How to compost in an apartment

Life before composting:

I often heard people exclaim ‘I LOVE composting!’ and think, “how odd, but why!?”

For the longest time, overwhelm and fear clouded my composting journey, I wanted to compost but it was this mystical thing that involved lots of effort, a backyard, smelly dirt and finally worms (ew, what?!). 

Living in an apartment, I shamefully put composting in the too hard basket.  I mean, I knew it was good for the planet but I had no space, where would I dispose of the fertilized soil, (am I going to have to dig a hole in some garden in the middle of the night – how embarrassing) and what would I do with the smell, would it attract flies, what about the worms?!?!?.  All valid fears, until I got schooled and was pleasantly surprised at the options I had, how uncomplicated it was and how fun (yes, I said fun) it all could be.

Here’s my story:

I live in an apartment, like most of us we have limited space, no backyard and unfortunately no communal composting in my complex (check if your block does this, if this isn’t available to you though – you have options, read on my friend).

Like most of us conscious city dwellers, I was an avid plastic recycler, soft plastic red-cylcer and conscious shopper. I would avoid plastic where I could in the attempt to lead a more zero-waste lifestyle.

With all this, I was still struck by how many bin runs a week I would have to do to avoid the smell in the kitchen overpowering me every day, the culprit, about 95% of my waste was organic – tea bags, coffee grinds, veggie peels, apple cores and everything in between.

I knew it was time to dispose of my waste better.  Sending mainly organic waste to landfill seemed so wrong, particularly as I became more aware of the problems caused by landfills. I just felt so silly having the whole “out of sight out of mind” mentally – it was no longer ok.

And so, my research began.

What I learnt:

Food waste sent to landfill is a lost resource. Diverting organic waste from landfill and turning it into a useful compost product can improve soil and grow healthy gardens. With around 50% of our landfill waste on average being organic, this is a huge opportunity – think healthier and more vibrant indoor plants, better veggie gardens and less environmental damage. What’s not to love?

My options came down to a small worm farm on my balcony, donating food scraps to composting hosts on the daily or getting a Bokashi Bin that kept my scraps for a couple of weeks until I could dispose of them in my own time.

Needless to say, the Bokashi won hands down, this system collects your organic waste and can be stored under your sink.  It has no smell, no worms (love them, but not as housemates) and no flies. It's been a couple of months and I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this thing.

All you have to do is:

  1. THROW food scraps (vegetables, fruits, egg shells, wilted flowers, tea bags, coffee and even meat, fish and dairy) into the Bokashi.
  2. SPRAY with the Compost Accelerator Spray. This vegan spray is filled with microorganisms that will ferment and break down the food scraps.
  3. DRAIN the juice from the bucket every few days. This liquid gold is filled with nutrients. Dilute it and add to indoor plants like I do, or feed it to your herb garden like my friend does.
  4. MIX your fermented scraps into a tub of soil, an outdoor composter or a worm farm once its time to dispose.  This is where you can connect with people in your community (I linked up with a lovely lady on sharewaste, who said she takes up to 30 people’s food scraps for her compost) – how good is that!

A cool thing to note also is that a lot of councils subsidise the purchase of composting bins, here’s where you can buy, and here’s some info to nerd out on 😊.

Get online:

There’s so many options these days, and although our infrastructure is yet to catch up with only some councils picking up organic waste at the moment (check your council here), we have many available resources to take matters into our own hands and work together as a community.

  • Sharewaste – online community that connects you to people in your neighborhood who are already composting or worm-farming. 
  • Community Composting – Look up and see if there are any composting facilities at your local:
    • primary school
    • council run community garden
    • community farm

Life after composting:

Trips to the smelly bin room are far and few these days, and I’ve grown a weird sense of pride in knowing that I am consciously disposing of my trash.

One of the biggest surprises for me was realising just how easy it is and how good it feels to reduce my landfill waste. Next time you’re taking the trash out have a quick glance at the contents of your rubbish, you’ll be amazed at how much impact you can actually make if you start to compost.

The sense of connection I have gained to my community was also a very pleasant surprise, I really enjoy connecting with a composting ‘host’ named Jane on Sharewaste.  We had a nice chat as I tipped my Bokashi waste into her compost – during these heavy isolated times (particularly here in Melbourne) – it brought a little joy to my day 😊

My final verdict: Don’t fear composting, it’s really a great way to feel connected to your community and your environment – also a beautiful way to feel like you’re making a contribution to the greater good. 

Let us know your thoughts and experiences with your journey.