It's easier than you think to learn how to compost in an apartment. Composting can be done anywhere with very few supplies needed. If you don't have a garden, or a curbside compost you may think that composting just isn't possible, but guess what - you can still join the compost party, even as an apartment dweller.
At compostic, we are OBSESSED with composting - and for good reason! Composting has a number of amazing benefits for the environment. Consider this, approximately 40% of the waste we chuck in landfills is organic waste - 40%! And due to this organic material being buried under layers of waste in a landfill, without access to light or oxygen, it cannot decompose properly. These anaerobic environments (meaning without oxygen), mean that when the organic materials DO eventually break down, methane gas is produced. And methane is a potent greenhouse gas that heavily contributes to climate change.
Imagine a world where everyone composted, not only would the amount of methane released from landfills be reduced, there would also be 40% more space in landfills for other forms of waste. Saving that extra 40% of space would allow the landfill to take longer to fill, reducing the need to create more landfills at such a rapid rate.
Not only will increased composting reduce the volume of trash in landfills, compost itself is also one of nature's best mulches and soil amendments. Most gardeners know the value of this dark, rich, earthy material in improving soil quality and providing a healthy environment for plants.
In 2013 it was recorded that 52.7% of the world's population lived in urban areas, with apartments accounting for 36.3% of households globally. It’s not always easy trying to be environmentally-conscious in the big city. It seems like everywhere you go, everything is disposable. In addition, many apartment dwellers won’t have a garden, meaning, if we want to make a difference, many people will need tips on indoor composting.
While you may need to get a little creative with your indoor compost, it isn't a nasty object that we should all dread and stay far away from. Actually, there's a misconception that compost is stinky but in fact it doesn't actually smell much at all. On the contrary, composts just smell slightly earthy. Why is this different from a stinky trash bin? Well, in your trash, organic materials are mixed with non-organics, thus preventing the decomposition process.
Let's break down a few options of how you can break down your organic waste in your urban home. And remember, it's all about finding what works best for you. Try one of the options! And if it doesn't work for you… try another! :)
Just like an outdoor compost bin, this DIY kitchen compost bin can reduce your household waste – like egg shells, coffee grounds and stale bread all while creating a beautiful, rich soil that can be used on any plants or gardens of your liking.
What you need:
1. Choose a convenient location for your indoor compost bin. For example, the space under the sink might work as it's in the kitchen, locked to protect tiny hands and large enough to keep a decent family sized compost.
2. Think about what you’d like to keep your compost in. You can use plastic boxes, metal containers, garbage bins or buckets… get creative and customize it to your use taste and your space, but consider: it will need to be covered. You might need to swap it out for a new one while it composts and you’ll need to store it somewhere!
3. Once you have your container you’ll need to punch holes in the bottom to create airflow and allow your compost bin to work its magic! What you're using will determine what tools you need. For example, if you’re using a metal bin, you’ll need a drill. Your holes should be around 1 ½ inches apart and should scatter across the bottom of the bin, and a few around the rim.
4. Cover your tray with newspaper and put the compost bin onto the tray.
5. Now add dirt! Again it’s about the size of the container and how much use it’s going to get. We suggest a couple of inches deep.
6. Next step. Add a layer of dry stuff, in this case newspaper, and you’re ready to go!
Worms are the great transformers of landscape through eating and digesting. With indoor worm composters, these wiggly creatures can take your coffee grinds, lettuce scraps and apple cores and turn them into fertilizer castings that your plants will adore!
What You Need:
Different worm composters will come with instructions and bedding, but here are a few basics for getting started.
1. To start with, keep a small stainless steel bucket with a carbon filter in its lid next to your sink for scraps. The carbon filter is so that no odors escape. Particularly early on, try to pick out vegetables for your worms that are non-acidic, like salad greens rather than onions. Also eggs shells that have been ground up, tea bags, and coffee grounds can go into the mix. Later, when the worms become heartier eaters, you can increase the volume and variety of vegetables and fruit that you feed them, but avoid oily food, clippings from house plants or any animal matter.
2. Order your worms. You need a minimum of 1,000 red worms to start with, which may sound like a lot, but it’s not. They actually reproduce, but will not overpopulate.
On Containers: A reusable plastic storage container works if you have this, but you can also use wood or other non-permeable materials. Just make sure there are air holes so the worms can breathe, and a lid, so they don’t escape. Adjust your container to the size of your apartment. If your kitchen is tiny and this might be tucked under the sink, use a box about 6-8 inches deep, 24 inches long, 6-8 inches wide. For this size order about 1,000 red worms. If you have a pantry or closet off your kitchen, or even a corner for them, you could use a larger box, or order a larger, layered worm composter, such as the Can O’Worms. For this size, order 2,000 worms. The worms are shipped, but they do just fine.
3. Drill or poke air holes into your plastic container.
4. Add bedding to the container. Pre-purchased composters come with bedding, but if you want to make your own, use newspaper, old cardboard, sawdust, and even pieces of straw. (Some instructions will tell you to use manure, but we would avoid this in case the animals were given any deworming medication.) Dampen this slightly, so that it feels like a wrung sponge.
5. Empty the worms into the tray. They don’t like sunlight, so will quickly dive down into the matter if you leave the lid open and exposed to light for a few moments. Then cover them with dampened newspaper.
6. Place a few handfuls of your kitchen waste here—if you chop it into smaller pieces it will be easier for the worms to eat. You’ll need to adjust the amount as you get to know them. Start with smaller amounts of scraps, ½-1 cup at a time. If the table scraps rot, remove them from the composter. If the worms are eating them, add more, but as a rule of thumb, you should never have more than a 1/2 inch layer of food scraps across the surface area. Then cover the food with damp newspaper. (It shouldn’t be soaking wet, just damp.) Store your container in a dry, temperate place.
Note: Signs that you are overfeeding your worms include black flies in your compost bin. If you find black flies, remove some of the food and in the future give them less.
7. It should take 3-6 months before you can begin harvesting your castings. You can do this a number of ways, but the least messy is to harvest your castings in a homemade, single level container. Push your worms and vermicompost to one side of the container and lay fresh bedding and food on the other side. The worms will migrate over and then you’ll be able to harvest the composted matter from the other side. After you remove it, add new, fresh bedding. You can mix the castings into potting soil and then keep adding it by layering it over the soil in your planters, as you water, the nutrients will drain into the soil.
Bokashi is a method of composting developed in Japan that uses microbes to decompose food, effectively fermenting it so that it doesn’t smell as it is breaking down. Besides the lack of smell, another advantage with bokashi is that all food, including meat, fish and dairy, can be composed with this system!
Home-sized bokashi kits can be purchased online and at some home and garden supply shops. The kits are similar, usually offering a 5-gallon lidded bucket with spigot and a bag or two of Bokashi compost starter. Some kits also offer a plastic masher, a scoop for the Bokashi bran, and an additional small food scrap collector.
The method is fairly straightforward. Simply sprinkle on a handful of bokashi bran each time kitchen scraps are added to the bucket, stir, and tightly close the lid. (Some suppliers recommend that the kitchen scraps be chopped into small pieces first.) After filling the bucket to capacity, let it sit for 7-10 days so the microbes can get to work. During this time, occasionally drain off any liquid using the spigot and use it as a compost tea for plants or in your garden, if you have one.
We should state, there are a few minor issues that apartment dwellers may run into when using a bokashi. Firstly, once the bokashi has thoroughly pickled your compost, it will need to be emptied into the ground to complete the process. This may be difficult if you do not have a personal garden, but we go into solutions at the end of this blog. The other feature that should be considered when thinking of choosing a bokashi is that you will need two bokashi buckets: one which is full and breaking down, and the other ‘in process’ bucket that is taking in your daily scraps. This could potentially be a space and cost issue for some.
For indoor composting you definitely want a smaller compost bin. Place the compost bin in a closet, in your basement, on the counter, or even in a cabinet. Ideally, your indoor composter should be kept in a dry place that is reasonably dark.
Yes, there are several things you can do to speed up your compost. Here are a few tips:
Alternatively, you could see if anyone would like your uncomposted scraps:
We hope this blog has inspired you to try home composting for yourself. If you follow any of these DIY’s, we would LOVE to see pictures of your finished indoor composting solutions. Send us through your creations to @compostic.co on Instagram, and we will repost them on our story!