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How to Compost in an Apartment: Worm and Wormless Methods

Thirty percent of what we dispose of today consists of food scraps and yard waste that can be composted to create organic nutrient rich material, known as compost, which we can add to plants to help them grow. Composting prevents thrown away scraps from going to landfills, consuming space, rotting, and releasing methane. Fortunately, composting can be done in your backyard or even inside an apartment.

You can compost in an apartment by making a worm composting bin where you keep a pile of worms that help you process food waste. Another option is to use a compost tumbler as long as you have enough space for it in your apartment, like a balcony.

This article will explore how to compost at home, even if you live in an apartment as well as common questions about composting and its benefits.

Photo of a indoor worm composter standing against white wall. The composter consists of four pine wooden legs with grey curved plastic compartments on top for holding the worms and compost.
Photo by Ashley Belle Burns

Can You Compost in an Apartment? Is it Allowed?

People are encouraged to reduce food waste or anything that could go to the landfill, so yes, in most cases you can compost in an apartment. Just make sure you carefully read your apartment lease in case your building does not allow it. When composting in an apartment it is best to have a dedicated place for your compost and definitely not in your bedroom.

For those living in apartments, the kitchen, balcony, or terrace would be ideal. If you don’t have a balcony, you can also keep your compost bin in the cabinet under the sink or in a utility closet. It would help if you kept your compost bin somewhere dark or anywhere dry. Try keeping your compost bin in a pullout cabinet if you have one.

Will Composting in My Apartment Make it Smell?

Not everyone is thrilled about composting indoors, fearing that the compost could smell badly and create an invitation to unwanted guests, such as pests. You can make an odor-free and tidy compost if you do it correctly. It is important to secure the lid of your compost bin completely to prevent possible fly infestations. A healthy compost, if well-maintained will smell earthy and not of rotten food.

How to Compost in an Apartment: Step-by-Step Guide

One of the more popular methods of composting in an apartment is vermicomposting, where you use worms to help with the decomposition of the food materials. Before you get all grossed out by the thought of living with worms in your apartment, please give these tiny wigglers a chance — we’ll explain.

Another way to compost in an apartment is by using a compost tumbler. While a compost tumbler is not as small and mobile as worm composters, it is an excellent option for those living in apartments with spacious balconies or terraces. We will compare worm composters vs compost tumblers to help you decide which one would be the best for you and your apartment.

Note: In this article, we focused on ways to create your own compost from your kitchen scraps. If you have a service or area where you can take food scraps to be composted, all you need is a sealable container where you can store your food scraps before taking it to the compost collection service. Any small trash can or container will work—some people even use yogurt containers which they freeze before collection days, to avoid making their kitchen smelly.

Use Worm Composters

Vermicomposting is becoming more popular now because worms are fairly easy to keep and are useful for producing nutrient-rich compost for plants. When you use worms, there is no need for turning the thrown away scraps. We’ll go in to turning your compost mixture in more detail later, but essentially, if you aren’t using worms, it is a way to ensure that the materials lying at the edges are brought to the center of the pile, which helps circulate oxygen and control odor.

Worms will help you make your organic waste decompose better and you don’t have to do the mixing because they’ll do all the work for you instead. But in exchange for that work, you must make sure you feed your worms the right things and at the right time. You want to give the worms an environment where they can thrive.

Here are tips on how to make and use a worm composter:

  • Create a dedicated space for your compost where your worms can live and work. A small container (with a lid) that gives a small habitat for the worms to live would be great. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you can use a plastic container with a lid, and you can poke holes in the lid to allow for air circulation. You can also purchase a compost container.
  • Provide your worms with bedding materials. Shredded newspapers, cardboards, or leaves are a few great options. Newspapers come in handy, because they can absorb any moisture.
  • Add the worms with some potting soil. You can buy composting worms from many gardening retailers. A bag of 500 should be suffice, and most bags will come with instructions. Add a bit of water to moisten the soil so that it is damp.
  • Don’t add too many food scraps to your composting container to avoid overfeeding your worms. If you overfeed your worms, you’ll get a disgusting pile of food. You probably can feed your worms every two to three weeks. We suggest using a small tool, like a trowel, to bury the food in the soil, as this will prevent fungi and mold from growing.
  • Worms like to eat scraps of fruits and vegetables. You can give them food like carrots, banana peels, lettuce, or apple core. Avoid giving the worms citrus peels because citrus can be quite abrasive to worms. Never add meat, dairy, or anything oily or cooked. A healthy bin will have a balance of carbon and nitrogen, which keeps your worms happy and prevents your bin from getting smelly. You can achieve this by adding carbon-rich materials (cleaned eggshells, paper towels, cardboard, newspaper, pet and human hair) along with your nitrogen-rich materials (organic food and vegetable scraps)  
  • Harvest the compost. There are a few ways you can do this, but one method werecommend is adding the new food scraps in one side of your bin. After a few days or a week, your worms will move over to the new food, and then you can scoop the compost from the other side of the bin. This way your compost should be relatively worm-free.
Photo of tall green circular rotating composter. The composter looks to be about hip high tall and is supported by two triangular metal supports on either side.
Photo by Simon Thomas

Use a Compost Tumbler

If you have a balcony or terrace or can get permission to use your building’s rooftop area or other communal areas, you can use a compost tumbler. A compost tumbler is bigger than a worm composter, so you want to make sure that you can quickly move it around when necessary. Compost tumblers are securely sealed to preserve the heat that compost generates, providing for quicker decomposition compared to worms.

Compost tumblers are better suited for apartments with communal areas. While you don’t have worms to help you with turning, a compost tumbler comes with a handle or a turning mechanism to mix contents, making your waste be processed in less than 15 days. You don’t have to worry about compost smell or flies, rats, mice, or raccoons disturbing your compost because compost tumblers are sealed completely.

What Are the Best Composters for Apartments?

Before you start composting in your apartment, you must get reliable compost bins or containers. When selecting the best composters, look at how solid they are, how easy it is to use them, if they come with a filter, and what size is suitable for your apartment. Below is a list of some of the best composters for apartments available on the market now:

  • Hot Frog Living Composter. Use this composter if you don’t mind working with cute, wriggly worms. The product will not degrade under direct sunlight and can be used year-round.
  • Worm Factory 360. Similar to the Hot Frog Living Composter but with more trays for keeping your worm habitat. The bigger your composter, the more food waste to compost.
  • FCMP Tumbling Composter. If you’re not okay with worms as housemates, then you might want to consider this product. It’s perfect if you have a good-sized balcony or terrace.

Where to Store Your Compost Indoors

If you have a worm composter, you want to keep it in the shade. It would be best if you didn’t expose your worms to hot temperatures or too much water. Worms need a moist habitat to thrive. A utility closet or the space under the kitchen sink are good options for your composting set up.

If you’re using a compost tumbler, you want to put it in an easy-to-access area. Compost tumblers usually take up more space than worm composters, so if space is a concern, you’d be glad to know that there are some smaller compost tumblers on the market.

Photo by Lightpoet

The Importance and Benefits of Composting

Land pollution can significantly impact us because the waste thrown out in the trash ends up at landfills that create methane and other greenhouse gases, which are bad for the planet. The greenhouse effect can make the earth warmer, increase sea level, and expand the ocean water due to melting icecaps. We can make a difference in our planet’s changing climate by doing our part, like reducing and managing our food waste.

Composting is an eco-friendly habit that is not difficult to practice at home. If you cannot have your food scraps sent to a dedicated composting facility, you can manage them at home through composting. Additionally, composting will help you feed your house plants or garden if you have one.

Other benefits of composting include:

  • Enrich soil
  • Reduce the use of chemical fertilizers
  • Prevent food waste from filling up landfills
  • Reduce methane emissions
  • Lower your carbon footprint
  • Create useful bacteria and fungi

Composting at home is easier than you may think. Even if you live in a tiny apartment, composting is not impossible. By composting at home, you also reduce your plastic waste—fewer plastic bags for throwing out food waste, like trash bags.

Closing Thoughts

Composting is good for the planet and you because you can feed your plants with organic nutrients. If you’re not afraid of worms, you can use worm composters to compost your food waste. Alternatively, you can use a compost tumbler, but you’ll need more space to store it.

You don’t want to overfeed your worms because you’ll end up getting a nasty pile of food instead. Always keep your composter correctly sealed to prevent smell or pests from accessing it.