How To Compost In An Apartment (No Smells No Mess Guide!)

Written By Jenn

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Anyone can make compost, even in an apartment. Many people believe that composting is only possible for those living in homes with ample outdoor space, but in reality indoor composting is thriving.

Apartment composting allows you to minimize your environmental impact while providing valuable nutrients for your indoor plants, all within the constraints of limited living space.

There are various methods available for composting in an apartment, each catering to different needs and preferences.

Why Bother Composting in an Apartment?

Are you going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making compost in your apartment? Maybe not, but you will be doing your bit and I will be doing my bit and that is how change is created.

With food scraps making up to 35% of the average household waste, creating compost can play a vital role in waste management.

Another essential benefit of composting in an apartment is the reduction of methane emissions.

When you send food scraps and other organic waste to landfills, they decompose anaerobically, emitting methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. This includes your food scraps.

Did you know that an electric kitchen composter will even take chicken bones and meat and dairy?

Odorless food waste reducer

This is the top of the range of the Vitamix food cyclers.

You don’t need to use an electric kitchen composter. There are other methods suitable for apartment composting. These methods are described below. If you want to look at different electric composters, I have done a review here.

Learning how to compost in an apartment can contribute to a zero-waste lifestyle if that is your intention.

The compost you create can be used as fertilizer for indoor plants or balcony plants or shared with friends and community gardening projects.

Different Types of Composting Methods For An Apartment

Invest in an Electric Composter

Electric kitchen composters are innovative devices that can turn food scraps into nutrient-rich soil in just a few hours.

An electric composter works by breaking down food waste through a combination of heat, agitation, and dehydration.

The composting cycle can take anywhere from five to 48 hours, depending on the model.

Once the cycle is complete, users can retrieve the dehydrated compost from a drawer at the base of the machine and spread it on potted plants or garden.

Vitamix FC-50-SP Food Cycler

This is a Vitamix FC-50 food cycler, a less expensive model than the one shown above.

These composters are a great way to reduce food waste and create healthy soil for plants.

Traditional Composting On A Balcony

In an apartment setting, traditional composting would best translate as using a small compost tumbler like the image shown below.

The size of this compost tumbler is perfect for a balcony or a patio or deck. Your apartment may have another space that would suit a small compost tumbler.

Compost tumblers are very easy to use. The organic waste breaks down as the tumbler is turned. The instructions in this article will have you using a compost tumbler in no time.

Add equal parts of green waste and brown waste to the compost tumbler and turn the tumbler as per the instructions with the unit you choose.

 Small Composter Tumbler Rotating

Countertop Compost Bins for Food Scraps

Countertop compost bins are small containers designed to collect food scraps and other organic waste in the kitchen. These bins are typically made of materials like ceramic, stainless steel, or plastic, and have a lid to keep odors and fruit flies at bay.

To use a countertop compost bin, simply place it on your kitchen counter or another convenient location. As you prepare meals or clean up after eating, add any food scraps, such as vegetable peels, fruit cores, eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags, to the bin.

Once the bin is full, transfer the contents to a larger outdoor compost bin or compost pile. This larger bin or pile will provide the necessary conditions for the organic matter to break down into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to fertilize plants and gardens.

You may not have access to an outdoor compost bin or compost pile if you are living in apartment. Great if you do, however these scraps can be used in a worm farm or for Bokashi Composting.

 Kitchen Compost Bin for Kitchen Countertop

Worm Composting

Worm composting, or vermicomposting, is an excellent option for apartment dwellers as it’s suitable for small spaces and involves little odor. By the way, you don’t have to go the diy route. You can purchase a worm composter the right size for an apartment. Purchasing a worm farm is also an excellent option as they are purpose built and ready to go.

4-Tray Worm Composter, Plum

This cute worm composter comes in fur colors, black, gray, plum (shown) and green

DIY Worm Composter/Farm/Bin

  1. Select a suitable container Choose a container at least 12 to 18 inches deep with a lid. Dark, opaque containers are preferable, as worms avoid light. Purchasing a worm farm is also an excellent option as they are purpose built and ready to go.

  2. Drill holes for airflow Punch holes in the top, sides, and bottom of the container for air circulation and drainage. If your bin is indoors, you can double the amount of side and top holes and skip bottom holes.

  3. Prepare bedding Create a worm-friendly habitat by filling the bin with moist shredded paper, cardboard, or coconut coir.

  4. Add worms Introduce red wiggler worms (at least 1,000), which are ideal for vermicomposting. You can find them at local gardening stores or online. Red wigglers are are efficient at breaking down organic matter.

  5. Add food scraps Feed your worms with food waste, for example, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and crushed eggshells. Food scraps for the worm farm can be kept in the freezer until they are ready to add, to avoid food going moldy before it is ready to use.

    Avoid using meat, dairy, or oily products in a worm farm, as they could produce unpleasant smells and attract pests. Over time, the worms will consume the organic matter and produce worm castings, which are nutrient-rich and perfect for your plants.

  6. Maintain the bin Keep the bin well-ventilated, moist, and at a temperature between 59-77°F (15-25°C). Monitor the bedding’s quality and add new material or reduce food input as needed.

  7. Worm Tea Worm tea, also known as vermicompost tea or worm casting tea, is a natural liquid fertilizer that is made by steeping worm castings (worm manure) in water.

    The nutrients in the worm castings are extracted into the water, creating a nutrient-rich liquid that can be used to nourish plants.

    Worm tea is a non-toxic alternative to chemical fertilizers and can help to improve soil health, increase plant growth, and repel some types of pests.

The worm population will regulate itself according to the size of the worm bin and the available food supply.

worm farm food

Bokashi Composting In An Apartment

Bokashi method composting is another great option for apartments, as it is an odorless, anaerobic fermentation process.

All Seasons Indoor Composter

A good starter kit as it includes a 2 lbs bag of dry Bokashi Bran

  1. Get a Bokashi bucket Purchase a Bokashi bucket with an air-tight lid and draining valve, or DIY one by adding a spigot to a food grade 5 gallon airtight container with a lid.

  2. Prepare the bucket Place a few inches of Bokashi bran at the bottom of the bucket. Obtain Bokashi bran from gardening stores or online.

  3. Add food scraps Add your food waste to the bucket, cutting them into smaller pieces for faster fermentation. Unlike traditional and worm composting, Bokashi composting allows the use of meats, dairy, and oily products.

  4. Sprinkle Bokashi bran Add a layer of Bokashi bran over the food scraps, ensuring they are well-covered to minimize odors and mold growth.

  5. Compress the scraps Press the food waste firmly into the bucket to remove air pockets. Air-tight conditions support anaerobic fermentation.

  6. Repeat layers Continue layering food scraps and Bokashi bran until the bucket is full.

  7. Ferment the waste Seal the bucket and let the food waste ferment for 1-2 weeks. Drain the liquid produced (Bokashi juice) every two to three days.

Once the fermentation process is complete, the pre-composted material can be added to traditional compost, a worm bin, or buried in the soil.

Bokashi composting also creates leachate, a nutrient-dense liquid that can be diluted and used as a plant fertilizer.

Remember to follow the specific guidelines and recommendations for each composting method.

how to compost in an apartment

Compostables and Non-Compostables

What You Can Compost

When composting in an apartment, it’s important to know which materials are suitable for composting. Your compost should include a mixture of organic matter, containing both carbon-rich materials (browns) and nitrogen-rich materials (greens).

Some common compostable items include:

  • Kitchen scraps – fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, and eggshells are all excellent sources of organic matter.

  • Carbon-rich materials – shredded newspaper, cardboard, leaves, and small branches provide necessary carbon for the composting process.

  • Nitrogen-rich materials – grass clippings, green plant material, fruit, and vegetable scraps contribute to the nitrogen content of your compost.

Remember to chop or shred these materials into smaller pieces to help speed up the decomposition process.

basics of what can and can't be composted.

What Not to Compost

Not all waste materials are suitable for composting, and including them can create odors, attract pests, or introduce toxins to your compost. Avoid adding the following items to your compost bin:

  • Meat and bones – These can attract pests and create strong odors in an indoor composting system.

  • Dairy products – Like meat, dairy could also cause strong odors and attract pests.

  • Grass treated with pesticides – Grass clippings treated with chemicals can introduce toxins to your compost, harming beneficial organisms and potentially contaminating any plants it comes into contact with.

Additionally, avoid composting glossy paper or heavily dyed cardboard, as the chemicals and inks used in these products may introduce toxins to your compost.

Using The Finished Compost

Finished compost is a nutrient-rich fertilizer that can greatly benefit your indoor garden, potted plants or balcony herb garden.

To do this, simply spread a thin layer of compost on top of the soil in your planter boxes or pots.

Another way to use your own compost is by brewing compost tea.

Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer made by steeping finished compost in water. To prepare compost tea, fill a 5-gallon bucket with water and add 2-3 cups of compost.

Allow the mixture to steep for 24-48 hours, stirring occasionally. Once it’s ready, strain the liquid and use it to water your houseplants. This will provide them with the essential nutrients they need to thrive.

Sharing Your Compost

If you find yourself with more compost than you can use in your own indoor garden, consider sharing it with others in your community.

You can offer your finished compost to friends or family members who also have houseplants or indoor gardens, or you can donate it to a community garden.

Community gardens are always looking for nutrient-rich fertilizers to help their plants grow, and your finished compost would be a valuable addition.

how to compost in an apartment - use compost for community garden

There may be a community garden near you if you live in an apartment. Join in or donate your compost.

Find a residential compost pick up program like this one. The basics are that, you fill a backet with food scraps. The bucket is collected and taken away to be composted. You receive finished compost in return. Look for a program like this in your area, if that is something that would work for you.

Another option is to bring your finished compost to a farmers market and give it away or sell it as a locally produced, eco friendly soil amendment.

Your contribution to the local market can make a significant impact on the overall health and sustainability of your community.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best indoor compost bins for small spaces?

There are various indoor compost bins available in the market designed to fit into small spaces. Some popular options include countertop containers, worm composters, and bokashi bins.

When choosing an apartment compost bin, consider factors such as size, odor control, and ease of use. Buying a tightly sealed container will help minimize any unpleasant smells.

Is it possible to compost meat in an apartment?

While meat can technically be composted, it is not recommended for apartment settings, primarily because meat tends to create foul odors and attract pests. Many of the electric kitchen compost machines do compost meat products and bones. Check the specifications. The machine does compost meat products.

Stick to composting fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, and other non-meat organic materials for a more pleasant composting experience.

What are some DIY composting options for apartment living?

If you prefer a DIY approach, you can make your own indoor compost bin using a dark-colored storage container with a tight-fitting lid.

Drill some holes in the lid and sides to enable aeration, and use a tray underneath to catch any liquid that may drain from the compost bin.

Also look at the DIY instructions for a worm farm.

How do I manage a worm composter in an apartment?

Managing a worm composter in an apartment requires attention to several factors.

First, pick the right type of worms, such as red wiggler worms, for your composter.

This article outlines how to set up and operate a worm bin.

Keep the worm bin moist, but not overly wet, and ensure it is placed in a dark, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

A worm bin is ideal for use in an apartment.

How to use compost for indoor plants or potted plants

Compost can be a great addition to potting soil for indoor plants as it can help to provide essential nutrients to the plant.

To use compost on indoor plants, mix it with potting soil in a ratio of 1:3 (one part compost to three parts soil). This will help to improve soil structure and increase water retention.

When repotting a plant, remove the plant from its current pot and gently shake off any excess soil. Add a layer of compost to the bottom of the new pot, then add a layer of potting soil.

Place the plant in the pot and fill in the remaining space with the compost/soil mixture.

Water the plant thoroughly and allow the soil to settle before adding more.

Indoor plants should be fertilized with compost once or twice a year.

Is it possible to divert food waste without composting by adding egg shells and coffee grounds directly to plants?

While adding eggshells and coffee grounds to plants can be beneficial for providing nutrients to the soil, it is not a complete solution for diverting food waste without composting.

Composting eggshells and coffee grounds is preferable to adding them directly to plants, as this can actually harm the plants, by altering the pH balance of the soil.

Composting in an apartment may seem like a daunting task, but it is actually quite easy and beneficial. With the right tools and techniques, apartment dwellers can turn their food scraps into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to nourish their plants.

Composting also helps to reduce the amount of food waste that goes to landfills, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Whether you have a balcony or just a windowsill, there are many ways to compost in an apartment.

By taking the time to compost, apartment dwellers can make a positive impact on the environment and their own indoor plants

vector - composting worm

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