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Apartment dwellers have no excuse not to compost! Just because you live in an apartment doesn’t mean you have to send all your food scraps to the landfill. Composting in a small apartment is possible and doesn’t have to involve a worm bin. That’s right, you can compost organic material in an apartment without worms!
But first, are you sure you don't want to try composting with worms?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least suggest that you look into worm composting in an apartment. I know that a lot of people are hesitant to use worm composters in small spaces, but red wigglers are great at controlling the size of their population. They make indoor composting pretty easy. If you have a balcony or a patch of outdoor space, you can even set up a small stylish worm farm like this one.
But, this isn’t why you are here! You want to know how to compost in an apartment without worms, so let’s proceed!
Reasons to compost, even in a small space
The amount of waste sent to landfills in America is shocking. In fact, food takes up more space in landfills than anything else. This is awful since food waste can easily become compost.
The average household wastes an estimated 32% of their purchased food. On top of decreasing your food waste, dabbling in apartment composting can have some pretty great benefits for the environment and your carbon footprint. Sending less food to a landfill reduces greenhouse gas emissions since food in landfills is a major source of methane emissions. Jumping on the compost bandwagon is one of the easiest ways one person can act to combat climate change!
Here are a few of my favorite ways to recycle food waste into finished compost without using much space.
Invest in an Electric Composter
Using an electric composter is by far my favorite hack for indoor composting. These electronic compost bins use a minimal amount of energy and transform your kitchen waste into black gold without a single bad smell.
I’ve reviewed two of the most popular electric composters– the Lomi by Pela and the Vitamix Food Cycler. I love both of them. Even though I have an outdoor compost pile and compost tumblers, I still continue to use my electric composter for things I’d never add to a traditional outdoor compost system such as table scraps, dairy and animal products.
Pros to an electric composter
- convenient and easy to use
- no smells or pests like fruit flies
- finished product in a short amount of time (hours)
- You can compost hard to compost materials like dairy products, meat, and eggs
Cons to an electric composter
- extra energy use
Use a Bokashi Bucket
Bokashi composting is a unique way to deal with food waste in small spaces. The bokashi method uses bokashi bran to ferment your food waste in an airtight container.
It works like this: you make or buy a bokashi bin (you can watch my video on how to make a bokashi bin here), add your food waste to it covered by a layer of bokashi bran. Once your bucket is full, you seal it and let it ferment for two weeks. At that point you can dig a small hole and bury your food waste. The fermentation process allows the food waste to more quickly decompose and turn into nutrient rich soil.
Here’s a link to a bokashi compost system on Amazon if you don’t want to make one yourself.
Pros of bokashi composting:
- You can compost hard to compost materials like diary, meat, and eggs
- Low start up cost
Cons of bokashi composting:
- Potentially smelly- the fermentation liquid can be stinky
- Bokashi bran must be continuously purchased
- You need to have an outdoor space to bury your fermented waste
Find a Residential Compost Pick Up Program
If you’re truly looking for the easiest way to compost, then the first step is to research residential compost programs in your area. So much food is able to be diverted from the landfill through these programs. You don’t have to live in a big hipster city like San Francisco to cash in on these types of programs. Lots of small towns and urban areas are home to private residential compost pick up programs, and more and more cities are adopting compost as part of their city recycling program.
Pros of a compost pick up program:
- Convenience and ease- someone else does all the work for you
Cons of a compost pick up program:
- If it is privately owned, it can potentially be pricey
Get Involved with a Community Garden that Composts
A community garden is the perfect place to start or take part of a community compost program. This is a great option if you know the basics of composting and want to do the work yourself, but don’t have the space. Even if you don’t know a ton about composting, getting your hands dirty is a great way to learn.
Pros to a community compost program
- Forms a sense of community with like minded people
- Typically allows you to take part in a food share program as well
Cons to a community compost program
- Time consuming
- Not common in most parts of America (just another reason to start your own)
RELATED POST: Best Books on Composting
Make Your Own Indoor Composting Bin
It sounds crazy, but if you really want an apartment compost bin without worms, you can create your own indoor compost pile with plastic storage bins. You can use whatever size you’d like. I’ve noticed that in small spaces it is common to use a small bin and keep it under the kitchen sink. Here’s how to get started:
- Get a plastic bin or bucket with a lid
- Line the bottom of the bin with shredded newspaper, paper bags or other brown waste
- Add your green waste, a.k.a food waste
- Cover with soil or wood chips
- Aerate the mixture every few days (you can pick up and shake or stir it around), make sure to cover all food scraps with soil or brown waste again
- Once full, continue to aerate every few days, but stop adding to the pile
- Start a new bin if needed while the first one rests
- You’ll end up with soil in about 4 weeks that you can use on your houseplants
Pros to an indoor compost bin
- Relatively inexpensive
Cons to an indoor compost bin
- Potentially stinky and can attract fruit flies and other pests
- Food breaks down faster with heat. Composting indoors will take longer.
Divert food waste without composting by adding egg shells and coffee grounds directly to plants
Not all food waste needs to be processed into compost to be beneficial to plants. Some kitchen scraps can be added directly to plants.
How to use coffee grounds on plants:
Acid loving plants will get a little boost from your spent coffee grounds. The houseplants that love coffee grounds include pothos, philodendron, snake plant, jade, Christmas cactus, African violet, spider plant and miniature roses. If you have azaleas, blueberries, hydrangeas, rhododendron and lily of the valley in your yard, those plants will get a little boost as well.
How to use eggshells on plants:
Use finely ground eggshells on plants to give them a calcium boost. All plants can benefit from a little bit of eggshells, but nightshades- tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant specifically love the extra calcium from eggshells.
Simply wash and dry your eggshells and grind them to a fine powder in a coffee grinder or food processor. Mix the eggshell powder into the soil so that the roots will be able to absorb the extra calcium.
How to Pick the Right Indoor Countertop Compost Bin
Not all countertop compost bins are created equally! In order to keep a pest free and smell free kitchen, look for the following attributes in a countertop compost bin:
- Refillable charcoal filters in the lid
- A removable inner liner that can easily be cleaned
I see terribly made countertop compost bins at discount stores all the time. These bins usually don’t have charcoal filters or a removable liner. You’re left with a regular bucket! You’d be better off repurposing old yogurt containers than buying a poorly made countertop bin.