Undeniably, composting is one of the best solutions when it comes to dealing with the food waste problem in the world. If you are one of those who wish to contribute to reducing the food waste sent to the landfill, you can try this activity in the comfort of your home.
Composting in an apartment and other limited living spaces is even possible. In most cases, you only need a drill so you can drill holes, a plastic bin, and worms to make this happen. Some even make use of a compost tumbler and make it serve as the worm bin.
Composting Process and Finished Compost Defined
So what does composting mean exactly? Basically, it refers to a process that causes the decomposition of organic matter, like food and kitchen scraps and leaves into the soil. Many do it as a means of recycling scraps from the kitchen while enriching garden soil. You will also find it useful if you are searching for the best place for your yard waste.
Composting is also said to be effective when it comes to boosting water retention and offering protection from erosion. You may look at the entire process as complex, whether it is outdoor or indoor composting, but it is actually a simple, fun, and rewarding activity,
When it comes to composting, you will have to focus on forming an environment that has the right levels of moisture, materials, and temperature for certain insects, fungi, and bacteria to thrive. This can contribute to the rapid breakdown of organic materials, forming them into finished compost, which is the result of composting.
You can actually use different types of waste for your bin. You are allowed to add food scraps of different types, like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, shredded newspaper, egg shells, and houseplant trimmings. You can even compost tea bags.
However, you should be extra careful when adding things with strong scents, like onion scraps and those that come from water-dense melon. Avoid adding meat, fats, and dairy into the mix, too.
In general, the process can produce finished compost, which refers to a mixture of decomposed or decayed organic matter, which is actually rich in nutrients. In most cases, the finished compost in an apartment or any other type of household can be described as a mix of plant materials and food scraps used by gardeners and farmers as natural fertilizers.
Benefits of Composting for Apartment Dwellers
Regardless of where you live, your decision to start composting can provide a lot of benefits, especially as far as caring for and protecting the environment is concerned. One of its environmental benefits is that it can fight and prevent climate change as it can lessen methane and greenhouse gas emissions.
It can also enrich the soil while boosting biodiversity in your garden. Moreover, it can help you save money as it lessens your need to use chemical fertilizers on fertile soil. The process also improves soil drainage, as well as moisture and pH levels, and lessens the amount of waste that comes from your apartment or home.
Composting also offers specific benefits to apartment dwellers. If you do indoor composting, specifically within your apartment, you will enjoy the following:
- Less cost – The reason is that apartment composting is not as expensive as other methods of making compost, like the use of electric composters. It does not also consume a lot of or too much space, making it perfect for those who live in limited spaces like apartments.
- Less worries about the changing weather – This means that you no longer have to worry too much about the ever-changing weather since you will be doing indoor composting. You can protect the bin from the weather and obtain a nutrient-rich apartment compost the entire year that you can even share with community gardens and farmer’s markets, too.
- Convenient and easy to manage – For instance, if you have a bin under your sink, there is no need for you to go so far just so you can properly and efficiently dispose of your food and kitchen scraps.
Types of Composting Methods Suitable for Apartments
An effective method for making more compost that is suitable for apartment dwellers is vermicomposting. This specific technique utilizes worms that eat food scraps or any other organic wastes that you put inside the worm bin. You can store food scraps, and even shredded paper, inside. The worms will then give excreta, which has high nitrate and mineral content.
What’s great about vermicomposting is that it works faster compared to other methods. You also have an assurance that it will not produce a lot of smell, which makes it ideal for apartment composting.
This technique also boasts of its quicker turnover compared to traditional ones. It tends to give results within just two to three months. If properly and correctly managed, there is also a possibility for vermicomposting to produce worm castings with higher micronutrient and macronutrient content.
It is higher compared to the ones produced by traditional garden compost. The best worms to use here are red worms. You have to avoid using earthworms found in your backyard.
- Works fast – You can expect vermicomposting or composting with worms to give you ready-to-use manure within just two to three months.
- Ideal for indoor and outdoor use – It is even possible for you to put an indoor compost bin or worm composter under your kitchen sink. Just ensure that the organic matter is cut into tiny bits, including shredded paper, making it possible for worms to eat the pieces quickly while keeping the entire compost system free of unwanted odors.
- Easy to adopt in both urban and rural homes – With that, you can prevent the need to transport organic and food waste to centralized areas. This further results in savings on fuel and reduced CO2 emissions.
- Quite costly setup cost – You may have to spend a lot when setting up the system or worm composter since it requires you to purchase worms and compost or recycling bins.
Bokashi composting makes use of the fermentation process. It combines layers of compostable material and inoculant mixture with microorganisms and sawdust or bran. It has become popular recently because of its ability to break down kitchen and food scraps quickly, provided you do the process correctly.
For this process to work, you have to keep the mixture in an airtight container. There are also those who use compost tumblers. The bottom of the container should have a spigot, which is ideal for use in draining the liquids derived from the mixture right after it is formed.
You can use the juice or liquid as a natural fertilizer. After ten days, you can remove the mixture from the container and bury it in your garden. The good thing about bokashi is that it lets you compost regularly even those fatty materials that are not often used in typical compost piles.
- Provides an excellent natural and dry fertilizer for the garden – You also have an assurance that the organic matter will be able to retain its nitrogen and nutrient content. It can, therefore, give you a nitrogen-rich compost.
- Easy and simple to set up
- Can produce compost within just four weeks
- Helps in lowering CO2 emissions
- Not ideal for garden waste as there may be some limitations depending on the size of the container or bucket used
In this method, you will be using a worm composting bin, which can give you a closed environment for worms, especially red wigglers, to consume the leftover food and kitchen scraps you put inside and then excrete the waste called castings.
The good thing about worm castings is that they are guaranteed to be nutrient-rich, which is the reason why it makes a perfect organic or natural fertilizer for plant growth. You can use a plastic container that has a lid for your worm bin.
It could also be made from something that is a bit complex, like a multi-layer bin that has several features and compartments. If you want to save money, you can choose to build your own bin. However, there are also those who say that it would be better to buy a pre-made bin.
The reason is that it can eliminate the guesswork, which can prevent having a bin with a poor fit. Note that an ill-fitted or poorly fitted bin should be avoided as it only has limited room or space, making it hard for air to get in. There will not also be sufficient room or space for air to flow.
You can prevent that with a pre-made bin. A lot of pre-made composting bins also have several optional yet useful features, among which are spigots and stackable trays, that are not that easy to design and create on your own.
- Produces a nutrient-rich compost
- Can provide a natural or organic fertilizer for gardens
- Some pre-made bins come with a lot of useful and valuable features plus they have a nice fit.
- The compost bins are not that easy to make on your own, so it may be necessary to buy a pre-made one.
How to Compost in an Apartment?
Now, let’s tackle the different steps involved in setting up a composting system in your apartment.
Choose the right compost bin and method for your space and lifestyle
Study the different methods of making compost, especially the ones mentioned earlier, as well as those that use compost tumblers and electronic composting. Learn about their individual pros and cons, so you can better decide which one will work for you. Pick the most appropriate bin or worm composter depending on your needs, too.
In this case, you have to consider several factors – among which are your budget and the particular size of bin or worm composters that you need. As far as the size is concerned, pick an indoor bin, which is capable of containing two times the volume of your preferred finished compost.
Monitor how much organic waste gets thrown away by your household for around one week, so you can also find out the perfect bin size that meets your needs specifically. If you choose to do vermicomposting, pick a bin or any worm composters with open spaces or some drainage holes, giving the worms inside sufficient oxygen.
However, if you plan to vermicompost indoors and are in search of something, which is a bit smaller, an old storage container free of plastic will already work. You just have to utilize a sharp tool or power drill as a means of poking tiny holes in the container. After that, use a compostable trash bag to line the bin.
If you prefer bokashi, you can always find bokashi bins or worm composters that are quick and easy to use. The majority of these bins feature not only an airtight lid but also a strainer plate at the bottom, thereby eliminating worries about possible mess.
Find out which the methods and sizes of compost bins will specifically meet your needs, the space you have in your apartment, and your lifestyle.
Assemble and prepare the system
After choosing your preferred composting method and compost bin, it is time to try setting the system up. The first thing to do is to find the right place for it, especially if you are using an electronic composter. If the smell bothers you, you may want to compost outdoors – for example, on the balcony.
Note, though, that the extreme cold and heat outdoors may affect the whole composting process, so be extra cautious when setting it up in an outdoor space. If you decide to keep the bin indoors, make sure that it is in a room-temperature space.
There should be adequate protection from the wind. In addition, it should have proper drainage and should be placed in a sunny area. The best spot is under your kitchen sink. Make sure to lift the bin a bit, thereby preventing moisture and water from pooling or accumulating.
The goal here is to retain the moisture of the compost pile but ensure that it does not get too wet. After finding the right spot for the bin, you can begin the composting process by adding the brown waste first then the green waste. It would be best to put the brown waste last in the layers to ensure that there will be no unpleasant and foul smell.
If you have a vermicomposting bin, it is advisable to put bedding composed of dry materials first. This bedding is for the worms. Once it is set up, you can put the worms on top of the bedding with the dry compost material. After that, put layers of waste – start with green then brown and follow that sequence until you are satisfied with the contents of the bin.
Tips for Proper Ventilation and Odor Control
- Manage the oxygen level of your compost pile – Remember the importance of managing airflow. As much as possible, the oxygen level inside the pile should be over 13 percent all the time. Stick to this especially during the first one to two weeks as this is the time when composting process is in need of more oxygen.
- Use bio-covers and biofilters – These items are useful during the first seven to ten days as a means of biologically containing and treating the odor compounds. This should help control possible odor.
Maintaining and Troubleshooting a Compost Bin in an Apartment
After setting everything up, remember that you will need to maintain the composting system consistently. In most cases, you will have to add fat, dairy, or meat to your compost bin, especially if you did vermicompost.
The additions may create foul and funky smells since the bacteria may decompose the food scraps. These smells may be noticeable in condos and apartments since these only have small spaces.
Also, in most cases, if there is a foul smell in your compost bin, it could be due to the oversaturation of water and greens. If that is the case, you can deal with that by putting in more brown materials. You also have to clean your compost bin and sprinkle some compost powder.
Monitor the bin’s humidity for vermicomposting, too. If wet, put small holes in the bin so the moisture will be released. You may also integrate dry bedding at the bin’s bottom.
Also, observe the worms. If they do not eat a certain kind of waste, it may result in unpleasant smells and scents. The reason is that there will always be an organic matter that will be left behind consistently. Make it a point to remove it.
To check whether the pile is working, find out whether it is warm to your touch. You should also check whether there is steam coming from it as it is also an indication that it is working. If you do things correctly, you will have an easier time maintaining your compost bin while preventing a stinky smell in your limited apartment space.
How to Use Finished Compost in an Apartment Setting?
You can use your finished compost after harvesting them. You can actually get the finished compost within 3 to 6 months. In general, the compost appears like dark soil. If that happens, you can push all compost to just a single side of the compost bin.
The other side should be filled with new bedding. Wait for around one month for each worm to transfer into the new and fresh bedding. You also have to start adding food for these worms.
After that, you can remove the compost from the other side, the one, which is mostly free of worms. Sift then put back all worms or all other materials that were unable to break down into your worm bin.
Start using the compost you have harvested from your potted plants or garden. All it takes is for you to put around one to two inches of the harvested compost on top of the soil as you prepare to plant on garden beds. You should then work the compost into the top three to five inches of your garden bed.
You can also apply one-half-inch of compost every month in the base surrounding heavy-feeding plants, such as squash and tomatoes. Do this during their whole growing season. If you have potted house plants that need additional drainage, giving them one-inch compost two times a year would do.
Other Ways to Lessen Food Scraps or Food Waste
Aside from learning how to compost in an apartment and doing it in your own space, you should also know that there are other solutions when it comes to lowering your carbon footprint. For you to be of help to the environment, you can change some of your food habits, so you can lessen possible food scraps and food waste.
Here are some things you can do:
- Cook and prepare zero-waste meals.
- Go dairy-free or meatless once every week.
- Freeze any leftover food from last night so you can prevent yourself from having to throw out spoiled food.
- Buy food sources from local farmers – The reason is that foods that traveled only a few miles to reach your plate are guaranteed to have a lower carbon footprint.
- Switch to a pantry that is zero-waste – This will let you get rid of significant amounts of plastic in your kitchen.
- Create a sustainable garden.
You may also check out our guide on what not to add to your compost.
Composting in an apartment is definitely one way for you to be of help to the environment. It allows you to create your own compost that you can use for your own garden. It also helps you make the most out of your kitchen and food scraps.
With that, you will be of help to the environment as you can avoid piling more unwanted stuff in landfills. To learn more about composting in an apartment, check out the additional sources indicated here.