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Living in an apartment shouldn’t limit your ability to contribute to the planet’s well-being.
Composting is the process of turning organic waste into nutrient-rich soil. It is a fantastic way to reduce waste and nourish the earth.
You might think that composting requires a backyard or garden, but fear not! In this guide, we will explore six creative ways to compost in an apartment. Get ready to embrace sustainability, minimize your carbon footprint, and turn your kitchen scraps into valuable resources.
Mother Nature has been composting for thousands of years, and now you can too. 😉
Let’s dive in!
What is Composting?
Compost is decayed organic matter. When you mix a bunch of these items together in a compost pile, they will naturally break down into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that is great for gardens.
Basically, the decomposition process happens because of microbes. These microbes need to be able to breathe to live and function and therefore be able to decompose the compost.
For them to breathe, you usually have to turn/mix up your compost so that the microbes can get the nutrients and oxygen they need to survive and decompose the compost. (You don’t have to in vermicompost, which we will discuss.)
Another good thing to keep in mind while composting is the hotter the compost pile, the better. It will make the decomposition process much faster.
Compost is used in gardens, landscaping, organic farming, and much more! It’s usually used as a soil conditioner, fertilizer, and as natural pesticide for soil.
Why Should You Compost?
After researching a ton on composting, I realized how important it is and that we should all be doing it if we can.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food is the most significant ingredient in American trash. Currently, more than 35% of the average garbage can is filled with kitchen scraps—scraps that could be diverted from the landfill altogether.
You might think, “Oh, well, since food is compostable, then it will surely compost in a landfill.” That’s what I used to think too, but that actually isn’t the case.
Food can’t compost in a landfill because there isn’t enough oxygen circulating in the landfills, which is crucial for composting.
The reason why this is so bad is because organic waste releases methane gas, a harmful greenhouse gas that is up to 35 times as strong as carbon dioxide in increasing the rate of global climate change.
Methane isn’t released during composting, which is why it’s such a great alternative.
Here are some more facts I’m gonna throw your way:
- 95% of food scraps are thrown away. (source)
- 15.1% of ALL methane emissions in the US come from landfills. (source) (According to a Yale University study, this number may be even higher.)
- If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions behind China and the U.S. (source)
- Landfills are the United States’ third-largest source of methane emissions. (source)
So, if you want to make a serious impact and reduce 50% of your household waste with just ONE swap, start composting!
What can be Composted?
You can compost almost any organic matter. Organic matter can range from a twig or even a banana peel. Basically, anything that comes from the ground can be composted, including grains (because they sprout from the soil).
Make sure to cut food scraps and other oversized or hard-to-compost items into small pieces. This way, it will break down easier (the smaller, the better).
Don’t compost meat and dairy; they are harder to decompose and could stink up the bin!
You also need a mix of nitrogen and carbon in your compost. If your compost is lacking nitrogen, it will stop breaking down. If there isn’t enough carbon, the pile will begin to have a foul odor and become slimy and sticky. It’s recommended to keep a C:N ratio of 25-30 parts carbon for every 1 part nitrogen by weight (30:1).
What you CAN compost:
- Fruit & veggie peels
- Coffee grounds
- Fresh leaves
- Broccoli stalks
- Corn cobs
- Cooked plain rice
- Cooked plain pasta
- Grass clippings
- Stale bread
- apple core
- avocado pit
- Shredded newspaper
- Pine needles or straw
- Paper bags (shredded or torn)
- Pizza boxes (torn into small pieces)
- Paper egg cartons (torn into small pieces)
- used paper coffee filters
- Cereal boxes (torn)
What you can NOT compost:
- Colored paper
- Diseased plants
- Aluminum foil
- Pet droppings (cat & dog)
- Ashes from coal or charcoal
Different Ways to Compost
There are many different ways to compost. I’ve listed just a few of them, so feel free to do whichever one you are comfortable with, and that suits you & your busy life! 🙂
Option #1 Drop-off Services
This is what I do and recommend if you’re not comfortable having a compost bin in your apartment or if you don’t have the time and/or resources to make your own. It’s also free!
This is really simple. First, check to see if there is a composting site near you. I used to drop my scraps off at Whole Foods (before I switched to a pick-up service) because that’s closer to me than a compost drop-off, so if you have one near you, check to see if they accept composts! ShareWaste is another excellent resource for finding compost in your community.
Then all you have to do is start collecting your scraps, and put them in the freezer. When you’re ready, put them in your compostable bag, and send them off to the compost! Make sure to check what scraps the compost service accepts; it’s different everywhere.
I recommend reusing old Tupperware or, for example, saved yogurt containers as a low-waste way to store your scraps in the freezer before taking them to the compost drop-off. If you don’t have that, you can always buy a compost bin.
When you’re ready to take your scraps to the drop-off, you can either bring them in a bin or put them in a compostable bag. The process may be different for every service, so if you are bringing them in a bag, I recommend a compostable one (they may even be able to take the bag).
Option #2 Compost Pick-up
This is also a really great option if you don’t want to get your hands dirty. It does cost some money, about $15-$35 a month or more, depending on the service and your area.
Compost Now is just one excellent service you can check out, which I currently use. I absolutely love it, and it’s so simple and requires no work from you besides putting the scraps in a bin.
I suggest doing some research to make sure you’re okay with where your food scraps are going. The services should be transparent about how they compost the scraps and what they do with the finished compost.
If you can afford it, composting services are excellent if you’d rather not put the time or effort into making your own compost. It’s also a great way to support sustainable businesses!
Option #3 Vermicompost
This method includes worms, and I understand it’s not for everyone, so feel free to skip ahead if this isn’t your thing.
Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, is a compact and odorless method that allows you to compost kitchen waste right in your apartment. These worms feed on organic waste, breaking it down into nutrient-rich castings. Place the bin in a cool, dark corner of your apartment and follow simple maintenance guidelines to ensure a thriving worm population and a continuous supply of nutrient-dense compost.
Worm composters are great because they don’t require any turning, which is the main work in composting. The worms actually do this for you! So all you mainly have to do is give them compost to eat and provide the right conditions for them to thrive.
If you’re interested in vermicomposting, you can learn more here.
Option #4 Compost Tumblers
This is an excellent option if you have a large balcony. Compost tumblers are bigger than worm composters and are fully sealed to preserve the heat generated by your compost, which makes the decomposition process faster.
They are made with a handle to turn the compost, to aerate and mix the contents, and may even process waste in as little as 13 days, depending on the tumbler.
Another plus is that the tumblers are sealed and therefore avoid pest problems, are odorless, and are a much more attractive option for your apartment.
The main downside is that they are usually pretty pricy, ranging from $100 (usually the less attractive option) all the way to $1000 (usually the huge one). You can find some here.
Luckily, you have many other options that I’m going over in this post, so don’t worry if this isn’t ideal for you. It’s not for most of us, trust.
Option #5 Bokashi Bin
Bokashi composting is an anaerobic fermentation process that uses a specific type of composting mix called Bokashi bran. Collect your kitchen waste, including fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and even small amounts of meat and dairy, and layer it in a Bokashi bucket.
Sprinkle Bokashi bran on each layer to accelerate the fermentation process and minimize odors. Once the bucket is full, seal it and let the waste ferment for a few weeks. The result is a pre-compost that can be buried in the ground or added to an outdoor compost bin to complete the decomposition process.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can read about them here.
option #6 Electric Composters
And just so you have all the options, electric composters are also one. This is also an interesting one and not one that I’m too familiar with. There are three phases in this method: drying, grinding, and cooling. The phases help break down the food waste quickly using aeration and heat.
This technically isn’t a composter and more of a “food recycler” because the end result is completely dry and sterile, much different from regular compost. It can not be used as topsoil but instead as an odorless fertilizer.
You can read more about what they are and how to use them here.
Composting in an apartment is a rewarding and impactful way to reduce waste and contribute to a more sustainable future. Regardless of the size of your living space, there are multiple creative options available to help you compost effectively. Whether it’s setting up a worm bin, utilizing Bokashi composting, or exploring community composting initiatives, each method offers a unique solution for apartment dwellers like yourself.
Remember, composting not only diverts organic waste from landfills but also creates nutrient-rich soil that can be used to nourish plants, gardens, and even indoor potted plants.
By composting in your apartment, you’re closing the loop of the natural cycle, turning food scraps and other organic materials into valuable resources.
Happy composting! 🌱