Living in an apartment is pretty cool. But if you want to be more eco-conscious, it can throw up a few curveballs. Such as, how on earth do you compost your food waste without it stinking?
Let’s find out in this article, as we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know in order to compost in your apartment.
Let’s start with why you should be composting…
Why should I compost in an apartment?
When I was a lot younger, I had an uncle who composted. But he had a farm and animals who helped to produce manure that he could add to his compost. He had it so easy!
If you live in an apartment, you probably don’t have a farm. So what are the benefits of composting?
There are a few good reasons actually. For one thing, you can feed your house plants with compost. You can also use it for your patio containers. But perhaps even better, composting helps you minimize your food waste.
And as we all surely know, food waste is a massive problem in the U.S., with Americans getting rid of almost 40,000,000 tons of food each year. Indeed, America is the main offender when it comes to food waste.
What should I compost?
Fruit and veggie scraps are compostable, as are non-greasy food leftovers, such as cereal and bread. You can compost coffee grounds and tea, too, as well as egg shells. You can find an exhaustive guide here: 50 Things You Can Compost.
On the flip side, greasy food isn’t really compostable, and neither are weeds or diseased plants. Printed paper, meanwhile, should always be recycled.
If you’re looking to ‘do your bit,’ here’s what you can do as an apartment dweller:
Store compost in the freezer
The main benefit of storing compost in your freezer is that it doesn’t break down - and doesn’t stink. It doesn’t stink precisely because it doesn’t break down. Win.
All you need to do is stick your food waste into a recycled bag and dump it in the freezer until you’re ready to drop it off.
Buy some worms and make a worm bin
As well as having an uncle who owned a farm (he was called Donald, no kidding), I also had an uncle who, a few years ago, tried to compost in his backyard. Unfortunately, he lacked the enthusiasm to keep it going, but he got as far as buying a whole load of worms and creating this HUGE worm bin.
And worms really work here because they pretty much tend to your compost by themselves. How? Well, they eat your food waste and product organic matter at the same time.
Unlike my uncle, you can create and maintain an indoor worm bin. In fact, this is a really good idea because it means the worms won’t get too cold in the autumn and winter seasons, or too hot in the spring and summer seasons. They’ll be at just the right temperature to do their thing.
How to create your own DIY indoor worm bin? It’s pretty easy. All you need is a plastic tote with a few holes drilled in it at both the top and the bottom. Then, just fill about a third of it up with moistened newspaper (make sure to shred the newspaper first).
You can also buy a read-made worm composter online. If your apartment has a balcony, you can stick yours outside if you wish. Otherwise, you can just keep it indoors (and you really should keep it indoors during the winter). Also, don’t put your worm bin in the freezer because the worms will definitely freeze to death.
Another benefit of using a worm bin is that you can keep adding kitchen scraps to your compost, which means you’re using even more waste.
Use a private collection service
Okay, let’s say you’ve got an apartment but you don’t have a balcony, and neither do you feel like keeping worms in your apartment. And maybe you haven’t got much space in your freezer either.
That’s totally cool - you can use a private collection service instead.
“Will, you mean to tell me there’s such a thing as a private collection service for compost?”
Yup. These are basically community-driven initiatives, which means not all communities will have one. But if yours does, you should totally check it out because such a service is convenient, and it means you won’t personally have to work on system maintenance yourself, and neither will you have to get involved with all the cleaning that composting requires.
That said, a private collection service isn’t cheap. For example, Boston’s Bootstrap Composting service costs around $500 per year ($10 a week).
Whilst you’re waiting for your scraps to be picked up, you can keep them in a stainless steel pail. Just dump your scraps in here and keep the lid shut tight, as that will a) keep out insects and b) prevent your apartment from smelling.
Bring it to a local farm
Make sure to check in with your local farms as well as botanical gardens as well: they often accept compost from the community.
As well as composting, there are other things you can do with your veggie scraps. For example, you can stick some veggie scraps in with your “composting” bag in the freezer, and stick others in a separate bag that you also stick in the freezer.
Then, at a later date you can make your own veggie scrap broth or stock.
Don’t forget to check out our piece on zero-waste cooking for more tips and recipes!
If you liked this article, make sure to check out How to Upcycle Food Waste During the Holiday Season and Meal Prep 101: How to Create Your Own Meal Plan