Maybe you’ve been chatting with your cheerful friend at the local green market. Or perhaps you’ve noticed composting stations popping up around town. You’ve been perusing articles about food waste in America? Or maybe it’s Earth Day and you’re thinking of ways to clean up your act. In any case, the idea of composting is on your mind. You’re considering how you would do this in your apartment given you’re not sure where to start or exactly what it means—and you heard worms were involved.
With an increased global interest in sustainable living, composting has become more popular. It’s a natural process of recycling decomposed organic materials—defined as anything once alive—into nutrient-rich soil. By doing so, hearty nutrients from food waste are returned to the earth, allowing the life cycle to begin again. With more space, perhaps a yard, and a strong stomach, some people create compost bins with the aid of worms. These little critters speed up the process by eating the organic food scraps, their waste product turning into new compost.
This spring, if you want to go green and create a home system to recycle food waste (without the use of worms), we want to help. The good news? It’s easier to compost food scraps in your apartment than you think. Here’s a manageable urban model of a compost bin—minus wiggly worms and associated squeamish feelings. Before getting started, you’ll want to gather materials.
plastic container with a lid
old potting soil
Common Food Scraps:
fruit and vegetable rinds or pulps
coffee grinds and tea bags
anything made of flour
corn cobs and husks
The size of your bin will depend on how much space you can allot. It should contain a 25:1 balance of carbon-rich materials (called “browns”) and nitrogen or protein-rich ones (called “greens”). This will help the organic waste decompose efficiently, and the lesser amount of greens will prevent the compost from smelling badly. Browns are dry materials such as straw, wood chips, newspaper, or dry leaves. Greens refer to most of your food scraps.
Okay, now you’re ready to start your compost bin!
Add a layer of fresh compost to your bin, followed by old potting soil, then shredded newspaper, then food scraps, and then coffee grinds. Add another layer of fresh compost, then shredded newspaper. That’s it! Have a banana peel? Toss it in the bin. Egg shells? No problem.
Keep in mind that it can take at least 3-4 weeks for organic materials to decompose completely. At this point, you can donate your composted soil to a local school or community garden, or add it to your potted plants. If you live in a space where it’s not possible to do this, you can still collect your food scraps in a bin and take it to your local composting station when it’s full. Many cities have stations set up inside parks or within farmers markets.