How to Compost in an Apartment

Wondering how to compost in an apartment? Or if it’s even possible? It is possible, and it’s easier than you might think.

There is a lot of information out there about how to compost in an apartment. One thing that seems to be missing in much of that information is whether or not it’s worth it to compost if you don’t have an outdoor garden. It does, after all, take a bit more work than just tossing your banana peels and peach pits in the garbage. 

I have a house in the mountains of Vermont, where everyone is legally required to compost. We also have bears who jump the fence if you leave so much as a chip on the picnic table, so I like to think that composting with an apartment, preferably high above the wild animals, is a little less stressful, but I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.

If you’re in an apartment, you will need to figure out what to do with your compost. If you have a big garden and a large outdoor compost pile, that’s easy enough, but for most apartment dwellers, it’s more likely that we’re talking about small gardens or container gardens. And you can only use so much compost (hopefully you’re single or eat a lot of processed food — just kidding!)

Oh, and that elephant in the room–how the heck is a pile of food waste going to smell sitting under the sink in your kitchen? Let’s talk about how to compost in an apartment, why it’s a good idea, and some different approaches you can take beyond the ‘ol kitchen slop bowl my grandmother used to keep.

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Why to compost in an apartment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the U.S. generates over 100 million tons of food waste each year. Roughly a quarter of that, 24.5 million tons, comes from the residential sector. Food makes up 22% of our municipal waste; that’s more than “any other single material in our everyday trash.” The average of 340 pounds per year that each household produces feels pretty minimal compared to tens of millions of tons. Still, when you compost, that waste turns into valuable nutrition for more vegetables and fruits. If you throw it away, chances are that it will just turn into methane. 

Aside from the environment, however, is the simple fact that compost is one of the best things you can use to improve your soil health. So whether you use compost to make your Spider plant happy or help your patio tomatoes grow, there are direct benefits of composting. 

How to compost in an apartment

So that’s the why. Now let’s talk about how to compost in an apartment. The easiest way is to get a composting subscription. For example, Harvest Cycle, in Providence, RI, will bring you a five-gallon bucket, and come to your apartment each week (via bicycle!) and pick up your compost. Food Cycle KC, in Kansas City, KS, does something very similar. You can find an extensive list of these subscription services at Compost Now. And if you don’t see your city, check Google; there are a lot more services out there than you might believe. 

Worm composting, or vermicomposting, is a popular option, too. You can buy complete “kits” with a container and worms from many local garden supply stores. Vermicomposting produces exceptional compost, and the worms speed up the overall composting process. If you go this route, most professionals suggest using redworms, as they eat a lot, and they don’t burrow extensively, so you can move them around. Speaking of which, you don’t need to worry about them escaping, either. Aside from the fact that your bin is mostly sealed, they won’t want to go anywhere if they’ve got a plentiful supply of food. Why give up a good thing?

If you don’t like the idea of having worms in your cupboard, you can also try a compost tumbler if you have a little bit of outdoor space. The smallest of these I’ve seen is around 18 gallons, so they aren’t tiny, but they are pretty worry-free. Just add in your compostable items and give it a spin once a day to keep it aerated. The black plastic construction (and yes, most of them are plastic) heats up quickly, helping the waste decompose. 

Most farmer’s markets offer composting services, as well. You can either keep your compost in a container or freeze it, then take it to the market. 

Now about that smell issue, because when you’re talking about how to compost in an apartment, that is a concern… A sealed bucket will keep most odors in. You can find a number of countertop compost pails on sites like Amazon that come with charcoal filters for the smell, and you can buy biodegradable bags for them if you’re having it picked up.

When you get the compost mix right, it has a very earthy smell. That mix is a blend of food waste (or green) and other “brown” materials like newspaper and egg cartons. You can read more about the composting process here.

If you really want to compost, and just weren’t sure how to compost in an apartment, these options can get you started. It’s not at all difficult, and honestly, it feels good!

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!

Do you compost in your apartment? Which method do you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

By Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur is Senior Editor & Producer for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. She is responsible for generating all daily content and managing distribution across web, email, and social. In her producer role, she plans, edits, and deploys all video content for guides, magazine issues, and daily tips. As a best-selling cookbook author, Amanda cooks using ingredients from her outdoor gardens in the summer and from her indoor hydroponic garden in the winter.

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