How to Compost in an Apartment – A Beginner’s Guide

Whether you’re looking to lead a life that helps sustain the environment or looking to produce as close to zero waste as possible, composting is a tremendous tool that you can use to your advantage. 

When we think of composting, we tend to think of big outdoor compost piles or containers, but what if I told you that you could just as easily compost while living in a small apartment? 

Apartment composting isn’t just doable; it’s easy! In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to compost in an apartment.

Benefits of Composting in an Apartment

It’s estimated that each American throws away nearly 1,200 pounds of organic waste annually. That’s a half-ton of waste that could’ve been composted and put back into the earth. 

The main benefits of composting are as follows: 

  1. Composting reduces your waste and carbon footprint: when you compost, instead of throwing your food waste in the garbage, you redirect your share of organic waste production, lowering your carbon footprint.
  1. Composting reduces methane production: when organic waste ends up in a landfill, it produces a greenhouse gas called methane. When methane ends up in the atmosphere, it contributes to climate change. Composting helps prevent this from happening. 
  1. Compost is fantastic for plant growth: instead of food scraps ending up in the garbage, food scraps are used to create a nutrient-rich soil blend that plants thrive in. 


What’s the Best Compost Method For You?

There is no specific way you should compost. You can choose from a variety of methods after evaluating which method will benefit you the most. 

Some factors to consider before choosing a composting method are: 

  • How much space do you have available
  • How much time you can spend on composting
  • How much money you can spend on composting
  • How you feel about worms

After considering these factors, it will be much easier to choose which compost method will work best for you. Below is a table summarizing the ways we’re going to cover to help you make that decision.

Duration

Methodology

Cost

Vermicomposting

Up to 6 months

Organic waste goes into a compost bin containing worms that turn the food waste into soil

As low as $30

Bokashi

Anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks

Organic waste goes into a bokashi bin, where bacteria quickly turns the waste into compost tea and nutrient-rich soil over time

$50-$60

Electric Composting

5 to 48 hours

Organic waste goes into an electric food recycler that turns the waste into solid compost overnight

$200-$400

Community Composting

N/A

Organic waste is given to farmers, friends, or neighbors to use in their compost piles

$0

The above table should give you a good idea of which composting method would work best for you and your lifestyle. 


How To Start Composting in an Apartment

Now that we’ve covered the benefits and how to decide what composting method works best for you, we’ll go over each type of composting in more detail.


1. Vermicomposting

Simply put, vermicomposting is a fancy way of saying worm composting. 

Vermicomposting draws very little attention to itself, making it perfect for apartment life. It doesn’t take up much space, makes no sound, and produces little to no odor. 

Vermicomposting is an aerobic composting method that uses worms, green matter, brown matter, and organic waste to create a dense, nutrient-rich soil that you can either add to your plants or use on its own.

In vermicomposting, worms convert your food scraps into organic worm castings or vermicast. This vermicast worm bin is an extraordinary fertilizer for your plants or garden. 

Vermicast has been shown to contain lower levels of contaminants while also containing higher levels of nutrients than the organic matter itself, proving how high the fertilizer’s quality is. 

how to compost at apartment

Compost Recipe

Vermicomposting is simple. Before starting, you should find the place in your apartment that will be the most convenient for a compost bin. 

Once you’ve found a good spot, gather your materials. The materials you will need to create a vermicomposting bin are: 

  • A worm bin or 20-gallon container
  • A drill or utensil to make holes in the container
  • Something to set your compost bin on (bricks, woodblocks, etc.)
  • Plastic to go under the bin (optional) 
  • Newspaper or cardboard
  • A spray bottle filled with water
  • Food scraps
  • Green and brown material
  • Worms


How-To

Once you’ve found a good place for your worm composter and gathered your materials, you’re ready to start vermicomposting.

The first step in vermicomposting is prepping your bin (skip this step if you’re using a worm bin with pre-drilled holes). To begin, use a drill or utensil to create around 20 holes of ½ inch each in the lid, bottom, and sides of a container.

From there, prop your compost bin up on some kind of block so that the bottom is not touching the ground. You can lay plastic underneath the container if you like.

Then, place cardboard or newspaper in the bottom of your bin to create bedding and spray it with water. After the bedding is damp, put a small amount of soil, food scraps, and brown and green materials into the bin.

You should let this mixture of bedding, organic matter, and soil sit for at least five days before adding your worms to allow the material to soften some. 

After about a week, add your worms to the mixture. After adding your worms, you can continue to add food scraps and other organic material as needed. The worms will turn the material into vermicast in 2-6 months.


Pros

  • Affordable
  • It doesn’t take up much space
  • Produces little to no odor

Cons

  • It takes longer than some other composting methods
  • Not everyone is okay with using worms


Recommended readingThe Ultimate Guide to Vermicomposting


2. Bokashi Composting

Bokashi is a Japanese term that translates to “fermented organic matter.” The Bokashi composting method produces just that. It is a revolutionary composting method that is perfect for people who live in small spaces, like in apartments. 

Bokashi composting is inconspicuous because it produces virtually no odor, takes up a small amount of space, and creates compost anaerobically without using any bugs. It uses bacteria to decompose and ferment food matter into a compost tea. You can also bury your Bokashi products after two weeks to produce solid compost in addition to the tea.

In the Bokashi method, you take your organic waste, place it into a bucket or container with a spigot at the bottom, cover your food scraps with Bokashi bran, and let the bacteria ferment the compost into a nutrient-rich compost tea.

Bokashi takes little to no time commitment, and once your food waste is in the bucket, all you have to do is wait.


Compost Recipe

Bokashi is quite possibly the easiest composting method available on the market. The first step is to find a spot in your apartment or on your balcony that can hold a 5-gallon bucket. 

Once you’ve found a good spot, you will need to gather the following materials to start the process: 

  • A Bokashi bucket or 5-gallon bucket
  • A spigot attachment (if using a 5-gallon bucket)
  • Organic waste and food scraps
  • Bokashi bran


How-To

Starting the Bokashi process is quick and easy. Start by either purchasing a Bokashi container that comes with a spigot attached or by attaching a spigot to a 5-gallon bucket yourself. 

Once you’ve prepared your container, coat your food scraps in Bokashi bran and add them to the bucket. After adding your bran-coated scraps to the bucket, dust a small amount of the bran onto the top.

You can repeat this process until the bucket is full. Coat your scraps in bran, place them in the bucket, compact the kitchen scraps into the bucket as tightly as possible, then dust bran onto the top. 

Bokashi is an anaerobic process, so there’s no need to aerate or stir the compost. 

After around ten days, the Bokashi method will start to produce a nutrient-rich compost tea that you can drain from the bucket using the spigot. 

Once your bucket gets too full or stops producing tea, you can bury your compost and start the process over again.


Pros

  • Affordable
  • Produces no odor
  • Great for small living spaces
  • No worms

Cons

  • You need a constant supply of Bokashi bran
  • Has a limited capacity compared to other methods


Recommended readingThe Ultimate Guide to Bokashi


3. Electric Composting

Electric composting is the fastest and easiest way to get solid compost. Instead of using traditional composting methods, electric composters use heat and aeration to produce solid compost material quickly.

Electric composting is a strictly indoor composting process since water and weather can damage or destroy the device, so it’s perfect for apartments. 

Electric composters are also known as food recyclers. These composters heat and pulverize food waste to break it down into solid compost. These composters heat food waste at temps of 120-170F, which is hot enough to kill bacteria but not destroy the nutrient content. 

While it may seem counter-productive to use electricity to compost, most electric composters use less than 1-kilowatt hour of electricity, which is the same as operating a computer for the same amount of time. 

Electric composting kills both good and bad bacteria, but it’s perfect for people who prefer dry compost. 


Compost Recipe

Electric composting doesn’t require any particular components to get the job done. All you need to create compost with a food recycler is the food recycler itself and any kitchen scraps or organic waste you have that needs composting.


How-To

Using an electric composter is simple. You should first find a spot that is convenient for you to place your electric composter. 

After you find a good spot with easy access to an outlet, your food recycler is ready to take over.

All you have to do now is place your food scraps and organic waste into the food recycler and turn on the machine. Some food recyclers will go through an entire cycle in as few as 5 hours, while some take closer to 48 hours to complete the process.

Once the electric composter has completed its cycle, the compost product is ready to enrich the soil in your garden or house plants. 


Pros

  • Odorless
  • Produces fast results
  • It takes up very little space

Cons

  • Can only produce small amounts of compost at a time
  • Added electricity usage


Recommended readingThe Ultimate Guide to Electric Composter


4. Community Composting Services

Community composting is a new and innovative way that different municipalities are providing composting services to the public. 

Some districts offer community composting services as a way to provide greener initiatives for their citizens. 

Most community composting takes place either in a community garden or through a private pick-up service that delivers food scraps to local farmers or gardeners. 


How-To

If your city offers community composting, all you need to do is contact your waste company. They will provide you with a special container that will be picked up and disposed of regularly, just like a regular garbage service. 

If your city does not offer community composting, there are three main ways to take advantage of community composting services: private companies, neighborhood gardens, and local farmers and gardeners. 

  1. Private companies: Some places have private community composting companies that will pick up your food waste weekly and distribute it to local composters for a fee.
  1. Neighborhood gardens: More and more neighborhoods are adopting neighborhood gardens. If your community has one of these, you can compost here.
  1. Local farmers and gardeners: You can skip the middleman altogether and deliver your food scraps and organic waste to local farmers and gardeners who can use it for their compost piles or compost tumblers. 


Pros

  • Free
  • Benefits others as well as yourself
  • No prior knowledge or experience needed

Cons

  • You won’t get to keep the compost produced from your food waste.



Tips For Successful Composting in an Apartment

Now that we’ve covered how to compost in an apartment, here are some tips to help you get started on the right foot.

Diversify Your Materials

While composting focuses primarily on giving new life to your food waste, you must add various organic and inorganic materials to your compost to balance it out. 

Providing a good mix of brown materials, like newspaper and cardboard, and green materials, like leaves and grass clippings, in with your food waste will help balance the nutrients in your compost. 

Introduce Life 

Introducing life in the form of worms or bacteria can help your compost production take off. 

Keep It Humid

Keeping your compost as damp as possible without soaking it will help encourage bacteria and organisms to help break down the organic matter into compost. 

Keep It Hot

Composting gives off heat in and of itself, but keeping your compost bin in a warm location will help to create a nutrient-rich compost product.

Keep an Eye on the pH Levels 

Accidentally getting the pH of your compost too basic or too acidic can ruin the entire thing and cause you to need to start over. 

If you notice a strange smell coming from your compost or that your compost has stopped producing, check the pH to ensure it’s not too far off from normal. 


Making Compost a Way of Life

Composting is more than a way to recycle your food scraps; it’s a lifestyle. Engaging in composting lets us see firsthand that our food is more than just sustenance for our bodies; it’s also sustenance for the planet.

Composting provides us with a sense of purpose in giving back to the earth what we take from it. If we treat composting as the standard rather than an innovation, we can change how society disposes of their food waste. 

If everyone were to compost rather than throw their food into the garbage, we could significantly impact the environment and start to take steps towards reversing climate change. 


Ready To Get Started Apartment Composting? 

As you can see from our article, there are composting methods that can suit almost anyone’s needs.

Composting in your apartment is easier now than ever before, with several methods to choose from. 

We encourage you to read over this guide and choose the best composting method for you so that you can get started composting as soon as possible. 

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