Urban Composting

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If you live in an apartment or other highly urban setting, chances are composting might seem tricky or impossible. Lack of outdoor space may prevent you from being able to have a compost pile, and composting indoors might not seem like the most intuitive process. Fear not! It’s indeed totally feasible to save those scraps from the landfill by composting indoors, even in a small setting. Outlined below are two ways to have an indoor compost without odor or mess:

Counter-top (or under sink) Composting

Counter-top composting can be done by putting leftover kitchen scraps, newspaper, coffee grounds, and other organic material in a container that lives on the counter or under the sink. On average, whatever you put in should break down in about 45 days. Keep in mind, with this method, you shouldn’t add things like dairy, meat, or cooked food. The compost doesn’t get hot enough to fully break them down. For more information on what to add to your compost and how to manage it, check out Apartment Composting Tips.

For this method the container you pick is crucial. You’ll want a container that’s not too big (think about how much kitchen scraps you will actually accumulate – it’s usually not that much) to keep things manageable. Also, as composting’s an aerobic process (meaning it requires air), the container needs to be ventilated. And finally, to minimize odors, a carbon filter is quite nice for indoor composting systems. Not to discourage DIY’ers in any way, but for these reasons, buying a container designed for composting may be a better way to go versus just using an old container of some sort. Check out some of the kitchen composters available through Amazon – many of these look like great options, and start at about $20.

Bokashi Composting

Alternatively, there’s the Japanese method of anaerobic (air-free) composting that requires an air-tight container and a starter culture of Effective Micro-organisms (EM), and wheat bran. Using this method, you can add almost anything to your compost, including dairy, meat, bones, avocado peels, and other notoriously hard-to-break-down stuff. The reason for this: the EM/bran mixture jump starts the anaerobic fermentation process, which is quicker and heartier than aerobic decomposition. Learn more about this from Bokashi Composting.

Bokashi composting has many advantages. When done properly it’s odorless, quick, and tidy, making it ideal for an indoor environment. Not to mention, you can really reduce the quantity of outgoing garbage you have since you can put practically anything from your kitchen into the system.

Things to consider with this method, though, include that you pretty much have to buy a specially designed “system” (also available on Amazon) in order to do it since the container needs to be air-tight, and drainable. You’ll also need to purchase the EM/bran mixture on a regular basis, or otherwise find out how to make it yourself, because you have to add it in continuously to keep things breaking down.

Ultimately, whichever method you choose (and these aren’t the only ones!) will have you on your way to reducing waste and improving soils. So go forth and compost!

(image: That Bloomin’ Garden)

Written by jmalsky

December 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm

5 Responses

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  1. in bokashi composting, what do you do with the pickled compost if you live in an apartment?


    December 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    • Hi Jessica,

      Great question – if you don’t have a garden or other means of using the compost for your own growing purposes, you can probably donate it to a local garden project that would be very happy to have it. You could try calling a local nursery and see if they know of a community garden in need of compost. Compost is usually in high demand in the gardening scene so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a good home for it!


      Jessica Malsky
      in.gredients team


      December 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm

  2. I completely agree with your advantages of Boakshi composting. A Bokashi bin doesn’t take up much space, the process is so quick and doesn’t even smell like a normal indoor compost bin would! For me, it’s definitely the best way to compost indoors, and significantly cuts down on the waste sent to landfill. Nice article – thanks!


    December 10, 2011 at 4:19 am

  3. I live in an apartment (well, small condo), and if you have a patio I highly recommend vermicomposting. That’s where you use worms to help break down the scraps faster. This was the only method that worked for me, and it didn’t require doing a lot of balancing of brown/green matter like with my rotating (also hand-built) composter that didn’t use worms.

    You can order worms very cheaply online, or sometimes find a local person willing to donate some (they multiply!) You do have to add “bedding” every so often (I used shredded damp newspaper) but the results were worth it. The “tea” that was coming out of the bottom of my composter was actually spilling over into a vine that had been languishing, and the growth just exploded!

    Plus, yes, your trash volume goes down. A LOT.


    December 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm

  4. […] cut down on household waste that your garden (if you have one) will thank you for! See our posts on urban composting and composting in Austin for some helpful tips to get you […]

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