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How to choose the best compost bin for the apartment?
Apartment composting is an easy and effective way to reduce your food waste.
It is an essential zero waste step because it can drastically reduce your contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.
I share more about the benefits of apartment composting here, but now, we will focus on how to choose the best compost bin for the apartment.
We will explore the features of the containers, and how to start composting in your apartment (3 different methods!)
First, we will go through some casual bins that will collect your food scraps.
Then, we will focus on other types of bins, that can do all the compost work, from start to finish, even in a small apartment.
To sum up, we will go through the following:
- Apartment compost bins – essential notes
- 8 best compost bins for apartments
– How to use the compost bins for your apartment
- Final apartment composting tips (FAQ)
– Fruit flies/Gnats?
– Countertop composting – what to do with my food scraps once the container is full?
1. Apartment compost bins – essential notes
1) Simplicity – you want to find a compost bin that’s easy to use, easy to clean, and with just a few parts.
You don’t need huge bins, with millions of pieces and features. A simplified container with the essential elements is all you need! It will be great if you choose a container that’s dishwasher safe.
2) Solid – It’s essential to think of the material of the bin. You want to get a substantial container, and it won’t break easily.
It is recommendable that the container is from stainless steel and not plastic since it will last much longer.
3) Filter – A lot of people think that having a compost bin at home is a smelly and annoying task. The truth is that it all depends on the container. You don’t need any fancy features. However, you want to have some basic necessities.
An important aspect is to get a bin that has a filter. The filter will make sure that the composter won’t emit any unpleasant or rotten smells. It’s recommendable to change the filter between 3-6 months.
4) Size – Get something that is not too small or too big for your apartment. Ultimately, it is best to look for a countertop compost bin, which can hold a few days to a week of kitchen waste.
For example, the vermicomposter and bokashi composter (you will learn more about them below) are a bit bigger, but they will also hold more of your kitchen scraps. The countertop composter bins will be a bit smaller, between 1 and 1.5 gallons.
2. 8 best compost bins for apartments
The first 5 options are ideal for collecting your food scraps; afterwards, you should find what to do with the scraps (we will talk about that later on).
The last 3 choices are ideal if you want to turn your scraps in nutrient-rich soil.
Just keep in mind that they require more work.
5 apartment compost bins for your food scraps:
The container is extremely simplified, stable, and it has a filter – it contains ALL the essentials you need! It is made of a single sheet of steel.
It does not have an additional container inside, like some other composter bins. For some, that might be a negative point.
However, I prefer it, because fewer parts mean = less to clean and no leaking.
Furthermore, it is has a substantial construction, and there are no weld parts of developing rust.
The lid fits perfectly, and inside of it is an easily-replaced activated carbon filter. The thick activated charcoal filter absorbs the odors.
It has a durable steel handle, so it’s easy to carry out, and the size is ideal: it will fit on the counter, under the sink or in the pantry.
It holds several days of organic waste (around 1.3 gallons of food scraps).
This countertop compost bin is 1.3 gallons big so it will keep your food scraps from a few days to a week.
It is made of carbon steel, which makes it solid, plus it has powder-coating to prevent rusting.
The lid is close fitting and it contains a space for the filters. The compost bin comes with 7 charcoal filters that you can wash and reuse!
It successfully traps odors, and the handle is ideal for taking the bin, outside to your garden or to empty the bin in your chosen location.
In case you don’t enjoy it that much, you can get a refund and return the compost within 30 days.
This one is for anyone who is looking for an inner pail. The material of the outer compost bin is ceramic and the inner bin is made of plastic.
Once you fill your bin, you can take the inner container and empty it.
The ceramic body is dishwasher safe, but it’s probably better to wash the plastic liner and the lid by hand.
You should be more careful with the inner bucket since it’s made from plastic and you might crack it if you don’t take good care of it.
A short preview of Chef’n 401-420-120 EcoCrock Counter Compost Bin:
The Under-Counter compost bin it will be the ideal option for you if you are looking for a container that is:
hidden, attached inside a cupboard
non-smelling, without the need of any filters
free from fruit flies
easy access for load and unload
The lid is easy to open and close, and the size of the container is 1.5 gallons, so a tiny bit bigger than the options above.
A ”downside” it that it’s made out of plastic, however, if you take good care of it, that won’t be a problem.
The design of the silicone bucket makes user-friendly – plus, it doesn’t require any plastic bags inside.
It has adjustable aerobic compost setting – you can rotate the lid to control airflow for managing odor and decomposition!
It is easy to clean, and it is dishwasher friendly. The composter’s capacity is 1 gallon.
What is more, you can place it the freezer, if you wish to freeze your food scraps. The silicone is sturdy and can resist general freezer temperatures without affecting performance.
Just keep in mind that the frame is metal, so if you place it inside the freezer, it will be exposed to moisture. With that said, after some time, it is possible to occur some signs of rust, due to oxidation.
3 apartment compost bins (worm composting & bokashi):
If you want to choose a composter, that will actually turn your scraps into nutrient-rich soil, then this worm composter might be the one for you!
Vermicomposters is great and it is easy if you know what you’re doing.
This type of composting is extremely efficient, especially with the Hot Frog Living Composter.
There are e few very important aspects and features that this composter includes:
First off, there is a small spigot on the bottom that will allow you to collect the ”compost tea” which is GREAT for your plants ( make sure to dilute the “worm tea” by mixing 1 part “tea” with 1 part water)
The top lid is tight-fitting, and the two trays provide a lot of space for the worms to do their job
How does it work?
The ”base layer” is the place for any excess moisture or worm juice. In the bottom is the built-in drain so you can collect the ”compost tea”.
On top of the layer is a filter, that prevents the worms to fall down.
After that, you have the first tray, where you are going to put the worms.
You need a good balance between carbon (BROWNs) and nitrogen (GREENs – your food scraps).
For carbon source (browns), you can use:
- Dry leaves and shredded paper, also known as the ”bedding” for the worms. The bedding is essential as it helps to control the odor and the moisture.
You should fill the tray about half of the way and then you should place a bit of soil over the paper, and then the worms. You can also sprinkle some coffee grounds, as it’s very good for the worms stomachs.
The nitrogen source is your KITCHEN SCRAPS! After a few hours (or you can even leave it for a few days), start putting your food scraps.
Every time you put the scraps, make sure to spread a generous amount of bedding (the browns – shredded paper, dry leaves, etc.).
Once the first tray reaches the top, add the second tray and repeat the process – just place some bedding and food for the worms and they will make their way until the top tray.
As for the first tray, you want to leave a month, in order to be completely worm-free, and the worm castings (worm’s poop) will be ready to use!
Overall, the Worm Composter is very compact, but keep in mind that it will take more space than the options above. However, it is still great for smaller homes.
If you have a balcony, you can keep it there without worrying of killing the worms; the double-walled lid and base provide great insulation against temperature swings.
You can use the soil for your houseplants while recycling your kitchen scraps.
That’s again the worm composting method, but there are some small differences.
First off, it is a 3-tray composter; they offer similar product, but with 4 or 5 trays.
This one also has a build-in drain for the ”worm tea”.
Furthermore, it includes a great source of digital 38-page instruction manual. It is a convenient step-by-step guide that will help you to manage your Worm Factory.
Overall, the Worm Factory is ideal even for complete beginners. It really makes composting very easy since everything is explained and the quality of the composter is high.
The procedure is the same, as explained for the first worm composter, with the only difference that here, you will have one additional tray.
Bokashi is a completely different composting method, which is also great.
Bokashi means ”fermented organic matter” in Japanese.
It is a Japanese method that will ferment all your kitchen waste and it will transform it into organic fertilizer.
I have a full tutorial on Bokashi Composting here, but let’s briefly introduce it.
Bokashi composting is using wheat bran that helps the microorganisms to anaerobically ferment organic waste.
The Bokashi method works like that –
STEP 1: Use enough of bokashi bran
You need to place the food scraps in the bucket and cover it lightly with the bokashi bran.
STEP 2: Press down the extra air with a plate/spatula
It is essential that every time you place the kitchen waste, you should put a handful of bran over it and then press everything down.
Keep doing this until your bucket is full.
STEP 3: Bury it
A significant aspect of this composting is that it is very fast, but also tricky. It takes around 2 weeks to fermentate, and once it’s completed, you can bury it directly into the soil.
The tricky part is that you need to have space, where you can bury the compost material.
From that point, it will take from 2 to 4 weeks to fully integrate into the soil.
The time depends on your local soil biological activity and local climate.
A benefit of this composting is that there is almost no odor and no insects since it is a closed system. It can also break down dairy products, meat, and fish.
3. Final composting tips
1) Fruit flies/Gnats?
They can be a huge pain in the a**! If you are worried about having fruit flies, or gnats, here are some options that might help:
1: Ripe fruit + apple cider vinegar – In a jar, place a bit of vinegar and a chunk of very ripe fruit. Roll a funnel out of a piece of paper and stick it into the jar.
The cone makes it difficult for them to get out. You can release them outside once you catch them. Also, you can recycle or compost the homemade funnel afterward.
2: Apple cider vinegar and dish soap (if you can find it plastic-free, in a bulk shop) – in a small cup, add one-half cup of warm water, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 4 drops of liquid dish soap, and one tablespoon of sugar. Mix well, until the sugar dissolves. Leave it uncovered.
The soap cuts the surface tension of the vinegar so the flies will sink.
3: Red wine – place a bit of red wine into a container near your compost bin.
4: Essential oils: PEPPERMINT, EUCALYPTUS, LEMONGRASS, LAVENDER – fruit flies hate these! So, if you struggle with them, just sprinkle the filter of your compost bin with a few drops.
2) Countertop composting – where to take my food scraps once the container is full?
The countertop composting (the first 5 compost bins) is very easy but it requires a bit of research.
You need to check your city/area and find out what are the options you have.
Option 1: Pick up service
There are companies in some cities that offer a pick-up service of your food scraps, once or twice per month for $15 – $20 dollars.
Also, try to see if your local council offers something like that and if not, just contact them and ask for a compost system.
Option 2: Drop-off
Try to find a community space that collects food scraps. A few great places to start are:
- your local farmer’s markets
- community centers
- composting programs
- urban composting areas and farms
- friends or neighbors if they know something
Option 3: A Food Scrap Bucket
You can compost your food scraps without using a special method, like Bokashi or vermicomposting. All you need to do is:
1: Get a bigger bucket, around 4-5 gallons and find a place for it; it can be on your balcony, on your patio, a small garden, near your backdoor, etc.
2: Every time your countertop compost bin is full, pour the organic waste into the Food Scrap Bucket.
3: In another bucket, place finished compost, and collect peat moss, sawdust, rock dust, leaf mulch, etc. You will use this material after you add the new kitchen waste.
4: Scoop a generous scoop, full of the material and sprinkle it on the top of the newly-added food scraps.
The food scraps will breakdown, but be sure to have a good ration of BROWNs (sawdust, rock dust, dry leaves, finished compost, peat moss) to the GREENs (food scraps).
I hope that this article gave you some insight and it helped to find the best option and that you have a better idea of how composting works!
If you have any questions or you would like to add something that I’ve missed, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Feel free to share, which is the composting bin that you have (or you want to get) and why?