Urban composting is not a myth. Nor is the increasing rate of food waste in our cities.
It’s a huge problem, especially in US cities. Americans produce 254 million tons of garbage each year, and food waste is estimated between 30-40% of the food supply.
The situation in neighboring Canada is no different. Canadians produce about 31 million tons of garbage each year, and more than half of all food produced in Canada is lost or wasted.
You do know where this excess food goes, right?
Yes, those landfills!
A significant portion of the wasted food ends up in landfills and creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is very harmful to the environment. As the rapidly growing urbanization in North America overflowing the landfills, authorities are running against the clock to find ways to reduce the carbon footprint.
What can you do? Especially if you’re one of those city dwellers confined to a specific space commonly referred to as “apartment” or “condo”.
Be mindful of wasting food. In addition to that, it’s essential to know better ways to dispose of food scraps like peels and cores. One such way to limit food waste is by learning the basics of urban composting. Yes, how to compost in your apartment!
What is composting?
If you don’t know already…
Composting is the process through which organic material is converted into a soil-like product.
A quick and easy definition.
So, how does this happen? Through a mixture of air, water, green material (containing nitrogen) and brown materials (containing carbon). Microorganisms eat these organic waste and break it down into its simplest parts.
By now, you might be thinking that this whole urban compost thing sounds like a daunting task and may require a lot of space. On the contrary, you can easily do composting in small spaces or apartment buildings. Urban composting is a great way to lower your contribution to food waste (sometimes even to zero!) and create nutrient-rich soil that can be used in your garden or as mulch for potted plants.
To help you get started, we’ve outlined how to compost in an apartment (or small space) and offered five different urban composting methods for you to try. No matter what amount of space you have available, anyone can compost and contribute less waste to the environment. Keep reading to get started and learn how to compost in a small space or apartment.
How to compost in an apartment
Calling all city dwellers!
Indoor composting isn’t as difficult as you might think. All you need is a few supplies and to collect kitchen scraps that can be composted indoors. Below are a variety of brown and green materials that you can compost.
- Grass and old flowers
- Spoiled fruits and vegetables
- Tea and coffee
- Vegetable scraps (Cores and peels)
- Cardboard and newspaper
- Dead leaves and branches
There are also some materials that you should never compost, since these can be harmful to the organic materials in your pile. Below are some of such items that should not be composted.
- Pet droppings
- Rotted or diseased plants
- Coal or ash
- Large amounts of cooking oil
Once you have your composting materials ready, you can store them in your freezer or a metal composting bucket until you are ready to use them. This will keep any flies or pests away from them and limit a foul smell.
Once you are ready to begin composting, try one of the five urban composting methods in your apartment.
5 urban composting methods to try
When living in an apartment, space can be limited. Since you most likely don’t have a backyard or large outdoor space, creating an outside compost pile won’t be an option. Don’t worry! There are plenty of different ways that you can compost in an apartment. Five are listed below:
Method 1: Use a worm bin
Vermicomposting is a method where you have to use worms to break down and process food waste. This allows you to make nutrient-rich compost without needing to turn the bin since the worms are able to move freely throughout mixing it for you. Worm bins can be as large or as small as you’d like. For an apartment dweller, you might want one that is the size of a shoebox.
The most important part of having a worm bin is to make sure the worms have proper living conditions. They need to be kept in a location that is 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit (15-27 degree Celsius) — usually under the sink is an excellent place for storage.
There are many available ready-made worm bins, but you can also create your own worm composter yourself.
Method 2: Use a tumbler
For apartment dwellers with a larger balcony or accessible outside area, using a compost tumbler is another great option for composting in an apartment.
Compost tumblers are larger than worm bins and are fully sealed to preserve the heat generated by your compost. Tumblers can decompose material very quickly, and turning it is easy since they come with a handle. Some tumblers can create compost in as quickly as 13 days.
Method 3: Use the Bokashi method
Bokashi is a two-step composting process that begins by fermenting food waste in a sealed container. This allows more kinds of food waste to be composted (like meat and dairy) and decreases the amount of time needed for decomposition.
Read more: The basics of Bokashi composting
Method 4: Use food digesters
Food digesters are electric composters and tend to be the size of a bread-maker appliance. The digester uses aeration, heat, and pulverization to reduce food waste, and there is never a foul odor.
Method 5: Donate food waste
If you are not interested in creating or buying a compost bin or tumbler, you can always collect and donate your food waste to local gardens or community businesses. Many farmers markets offer compost sites where you can drop off food scraps for others to use.
What to do with matured compost
Once your compost is mature, there are a few ways you can use it in your apartment.
If you’re unsure whether your compost is ready to harvest, check the texture, smell and color. Finished compost should be crumbly and smooth, smell like a wet forest and be dark in color.
Make compost tea
Soak your compost in water for 24 – 48 hours to make liquid fertilizer. Add “compost tea” to any potted plants or herbs to help them grow.
Use your compost as mulch
Using compost as mulch keeps weeds down and helps the soil stay moist. Spread the finished compost in a thick on top of the soil of your indoor plants.
Donate your compost
One of the easiest ways to use compost is donating it to a local farm or community garden. There’s no fuss on your end to plant with it or get your hands dirty.
Urban composting tips
There are always ways to lower your carbon footprint, no matter what size your home is. Below are a few additional tips for limiting food waste in an apartment building and make urban composting easier.
Keep in mind what’s in your fridge
Things we tend to forget frequently.
Before going shopping or ordering take out, keep in mind the food that is currently in your fridge or freezer. Aim to pull your older food to the front of the fridge to remind yourself to eat it first before it expires.
To ensure excess liquids like coconut milk and chicken broth don’t go bad in your fridge, freeze them into little ice cubes to be used in stews or soups.
Use coffee grounds in plants
Instead of tossing your coffee grounds, sprinkle it around your plants, working the old grounds into the soil. The grounds can help keep slugs and other pests away while limiting waste.
For a step-by-step guide and more urban composting tips, check out the infographic created by Zolo:
To wrap up
We hope this article would encourage you to start your urban composting project in your city space or apartment. Whether you are creating a worm bin or simply donating your food scraps, every effort counts towards living an eco-friendly life. And if we all make our small bids in a city with millions of “us”, things will surely improve within the next decade.
Don’t you want to see that in your city?
Featured image by Freepik from www.freepik.com