Did you know that each day in America the average person wastes one pound of food? This may not seem like a lot, but it adds up very quickly. It’s estimated that America wastes over 100 billion pounds of food every year.
Kitchen waste that goes to a landfill will go through a process called anaerobic decomposition, which means that as the waste is broken down, it gives off methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change.
So what can we do about it?
Composting, an agricultural technique that has been around for thousands of years, is our answer.
Composting not only reduces your carbon footprint by controlling what food and kitchen waste end up in a landfill, but it also can provide you with organic fertilizer and nutrient-rich soil.
When we think of composting, we usually picture a large outdoor pile or bin with worms and other organisms, but it is just as easy to do apartment composting without a worm bin by using an indoor compost bin or tumbler.
How to Compost in an Apartment
Traditional composting, or vermicomposting, uses worms and other organisms to decompose waste. While this is great for the soil and environment, it’s not very convenient to do in a small living space.
Today, there are several kinds of composting containers available on the market that make composting indoors worm-free and odor-free. Examples include the Bokashi Composter, electronic compost bins, compost tumblers, or a DIY plastic bin.
What Can and Can’t be Composted Indoors?
With indoor composting, you need to be mindful of odor and pests, especially if you have neighbors.
Some organic waste is more prone to causing issues than others, so here are some lists of kitchen scraps that can and can’t be used for your indoor bins.
Organic material that can be composted in your compost pail includes:
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Teas and tea bags
- Green waste (leaves, grass, etc.)
- Crushed eggshells
- Most fruit and vegetable remnants
- Hair and fur
- Ashes from burnt, untreated wood
- Shredded newspaper and cardboard
Balancing your green waste (fruits and vegetables, plant matter, grass, etc.) with your brown waste (dried leaves, ashes, hair, sawdust, etc.) will give you the best outcome.
Waste that cannot be composted includes:
- Bread and grains
- Fats and grease
- Excessive amounts of citrus and onion peel
- Pet waste other than fur
- Coal or charcoal ash
Meats and fatty foods are prone to causing odor issues and attracting pests.
Citrus fruit and onion peel can make your compost way too acidic to use.
Pet waste like feces or litter can contain parasites that will live in your compost and can be spread to your plants and potentially to you or other pets.
Ways to Compost in Your Apartment Without Worms
There are a variety of ways to achieve apartment composting without worm composting. Here are a few that were previously mentioned.
Bokashi composting is a relatively new method of composting that is virtually odorless. Bokashi translates to “fermented organic matter” and is very different from other traditional composting methods.
The Bokashi bin uses microbes in place of worm compost to anaerobically ferment waste, creating a nutrient-rich compost tea in just a short period.
The Bokashi method is as follows:
- Coat your kitchen scraps and other waste with Bokashi bran.
- Place the coated waste into your container, and cover it with more bran.
- Push down on the mixture to get rid of any air bubbles.
- Repeat this process until your container is full.
- Once the container is full, seal it. Be careful to have as little air as possible in the container.
- Let the mixture steep for around two weeks, draining the liquid that has collected at the bottom every couple of days. You can use this liquid just as you would any other compost or worm tea; just be sure to dilute it with water because it will be fairly acidic.
Once this method is complete, you will be left with your fermented compost scraps.
These scraps will be unusable in your community garden right away because of their acidity, so they will need to sit buried in soil for up to four weeks to completely decompose.
To do this in your apartment, you will need a larger composting bin than the one you used for Bokashi. Cover the bottom of that container with a few inches of soil, then add the Bokashi scraps on top and cover with an additional few inches of soil.
A good starter kit for beginners is the Bokashi Composting Starter Kit. This kit provides you with everything you will need to start a Bokashi compost bin in your apartment.
The buckets provided in the kit are made from recycled plastic and feature airtight lids for ideal fermentation. It spouts at the bottom for easy access to draining the tea every couple of days.
- Odorless composting, even for meat and dairy products
- Fast turnaround time of just two weeks
- Provides an easy-to-access compost tea for fertilizing your plants
- Small and can be conveniently placed anywhere in an apartment
- Can fill up quickly, so you may need to purchase multiple kits
Electronic Compost Bins
Electronic compost bins, also known as food cyclers, are great for quickly producing small amounts of compost.
These bins dehydrate food waste, cutting down the waste’s volume by over 90% in just 4 to 8 hours.
All that you need to do to use them is fill up the container with your food scraps and leave it alone to run its cycle. Once the cycle is complete, you can take the composted material and immediately use it as fertilizer or mulch.
The Vitamix 068051 Food Cycler FC-50 is the top-rated electric compost bin on the market right now.
The Vitamix FC-50 is fairly compact with just a 2-liter capacity, and it is also energy efficient and quiet, which makes it perfect for someone living in an apartment.
- Compact, efficient, and odorless
- Works very quickly, providing compost almost instantly
- Perfect for someone living in a small space
- It is small, so larger households could need to run it multiple times a day
- Fairly expensive
Compost tumblers combine traditional composting methods with apartment-friendly size.
They usually have a capacity of fewer than 50 gallons, so they’re generally more appropriate for someone who has a balcony or outdoor space.
Compost tumblers are easy to use. All you need to do is fill the chambers with your compost material and turn the bin a few times to mix the compost every 3 or so days until you have finished compost.
An excellent compost tumbler is the IM400 Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter. This compost tumbler has a 37-gallon capacity and two chambers, so you can have more than one compost “pile” at the same time.
- Easy to use, making it great for beginners
- Larger capacity, so you can produce a higher volume of compost
- Great for people who are looking for a more traditional composting experience
- Composting tumblers are fairly large and require outdoor space, which may not be an option for all people living in apartments.
DIY Plastic Container Compost Bin
Making your own compost bin from a plastic tote container is a great option for people not looking to break the bank.
All you need to make a compost bin is:
- A large plastic tote
- A drill
- Wire mesh
- Your kitchen waste
To start, you should drill holes 1 to 2 inches apart all around the tote, including the lid and bottom. This way, the waste can aerate to turn into compost. You can get a second tote of the exact same size to place the compost bin inside of if you are worried about any leakage.
After you’ve drilled your holes, you can line your tote with wire mesh to prevent any pests from making their way inside.
Place your DIY compost bin in a location that will be convenient for you, like outside a window or on your balcony.
All that’s left is for you to fill your bin with compost and maintain it. Shaking your bin every few days will help aerate your compost.
You can do this same process on a smaller level using 5-gallon buckets in place of plastic totes.
You may have quite a few questions about apartment composting without worms. Below are some of the most common questions regarding the topic.
Do You Have to Have Worms for Compost?
Although traditional compost piles are maintained with the help of red worms, you do not need a worm farm, a worm factory, or worm castings to have a rich compost pile.
Apartment composting without a worm composter is actually very common. In a worm composter, the worms help aerate and maintain nitrogen levels in your compost, but you can do this on your own without them.
Methods like Bokashi use microbes in place of worms to ferment your scraps into a nutrient-rich tea instead of a compost pile.
How Do You Compost on an Apartment Balcony?
If you have a balcony readily accessible to you, you can easily create your composting station there.
Compost tumblers and anaerobic compost containers actually benefit from being outside in the heat, unlike traditional vermicomposting containers.
Simply placing your tumbler or container on your balcony to compost in the heat and sun will help increase the productivity and speed at which the composting process is done.
Once the compost is full, you will need to leave it to decompose, which the heat from being on the balcony will also help with.
Can Cooked Rice Go in Compost?
Rice is tricky when it comes to composting, especially when you’re composting indoors.
Uncooked rice can usually be added in small amounts to a compost bin with little to no problem. The main issue with adding uncooked rice is the risk of attracting rodents and insects.
With cooked rice, on the other hand, it is best to avoid putting it in your compost bin. Not only does the rice attract potential pests, but cooked rice also has been proven to be a breeding ground for hazardous bacteria.
Cooked rice also tends to clump together, which can create air pockets in your compost pile, making it smell bad. This is especially bad for composting indoors.
In short, it’s best to avoid composting cooked rice if possible.
How Long Does it Take Compost to be Ready?
This is actually entirely dependent on what process you decide to use to compost.
Traditional vermicomposting can take upwards of four months to be ready to use. Indoor composting methods, however, have proven to be much more efficient.
Bokashi composting can give you compost tea within just a few days, but the full decomposition of the scraps can take up to four weeks.
Using an indoor composter like a food recycler can give you garden-ready compost in just a matter of hours.
If you decide to use a compost tumbler, your compost can be ready in as soon as three weeks from when you first add your scraps and other waste.
Using a plastic compost container more closely mimics traditional composting time-wise, but under the right conditions, the compost can be ready to use in as soon as two months.
Apartment composting without worms is an incredible practice that more and more people are doing every day. What once took a large amount of outdoor space to do is now able to be done inside our apartments.
There are several indoor composting methods available on the market, but it’s up to you now to make your informed decision on which method will work best for you.