 30 years later. Given that a large portion of landfills throughout the world is made up of organic matter and compostable materials, composting at home is very important. You can definitely make a difference with a bit of patience and dedication.

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Reducing Food Waste at Home

Apartment composting is a great idea, yes, but there are ways you can reduce food waste before it becomes waste. Generally composting bins that are suitable for an apartment is quite small, so reducing the amount of initial waste will help you manage your compost bin better. 

A big food waste culprit is not being able to eat something before it has spoiled. To avoid this, make sure that you don’t overbuy food or put it in the freezer before it’s too late. You can also get into the habit of freezing leftovers for another time, saving you both time and effort in the long run. 

There are also options for reusing food scraps, for example, vegetable peels make amazing chips/crisps if you drizzle them with a bit of oil and put them in the oven. Stale bread can be used to make breadcrumbs or croutons to top your soup. 

With a little bit of creativity, you should be able to minimise your food waste to a point where your apartment composting becomes a manageable process. 

Options for Apartment Composting

Compost doesn’t have to be a smelly affair. If it is, it’s likely you haven’t managed to strike the right balance in your compost bin. When it comes to composting you need to mix the right amount of brown and green materials so that your decomposition process works effectively. We’ve written a post about materials that can be composted here for more info.

You can effectively use the compost you create for a lush apartment garden, see our related post for info on gardening in your apartment. Regular compost is also useful if you’re planning on growing microgreens.

So what are the options for apartment composting? Let’s take a look:

Local Council or Private Composting Initiatives

In some areas, your local council or municipality may provide and collect food waste bins. These are super handy as you collect your food scraps as per the instructions provided. It’s then collected once a week and processed by your local authority. You don’t get any compost back, but it will be put to good use and shouldn’t, in theory, end up in a landfill.

If you don’t have a curbside composting initiative, there are private companies that do this as well. Some of these will even supply you with compost in return to use on your plants. In New Zealand have a look at We Compost and Compost Now in the USA. There are affordable subscriptions available to get you to get started. 

ShareWaste is a useful app that helps to put composters in touch with people who have food scraps to offer. It’s a bit of a matchmaking service for composting, helping to divert food waste from landfills – that’s quite clever, right?  

Local cities may have initiatives that you can join, to find these you can contact your local council or complete a quick google search to see what is available. 

Also, check with local farmers markets, community gardens or some whole foods stores as they may have composting areas that you can link with. 

Composting in a Worm Bin

A worm bin can be created out of a basic plastic container or you can buy a purpose-built one like this online. To create the best base for your bin you need to combine shredded paper, soil and a bit of water to make everything damp. Place the base mixture into your bin around 2 to 3 inches deep. Then add your worms and let them settle in for a day or so. Remember to keep them moist but not soaked in puddles of water. 

After your worms have settled in you can start to collect food scraps to feed your worms. Try to avoid animal products for apartment composting as these take much longer to decompose, plant materials will work a bit faster. 

Your bin will eventually start to produce a bit of liquid, this can be scooped or drained out every few months and used for fertilizer. Be careful not to overfeed your worms as that will put things out of wack causing a range of issues. Worm bins need time to decompose so use a slow and steady approach. To learn more about indoor worm composting go here.

For worm bins pay attention to the following:

  • Monitor the temperature and moisture levels. Your compost bin should include instructions on how to maintain the right levels, so make sure you read the manual carefully
  • Don’t overfeed your worms, once a week is plenty
  •  Avoid giving worms anything acidic or onion-like. As mentioned animal products take a long time to decompose so perhaps skip those as well

Bokashi Bins

Bokashi is a Japanese method of composting that uses microorganisms to ferment a wide range of food scraps including those things that worms don’t like to eat such as meat, citrus and other acidic items.

To get going you’ll need a Bokashi bin like this and microorganisms like this. You start by mashing your ingredients down and then adding the activator mix which is filled with microbes. 

The process takes a few weeks and will produce both fertiliser and fermented soil at the end of it. You can either use it to start seedlings or plant other pot plants.

Electronic Composters

If you love technical solutions then an electronic composter can make your life much easier. It isn’t the cheapest option, so probably not suitable if you’re on a budget.

These little gadgets are odourless, super quiet and will transform your food waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser quite quickly. They are easy to use and clean and most of these bins are compact enough to fit into small spaces. Simply add your food scraps into the bucket, press the start button and wait. Your food waste will be cycled to a tenth of its original volume giving you a fertilizer that can be mixed in with other soil. Easy peasy! 

Machines to consider is the Vitamix FoodCycler and the Food Cycle Science Composter.

Trench Method for Apartment Composting

Technically you can use the age-old trench method to create compost, however, without a backyard this is a little tricky as you need somewhere to dig your trench. 

This composting method works by digging a trench and filling it with food scraps and then covering it up again. You may be able to do this if your apartment building has a garden area and they agree for you to compost in this way, but we’d imagine that this is unlikely. We wouldn’t recommend fly-tipping in the middle of the night as this will most likely get you into trouble, so it might not be a viable option unless you have a suitable area.

Closing Thoughts

No matter which composting method you choose to use, it will require some maintenance and upkeep. Worm bins for example contain live animals so you’ll need to take care of them so they can flourish. Make sure that you regularly monitor your compost bin, if not it will become smelly and gross. Your composting conditions should be well balanced in order to be a success.

We’re always excited about reducing waste, so hopefully, you’ve found this guide helpful. Worm bins are super easy to get going if you look after them and take good care. But that’s not to say that an electric or Bokashi bin aren’t good options either. In the end, it’s about personal choice and what you feel comfortable with to maintain, feel free to experiment a little or do more digging before you jump in. 

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