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Apartment Composting: 7 Step-by-step guides

Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

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Can you compost inside your house?

Yes, you can! It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment or a house, you can compost either way.

I’ll share with you everything you need to know to start composting inside your apartment. We will go through 7 composting ways.

Here’s a quick preview of the contents of this article:

1. Why composting is important?

2. What can you compost? ( And what you cannot)

3. How do you compost kitchen waste in an apartment? (Guides for 7 different apartment composting methods)

  1. Vermicomposter
  2. Bokashi composting
  3. Compost tumbler
  4. Countertop composting
  5. Freezer composting
  6. Blender composting
  7. Farmers market
  • + Including how to make your own compost bins indoor, in a small apartment

1. What is composting, and why is it important?

Composting is decayed organic matter. When you mix natural and organic food scraps in a compost pile, they will break down naturally into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that helps gardens grow.

Did you know that landfill gas is a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material in landfills?

What’s more, landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, known to be between 28 to 36 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

What is more, composting is beneficial, because:

  • The greenhouse gas emissions related to fertilizer production can be reduced
  • Composting is used as a fertilizer, it can lower the need for pesticides and chemical options, which are harsh for the earth
  • It improves soil quality and is an excellent source of organic matter
  • Can reduce a lot of waste
  • If you have a garden it can save you money since you literally turn garbage into soil
  • It can reduce methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint
Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

2. What can you compost? And what you shouldn’t

You can compost the following:

  • Fruits and vegetable scraps – Almost anything that comes from the ground and more: cucumber ends, apple cores, carrot peels, cantaloupe rinds, avocado pits, pumpkin, bananas, etc.
  • Grains: they also sprout from the soil, so you can throw old bread, cereal, and pasta in your compost pile, too.
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Teabags
  • Eggshells
  • Nutshells
  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard/Paper
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton and Wool Rugs
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes

Things that you CANNOT compost:

  • Meat or fish bones
  • Yard trimmings that have been treated with chemicals
  • Pet waste
  • Diseased plants (so, if your garden’s zucchini plant has wilt set in, you won’t want to add the plant to your composting bin)
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Dairy products
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
  • Fat/grease/oils
Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

3. How do you compost kitchen waste in an apartment? (7 step by step guides)

First, you need to decide on the composting method. You can choose between 7 different methods.

Method 1: Compost in your apartment with worms

Worm composters, also known as vermicomposter is one of the easiest ways to create a compost bin in a small apartment!

Adding worms to your compost bin is similar to what would result if you bury your compost, in more controlled conditions. The end material will be suitable for houseplants and planter boxes.

Step by step guide:

Step 1: Get a container. You can either make your own compost bin or you can buy a worm bin (such as the Worm Factory 360 or this 4-Tray Worm Compost Kit).

If you are on the DIY side, you can do the following:

Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

DIY worm composter:

  • Get 2 identical plastic tote containers that are between 8-10 gallon range size.
  • For the first plastic tote: make drainage holes in the bottom, around 20 evenly spaced holes, and 20 more ventilation holes on the top. (make sure to place something underneath, for the drainage)
  • For the upper tote: make about 20 holes on the bottom for drainage and for the worm to move from the first tote to the second one. They will be able to crawl through the holes from the first bin to the other.

Having two plastic totes will allow you to always have a place to add kitchen scraps, even when one of the totes is full.

Step 2: Prepare the components. After you have your worm compost bin, you need to buy worms. You can look for red wigglers – they are suitable compost worms and they are easy to find.

You will need about 1-2 lbs (1 lb = 453 gr) of worms for your bin. In order to avoid overfeeding, if you go with 1 lb, you should feed the worms with around one-half pound (0.5 pound ~ 226 gr) of food scraps.

Going further, you have to cut paper strips and soak them into water. It is important to keep their bedding moist, but not soaking wet.

For this, you can also use hand-shredded paper, egg cartons, straw, sawdust, cardboard or fallen leaves.

Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Step 3: Spread the paper. Then, use some of the paper for the bottom of your bin. Be sure to fill around one-third (or 6 inches = 15cm).

Furthermore, you should place soil over the paper, whereafter you should put the worms.

Note: The side of the container should be corresponding to how many worms you put inside. Make sure you have around 1 square foot of space per 1 pound of worms.

Step 4: Spread worms across the top of the bedding. Wait for an hour and then check if there are any worms on top of the bedding. If there are, remove them.

Step 5: Scraps. The next step is placing the scraps! Lift up the paper bedding and place some food scraps. Cover them with the bedding.

Just remember that after every time you add scraps to your compost pile, you should follow with soaked paper strips. Additionally, the worms will also eat the bedding so you will have to add additional bedding as needed.

Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Step 6: Second bin. Once the first bin is full, you should place the second plastic tote container and cover it with moistened paper. Also, be sure to remove the lid from the first bin and place it on the second one.

From here, you should do the same, as you did for the first bin – cover it with bedding material, and some food scraps.

Finally, after 1 to 2 months (depending on the size of your bin), your bottom bin will be worm-free, since they will move to the top bin.

However, try to see if you can find any remaining worms and transfer them to the top bin. Set the top bin on the blocks. The top bin is now the new bottom bin.

Important notes:

  • A proper location would be a darker place, where the contents can be kept moist. You can do it inside your basement, on your balcony, garage or under your kitchen counters.
  • If you decide to keep it outside, be sure to protect it from the sun, rain or too cold temperatures. Otherwise, you risk killing the worms.
  • Remember that you should place regularly and enough a source of carbon, to buffer the high nitrogen content in your kitchen scraps.
Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Method 2: Bokashi Composting

Your kitchen waste gets fermented, so this method is going to handle all the kitchen waste in your house, including meat and dairy.

Things that you will need:

  • Bokashi bran – fermented bran that you will layer between your food scrap layers
  • Buckets – you will need 2 buckets – 5 gallons/20 liters, with a tight-fitting lid on top. A screw off lid is ideal since you will remove the lid every day, it will be best if the lids off easily. Is good if the bucket has a small drainer, which will enable you to eliminate excess liquid as the food scraps ferment.
  • Plate – It is important to keep any additional air away. Use a plate to compress each day’s waste flat into the container so as to eliminate any air pocket.

You can also buy the full Bokashi kit from here (link to Amazon).

Notes:

  • It depends on your bucket, but it will take approximately 2 weeks to fill your bokashi composter. After that, you should seal the lid and let the bin close for 2 weeks, so it can finish the fermentation process.
  • Exactly because it will need around 2 weeks to be complete, you will need a second bin. Then, you will be able to continue composting, even when the first one is full since you will be able to start using your second bucket.
  • Be sure to use enough of the Bokashi bran. If you use too little, you will start smelling rotten, bad odor.
  • It is not recommended to add liquids or food with green or black mold. Also, large bones will not be able to disappear in 2 weeks. If you decide to put bones anyway, just make sure to chop them into smaller pieces.
  • If you want to make your own Bokashi bran, you can check this article.
Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Bokashi composting – Step by step guide:

Step 1: Mix your kitchen waste (including meats and dairy products) once a day with a handful or so of Bokashi bran (basically enough to coat it lightly).

Step 2: Press it into the bin and place a handful of bran over it. Remember to use a plate over the pile, in order to squish down the extra air. It is important to remember it because it will protect fermenting materials from the air as you fill your bucket.

Step 3: Once your bin is full, set it aside for at least 14 days. Be sure to check every other day for extra liquid from the small drainer.

Step 4: Once your food scraps are converted into nutrient-rich pre-compost, it will be ready for use! You can either bury your fermented food waste, if you have a garden, or you can use it for potting containers.

Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Method 3: Compost Tumbler

This one is for people, who are having a bit extra space since it is larger than the previous two options. For example, the Envirocycle tumbler composter is 17 US gallons, which is not too big, but you will need more space for it.

The compost tumblers are having a few benefits, and one of them is that it can compost your household waste faster, in less than 2 weeks.

They are also a good solution if you have concerns about vermins, rats, raccoons, mice, or other creatures. Furthermore, the design allows them to be very tidy and not smelly at all.

It might be a bit more expensive than the other options, too, but that’s why it’s a good solution if you pair up with some from your communal areas.

Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

What you need to do:

First, you need to decide which compost tumbler you want to get. Some of the options are:

  • Sealed Drum Compost Tumblers – A simple model, which has slower decomposition since it is not aerated. Usually, it’s a drum or barrel, with a spinning function.
  • ‘Aerated’ Drum Compost Tumblers – This one works faster, you can see compost in as little as 2 weeks. All you need to do is to turn it once a week and after the addition of new material.
  • Dual-Bin Compost Tumblers – More expensive than the previous models, since it comes with two bins, which are set side-by-side into a single rotating drum. It keeps the heat generated by the decaying matter, which speeds the process.

Notes:

  • It is possible to have it indoors, for example, on a bigger terrace, but probably it will be best if you find an outdoor location, with easy access.
  • Keep in mind that some models need more room than others for turning.
  • The Compost Tumbles often hold more food scrap than worm composters.
  • If you have a single compost tumbler, you need to stop adding food scraps in order to fully digest everything. It might take around 2 weeks. That’s why it’s a good idea to have double compartments so you can add kitchen scraps to one side while the other composts.
Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Method 4: Countertop Composting

This one is very simple, but there is a tricky part. The countertop composting requires a bin, where you are going to put your food scraps. Once it’s full, you have to find a place that will collect your scraps. Your options here might be:

1) Pick up service:

– some cities are having pick-up services, that usually costs between $20 to $30 dollars a month. You can empty your bucket 1-2 times per month.

Make your research and try to find if there is something around your city. The food scraps usually end up in farms, gardens, feeding animals, etc.

2) Drop-off:

For this one, you need to look for a specific location or a community space that collects food scraps. Again, you should do your own research. You can contact and ask:

  • your local farmer’s markets
  • community centers
  • composting programs
  • urban composting areas and farms
  • friends or neighbors if they know something

Definitely check out ShareWaste.com and try to find something close to you! You can collect your scraps, and every few weeks, you can their drop-off.

Related post: The 8 Best Compost Bins For An Apartment
Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

You can either buy a counter-top compost bin or make one by yourself, with a simple bucket, with a lid.

You can try to find it locally, or order online. Some online options are (links to Amazon):

How to make a counter-top compost bin indoor, in a small apartment:

1) Simply find an ordinary bin, with an air-tight lid. If you decide to go with a plastic bin, make some holes in the lid, to create ventilation. If it’s aluminum or ceramic, then it will beneficial to get one with holes in the lid.

The holes are essential because they will make the material to “breathe”. Otherwise, it is possible that the materials will quickly heat up, which may ruin the process of decomposition.

2) Get a filter. The holes will allow the smell from the scraps to go out, which is not something you want. So the simple solution here is a charcoal filter.

You can attach it to your compost container lid. This will prevent the smell to go out, while the air will be still able to flow through the holes.

3) Put your scraps. Start putting your food scraps in! Once the bin is full, drop off your food scraps.

Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Method 5: Freezer Composting

This one works similar to the previous method: you won’t actually compost in your freezer. First, you will just collect your waste (in the freezer), then you should find a place to drop off your organic scraps.

Some things to consider when starting a compost in your freezer:

  • A benefit of freezer composting is that you don’t have to worry about bad smell or attracting bugs
  • It won’t take space around your kitchen
  • It is necessary to have a bigger freezer if you want to collect more
  • You should choose your container carefully – if it’s too fragile, you risk to break it or make some cracks, very fast. Try to find specially made freezer compost bin.

Some options include:

  1. Freezer compost bin
  2. Scrab collector and freezer compost bin
  3. Stainless steel compost bin
Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Step by step guide on how freezer compost:

1) Find a container. First, you need to look for a container, that will fit inside your freezer. Also, even though it won’t be too smelly, it is recommended to be with a good lid that seals.

2) Preparation of the container. It’s a good idea to place some newspapers/cardboard underneath. It depends on the container, but if it has a handle and it is comfortable to carry, you might take the whole thing when it’s full and ready to drop off.

Otherwise, you can get some compostable bags and carry the scraps inside. You can also reuse the produce bags.

3) Scraps. That’s it! The final step is just to fill it up and then to drop it off.

Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Method 6: Blender composting

Also known as ”cold composting” is another simple way to ”compost”. The final material won’t be complete. However, it will be easier for the earth to absorb the raw materials!

Yep, for this one, you need to find a place (such as a nearby garden) where you will place the material.

Some important notes include:

  • You will probably need a stronger blender if you want to blend harder materials. I tried with a blender, that wasn’t that powerful, so I almost killed it. 😀
  • Your garden will do all the work: the whole process will happen within the soil
  • After a few weeks of doing this, you will start noticing some earthworms and healthier plants
  • Remember that if you use the blended food scraps directly into your plants or yard, you should include some shredded newspaper, old bread, or sawdust to help balance everything out

How to blender compost:

Just fill-up the blender with anything compostable, add water, and blend. Spread the liquid outside your backyard.

Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways - Almost Zero Waste

Method 7: Farmers Market

If you have a farmers market, you can talk to them. Oftentimes, farmers collect organic waste, since they have their compost piles, or even animals (like chickens).

They might be interested in getting your scraps to either feed their chickens or to add it into their compost pile.

Sum up

As you can see, composting can be easy, once you find the most suitable way for you.

After you know a few basic things, you simply need to choose your preferred method and then do some preparation.

If your aim is to start living less wasteful, composting is quite an important step, so the sooner you do it – the better.

Let me know in the comments which one is your type of composting and if you have any questions!

2 Comments

  1. I live on a farm and have always composted. My compost “bin” consists of a chain link fence. I made a 5×5 foot square with a gate. The fence is 6 feet tall.
    I lined it with about 4 inches of autumn leaves. Then, a single layer of compostables. Another layer of leaves. Repeat. If the weather was quite dry, I spray it with the garden hose…lightly.
    On and on I go for a year. THEN! When it’s time to plant my garden, I carefully open the gate and shovel soil from the bottom. By the time a year has passed, all the bottom half is decomposed and turning to dirt. So easy. And if it ever gets stinky or anything, you take a shovel and turn the top 12 inches over and let it get some sun so it dries a bit. If you have a serious emergency and need some help, you can sprinkle a box of rid ex over the top and water it, before covering with a leaf layer. Happy composting!

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