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You can compost food scraps even if you live in an apartment! If you’re on the journey for a zero waste lifestyle, you do not need a large area for composting, and you can convert your scraps into compost for houseplants, your garden, or patio containers.
If you have not tried composting because you have a small space, you should consider that not all composts need to be large piles in your yard, and they do not all have to be outside. You can create small, odor-free composts either indoors in your kitchen, or outdoors on your porch. If you do it right, the stink will not get too many complaints from your neighbors.
Why Composting is Good For the Environment & For You
A compost can help you feed your plants, reduce household waste, and save organic matter from the dumpster.
About 22 percent of trash in America is from food scraps, according to the Environment Protection Agency. When in landfills, these food scraps lead to methane gas that can directly contribute to global warming.
To do your share to reduce methane gas emissions and food waste, and reduce climate change, you can compost from your apartment in many different ways.
Composting can be good for you and your community, and you can even share the extra composted matter with your neighborhood.
How to Start Composting Food Scraps In An Apartment?
Choose Your Composting Method
There are several effective methods for composting if you live in an apartment. You may have heard of worm composting or the bokashi method. However, there are several options so you can find the right one for you.
Here are a few options for a home composting to choose from.
Worms may seem gross, but when it comes to composting they are incredibly helpful.
A worms compost is a small, fast and easy way to compost when you live in a small space. Worm composter bins also do not require turning because the worms do the mixing for you! All you need to do is feed the worms well and help them thrive.
You can purchase a worm composter online as well if you don’t want to make your own.
You will also need to purchase the worms. The best kind to get are red wigglers and they are available from most suppliers. You will need one square foot of space for every pound of worms.
You can find worms at Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s and many other home improvement stores.
If you want to compost without worms, you can try compost tumblers. They work best when you have a little more space like on a balcony or a community area. You could pool in with your community.
These bins are fully sealed to keep heat (and the smell) inside. They can also keep pests like rats, raccoons, and insects away.
However, the bins are too large to fit inside so you will need to use a small plastic indoor bin that you can transfer outside.
Bokashi is a method where you essentially ferment your kitchen scraps. However, it does not produce finished top soil compost, so you will need space to bury the pickled matter or you will have to trash it. With Bokashi, the composting procedure completes when it is buried in the soil.
The main benefit of this method is that you can add in items that you cannot normally decompose, like meat, dairy and fats.
However, if you do not have a backyard to bury it, then Bokashi might not be best for you.
Electric Food Digesters
You can purchase an electric composter that helps grind up organic scraps in your compost. They are not too large and can fit on your kitchen counter.
Plus, electric food digesters can take on more things than regular compost like avocado pits and chicken bones.
These devices will help heat up and mix your fruit and other scraps to make fertilizer.
They also do not have much odor and are useful for adding to your plant pots or garden.
Private Collection Service
Finally, if you want the easiest approach possible and you do not have any need for top soil or gardens, then you can hire a collection service for curbside pickup.
Some municipalities even offer free collection services, but if yours doesn’t, you can still pay for a private service.
On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10 a week to $24 a month for these types of services.
Choose Your Compost Bin
You can use a plastic container or a heavier duty stainless steel bin for composting.
For worm compost bins, you can use a plastic container with holes. The holes in the bin are necessary for air circulation. Smaller holes work the best, and you want to place them one to two inches apart.
Additionally, you do not have to cover it because that can limit the airflow. You should, however, cover a finished compost pile.
Besides a bin, you can also use bags to store your table scraps for transferring to larger piles.
Start Composting Food Waste – Feed Your Compost With What it Needs
You should use shredded newspaper, or other carbon-based materials along with nitrogen-based materials, or the organic food you are composting.
Where to Store Compost in An Apartment
It’s ideal to store a container in your kitchen so you can easily put your scraps there while cooking. You can use anything from an old ice-cream gallon bucket to a stainless steel bin.
Many people choose to keep their compost bin under a kitchen sink, or near their trash or recycling bins.
Many people find that putting their bin in sunlight helps to quicken the process. This is because the heat helps the bacteria work faster. However, you do not need sunlight to make it work and you can put your bin indoors.
Ideally, just find the most convenient place for you to store your compost.
Do Composts Smell Bad?
Composts should smell like dirt, but they should not have a rancid scent, even though it is the decomposition of your food.
However, indoor composts can stink if you do not know what you are doing and if you do not change them frequently.
To prevent odors, you should use stainless steel or ceramic bins. Additionally, keep your compost properly balanced between nitrogen and carbon-based matter. Also avoid letting your decomposition pile get wet or contain too much green material, which can make it stink.
If your compost pile is properly heating up and breaking down organic material then you shouldn’t notice a bad scent and it is perfectly safe to compost indoors.
However, if you add manure then your composting will have an unpleasant scent.
What Can You Compost?
Most food waste like produce scraps can be recycled; however, depending on the type of compost you have you can put different types of food scraps in your compost.
However, the secret is to maintain a balance between nitrogen-based and carbon-based materials (most are either one or the other).
In general, you can put the following organic matter in your apartment bin:
- Wood pieces
- Dry leaves
- Brown paper bags
- Coffee filters
- Coffee grounds
- Egg shells
- Corn Stalks
- Shredded newspaper
- Pine needles
- Yard waste
- Paper towels
- Fruit scraps (cooked and raw)
- Vegetable scraps (cooked and raw)
- Manures (note that it will stink)
- Kitchen waste
- Tea leaves
- Moldy food (it can speed up the process because it is already beginning to break down)
What Should You Not Compost?
Just because it is organic does not mean that it can be composted. Some food scraps, like dairy, meat and bread products, cannot be recycled and will need to go in the trash.
Some foods can offset the decomposition of your compositing, so it is best to not use them.
You should not put the following in your bin:
- Fish scraps
- Banana peels
- Peach peels
- Bread, pasta and baked goods
- Oils (there are some ways to to compost used cooking oil however)
- Dairy products
- Rice (cooked or uncooked)
- Paper with a lot of ink on it
Can You Have Maggots in Compost?
Yes, it is totally normal to see a maggot or worm in your bin. While they may seem gross, maggot and worm insects can help break down nutrients, recycling them into soil.
How Long Does Compost Take to Be Ready?
A compost can take anywhere from four weeks to one year to fully decompose. You know it is ready to use when it looks, feels and smells like soil (rather than rotted produce). It should be dark brown, crumble at the touch, and have a dirt scent.
However, how long it takes depends on what you are composting, your climate, and what compost method you use.
A compost tumbler is faster and can get your pile ready to go in as little as three weeks.
You can leave your piles in bins for years as long as it doesn’t get too wet. It will gradually decompose; however, and eventually, the compost can rot.
What To Do With Your Compost
You can use your compost for your houseplants, garden, and other potted plants. However, if you find yourself with more compost than you know what to do with, you can always donate a bin to your local community garden. Your neighbors or local farmers may need some soil for their gardens or plants as well.
The ultimate goal is to keep it out of landfills and out of the trash, so as long as you do that with your compost, then you can’t go wrong!
Don’t Wait to Start Composting, Even if You Live in an Apartment
You can do your part to protect the planet and slow down greenhouse gas emissions by composting at home. You do not need a backyard to start composting! Anyone can do it and reap the environmental benefits, whether you’re farmers or college students or anywhere in between.
You may not be able to get to zero waste, but you can decrease the food scraps you send to a landfill. Even if you live in a small space, you can find room to compost at home.