can i compost in an apartment

Can I Compost In An Apartment?

Sure thing!

“Can I Compost In An Apartment?” is a friendly guidebook designed to help us, urban dwellers, turn our food scraps into rich, fertile compost, even in the smallest living spaces. The article covers practical tips and innovative methods for apartment composting, ensuring we can all contribute to a greener planet without needing a backyard. Whether we live in a tiny studio or a cozy one-bedroom, this guide empowers us to adopt sustainable practices right at home.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into the art of apartment composting together. Have you ever found yourself asking, “Can I compost in an apartment?” The idea of composting seems like it might be reserved for those with large backyards, heaps of greenery, and a lot of extra space. But let us assure you, apartment composting is not only possible but it’s also incredibly rewarding and environmentally friendly.

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Why Should We Compost?

Environmental Benefits

Composting helps reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Landfills are a leading cause of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting, we can divert a significant portion of our household waste from these landfills, thus helping to mitigate climate change.

Decomposition Process

When organic waste decomposes in a landfill, it undergoes anaerobic decomposition, which produces harmful methane gas. However, composting allows for aerobic decomposition, which is much less harmful to the environment.

Personal Benefits

Composting is not just good for the world; it’s good for us too. It helps reduce household garbage and its associated costs and nuisances. Plus, if we’re into gardening, composting provides us with rich, nutrient-dense soil that can boost plant growth.

Types of Apartment Composting

Indoor Compost Bins

When we’re working with limited space, various indoor compost bins can make the process hassle-free and odorless.

Bokashi Composting

Bokashi is a Japanese method that ferments kitchen scraps using a special inoculated bran. It’s a great option for apartments as it doesn’t require much space and doesn’t produce foul odors.

Pros and Cons of Bokashi Composting

Pros Cons
Compact and space-efficient Requires purchase of Bokashi bran
Efficient in breaking down scraps May require a secondary composting process
Minimal odor Needs to be drained regularly


Vermicomposting utilizes worms to break down food waste. It’s another fantastic option for apartment dwellers. The worms are incredibly efficient at breaking down organic material, and the resulting compost (worm castings) is highly beneficial for plants.

Key Benefits of Vermicomposting

  • Rapid Decomposition: The worms accelerate the decomposition process.
  • Odor Control: Properly maintained vermicompost bins generally don’t smell.
  • High-Quality Compost: The end product is nutrient-rich and great for plant growth.

Electric Composters

Electric composters are modern and highly efficient. These machines decompose organic waste quickly, turning it into usable compost in a matter of hours.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electric Composters

Advantages Disadvantages
Quick processing time Expensive upfront cost
Minimal odor Uses electricity
Easy to use Limited compost volume

Outdoor Options (Balcony Composting)

If we have a balcony or a small outdoor space, we can utilize it for composting as well.

Tumbler Composters

Tumbler composters are compact and are designed for easy turning, which speeds up the composting process.

Pros of Tumbler Composters

  • Space-Efficient: Ideal for a balcony setting.
  • Quick Process: The tumbling action speeds up the composting process.
  • Controlled Environment: Reduces the risk of odor problems.

Balcony Bins

Small compost bins suitable for balconies can also be effective. These bins are generally more traditional but are designed to fit small spaces and have better aesthetics to blend with our outdoor decor.

Can I Compost In An Apartment?

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What Can We Compost?

Compostable Materials

Understanding what can and cannot be composted is crucial. Here’s a list of items that we can usually compost:

Compostable Items:

Kitchen Scraps Yard Waste Paper Products
Fruit peels Grass clippings Paper towels
Vegetable trimmings Leaves Napkins
Coffee grounds Small twigs Uncoated paper plates

Items to Avoid

Some items can disrupt the composting process or attract pests. Avoid adding these to our compost bin:

Non-Compostable Items:

Category Items
Dairy Products Cheese, milk, yogurt
Meats Meat scraps, bones
Oily Foods Greasy or oily food
Diseased Plants Plants with pests or diseases

Balance of Green and Brown Materials

Ideal compost needs a mix of “greens” (nitrogen-rich materials) and “browns” (carbon-rich materials). This balance helps maintain an efficient decomposition process and minimizes odors.

Green Materials:

  • Fruit scraps
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Fresh grass clippings

Brown Materials:

  • Dry leaves
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Straw


A general rule is to have roughly three parts brown materials to one part green material. This ratio can be adjusted based on the specifics of our compost setup, but it’s a good starting point.

Step-by-Step Guide to Starting

Choosing the Right Method

The first step to beginning compost is deciding which method (indoor bins, outdoor options, or electric) best suits our living situation.

Setting Up the Bin

For traditional compost bins, we need to layer the bottom with coarse materials to help with drainage. Next, add alternating layers of green and brown materials, ensuring a good balance.

Maintaining the Compost

Regular maintenance is key to successful composting. Here’s a checklist:

  1. Turn the Compost: Regularly turning the compost helps to aerate it, fostering the activity of aerobic bacteria which speeds up decomposition.
  2. Monitor Moisture Levels: The compost should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too dry, add some water. If it’s too wet, add more brown materials.
  3. Check Temperature: Compost should heat up as decomposition occurs. If it’s not heating, consider increasing the green material ratio or turning it more frequently.
  4. Harvesting the Compost: Once the compost looks dark and crumbly and has an earthy smell, it’s ready to be used.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Here are common issues and how to resolve them:

Issue Symptom Solution
Bad Odor Smells like ammonia or rotting food Add more brown materials and turn to aerate
Pests Presence of flies, rodents Avoid adding meats and oily foods; cover foods with brown layers
Slow Decomposition Material not breaking down Increase turning and ensure proper moisture balance

Can I Compost In An Apartment?

Utilizing Finished Compost

Indoor Plants

Compost can do wonders for indoor plants. We can mix it with regular potting soil to enhance the nutrient content of plant containers.

Terrace or Balcony Gardens

If we’re lucky enough to have a terrace or a balcony, we can use our home-grown compost to enrich the soil in planters, providing a nutrient boost to flowers, herbs, or vegetables.

Community Gardens

If we find ourselves accumulating more compost than we can use, many community gardens welcome donations of extra compost. It’s a great way to contribute to the local green spaces in our area.

Sharing with Friends

Share the compost wealth! Friends and neighbors who garden might appreciate some high-quality compost for their plants.


Apartment composting opens up a world of possibilities for sustainable living, even in small spaces. It’s a way to reduce our carbon footprint, enrich plants, and make the most out of our food scraps. While it might seem daunting at first, with the right knowledge and tools, it becomes a straightforward and rewarding practice.

From Bokashi and vermicomposting to electric composters and balcony bins, there’s a method out there that fits our lifestyle. By being thoughtful about what we compost and maintaining our efforts with regular care, we can turn our organic waste into a valuable resource.

So, the next time we wonder, “Can I compost in an apartment?” we can confidently say, “Yes, we can!”

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