Kitchen scraps on table
Sustainable Living

Composting In An Apartment: How, Why, & Tools To Get Started

Composting is biodegradation, simply put, breaking down organic matter like food scraps and vegetables into simpler organic compounds. This process requires an environment with suitable materials, temperature, and moisture levels for specific fungi, bacteria, and insects to thrive in order to quickly break down the organic matter.

The byproduct of composting is compost, a super nutrient-rich black dirt that most people use to nourish the soil in their gardens.

Since compost is usually used to tend vegetable and flower gardens, composting has traditionally been done almost exclusively outdoors. However, due to the rise in apartment living that often comes with a lack of outdoor personal space, indoor composting is catching on for inhabitants of event the smallest apartments.

Why You Should Compost in Your Apartment

Apartment buildings in a city

More than half of the people on earth (55%) are living in urban areas, and the majority of housing in urban areas are small footprint apartments with limited outdoor access. If our cities continue to grow at the current rate, it’s estimated that 68% of the global population will be living in urban areas by 2050. That’s a lot of apartments!

With little to no outdoor space (aka no room to compost), and tenants at the mercy of the waste disposal methods put in place by their landlords, waste often finds its way into landfills. As urban spaces fill up, so do dumps. Therefore there is a need to reevaluate how to handle organic waste.

5 Benefits of Composting

Person throwing a cake away into trash can

1. Reduces Overall Waste

In the average household, food scraps make up to 35% of what is thrown away. Composting is nature’s best recycling. By keeping this organic waste out of the trash, composting can help to significantly reduce the overall amount of waste heading to the landfill.

2. Reduces Methane Emissions

Cows aren’t the only methane polluters. Methane is released from landfills as biodegradation takes place, and although most dumps have the technology to capture most of this gas, there is still a large percentage that escapes to the atmosphere.

Removing organic matter from our household waste streams and turning to composting instead can help reduce the carbon footprint of our landfills and combat methane’s effects.

3. A Healthier Alternative to Commercial Fertilizers

You won’t need to purchase commercial fertilizers when you have nutrient laden compost on hand to supplement and enrich your plant baby’s soil. Aside from pesticides and fertilizers requiring fossil fuels for their production, some contain compounds that are also harmful to human health.

4. It’s Magic for Your Plants

In addition to the benefit of being a natural fertilizer, compost increases the organic matter of the dirt you mix it with and moderates the soil temperature by retaining moisture. This will consequently improve its workability, suppressing plant pests and diseases.

5. Helps Conserve Resources

Composting comes with several resource-saving gains. Mulching with compost keeps water from evaporating when applied as a top dressing and soaks up water slowly, releasing it to plants. An the benefit of reducing overall waste that we mentioned earlier? That also serves to save fuel and energy since the overall amount of waste being transported to landfills is decreased.

So How Can You Compost in an Apartment?

Small space apartment showing a kitchen next to a bed

While on paper it can all seem like a bit much, composting your kitchen trash is now easier than ever, even if you live in an apartment. The choice to compost in your apartment and the method you go with mostly just depends on your household’s preferences and lifestyle.

Here are three ways you can get started with composting in an apartment:

Worm Composting

A dog is looking down at a worm compost bin

Also known as vermicomposters, these are the most versatile composters in use today. Vermicomposters are portable, small, and use worms to quickly process organic household waste to produce nutrient-rich compost.

At its simplest, a worm composter is a bin with holes for ventilation and moisture. It’s mostly made of plastic and elevated off the ground to allow water drainage at the bottom.

Often, the worms are purchased and added to the bin; red wigglers are the most efficient for decomposition. They efficiently decompose food scraps by digesting them (except for bones and oily/dairy products), and the resulting feces or castings compose the final of this composting method.

A tiered composter like the one shown below is ideal for composting with worms as it ensures that worms don’t have to be separated from the finished compost, making this system self-sufficient. (You don’t have to buy one just like this – you can easily DIY a vermicomposter from a series of plastic totes or other containers.)

Kitchen scraps are continually added to the top tier, where the worms break it down into small enough pieces to filter through to the middle tier, also containing worms for further composting. The finer, finished worm poop compost falls into the bottom tier.

Aside from using this compost as nutritious, beneficial soil additive, you can also steep the worm castings in water overnight to make “worm tea” – which sounds pretty gross but is great for houseplants!


As a general composting rule, organic waste decomposes more quickly when turned. One of the best things about worm composters is that they do not require turning; the worms do it for you. Worms operate within limited space of the container and turn the food and plant scraps into easy-to-work-with castings.

Worm composters are the best for small batches and work well on a small balcony or indoors. They can be stored in enclosed spaces such as basements and garages to make them less accessible to other bugs and pathogens.

Vermicomposters take about two weeks for the first complete compost batch, making them relatively faster than the Bokashi composters, which take about four weeks to cover the same milestone.


Worm composters work best if the temperatures stay between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, they require a regular supply of carbon from materials like shredded newspapers.

One drawbacks of vermicompost bins is occasional foul odors. They usually have an earthy smell, but it can turn into an offensive stench if just a few factors go awry. For instance, overfeeding the worms and inadequate ventilation can create problematic smells. Good aeration is the key to keeping these odors at bay.

Additionally, if keeping your vermicomposter outside on a balcony or patio, watching the weather is a must to protect the worms from overheating due to direct sunlight. You’ll need to constantly monitor moisture levels to ensure that the bin isn’t too wet or too dry, making it relatively high maintenance.

Bokashi Composting

A women is putting food scraps in a bokashi compost bin

The Bokashi is an innovative and compact system designed specifically for use in apartments. It’s a Japanese method that uses a live bacterial culture to pickle food scraps, including meat and dairy, turning them into a digested pre-compost or fermented food waste (FFW).

Unlike traditional composting, Bokashi is an anaerobic process, so limiting the oxygen supply is very crucial. A bucket with a tight-fitting lid is the best vessel for this composting style. Food waste is simply added to the bucket, and with each addition some bokashi culture is sprinkled on top (this culture can be found online, at garden centers, or you can make your own using molasses, wheat germ, and EM1).

Inside the kitchen, laundry room, basement, or garages are ideal places. Making FFW using the Bokashi method takes approximately two weeks at room temperature in your apartment. The Bokashi bin should be placed to be accessed easily but away from heaters and direct sunlight.


The Bokashi bucket is sealed with an airtight lid that sufficiently contains all the compost-related odors, acing out one of the major drawbacks of worm bins. At the bottom, there is a spigot for draining the leachate to prevent a build-up of foul smell.

Bokashi units are designed for the urban environment, hence work well in small spaces. They are big enough to compost the waste yet small enough to snuggly fit in the kitchen, making them convenient for apartment dwellers.


One of the setbacks of Bokashi is that it ferments organic matter rather than fully decomposing it. So, while the pre-compost produced by this method can be made in your apartment, you’ll need access to an outdoor space where you can safely bury it or add it to a compost heap for further breakdown.

Like any other pickles, this process’ product is acidic, and special care needs to be taken not to bury it near plant roots because it may kill the plants. Instead, it should be combined with soil and left for a couple more weeks to create the final compost product.

Compost Tumblers

Tumbler composter sits outside

Compost tumblers are sealed barrel-like containers that can be rotated without opening or leaking. The drum needs to be spun a few times a week to mix the materials easily.

Tumblers are normally sealed except for the small air holes for ventilation. The sealed unit generates more heat, further catalyzing decomposition.

Small tumblers can be placed on an apartment balcony to do hot composting. They are designed to speed up the process by providing heat and improved aeration to the composting material.

With the right conditions in place, the composting process takes about five weeks. Compost tumblers require the right outdoor temperature, moisture levels, and a balance of nitrogen and carbon wastes to work effectively.


Since they’re generally stored raised above the ground, rodents and pests can’t access the contents of the tumbler compared to some methods.

The sealed design of compost tumblers makes them less smelly, making them convenient for apartment use.


Tumblers need to be rotated several times per week to achieve good results. It is not a huge commitment, but it is cumbersome. Sometimes the drums become heavy, making them difficult to spin, especially the ones mounted on the axis vertically.

Due to their sizes and functionality design, compost tumblers are traditionally not able to fit indoors. If you want to try this composting method at your apartment, try searching for “mini” compost tumbler.

Last Word

Compost bin sitting on counter indoors

Living small should not hinder living sustainably. Composting in your apartment is a great way to take a more active role in the management of your household’s organic waste.


Similar Posts