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Apartment Dwellers, You Can Compost Too!


Once I moved into my one-bedroom apartment, all thoughts of composting escaped my mind. All the rules and tips I learned in my youth from my dad poofed out of existence: I forgot to remove the stickers from fruit skins, and didn’t routinely remove the tags, strings and staples from tea bags.

After a few years of slacking, I’m making a pact with myself – no more waste! I’ve vowed to start composting this spring. With this grand gesture, my next natural thought was, “uh, how do I go about this?”

The compost bins I’m used to seeing are large and wooden. Obviously, this track won’t work for me. With a little research, I’ve begun to plan my voyage to a greener disposal system. Here’s what I found out.

In the Kitchen

The kitchen is the room where it all starts. You’ve just peeled an organic banana for breakfast and your Fair Trade coffee is finished brewing. Get ready to compost! Toss those initial scraps (the peel, and the grounds) into a small, compost receptacle.

Some brave souls stomach the not-so-stellar-smell and place compostable materials in an open bowl, a metal box or a can on a counter top. For people who would rather not suffer through the stench, there are attractive compost containers with activated-carbon filters. If you’d rather keep your compost out of site, place the container under a sink, in a closet, on a balcony or in a spare room. If you aren't using a bin that has holes, poke or drill a few in the bottom of the container, and place a tray or tarp underneath the receptacle.

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From the Organic Authority Files

When the container is full, take the contents to an outdoor or contained storage area. Any area is acceptable. If you want to keep the compost close by, use your balcony (just make sure you check with apartment management first). Also, ask apartment management if you can start a bin to serve a complex garden. An idea that works for both city and suburb dwellers!

Tips for First-time Composters

  • You will need soil or fertilizer to start. Place a three-inch layer of soil into the box.
  • Sprinkle a handful or two of dry bedding in the pile. Dry bedding possibilities include leaves, newspaper (no colored inks or glossy magazines), straw, dry grass clippings, cardboard or nutshells. Add equal parts dry bedding to the compost heap.
  • Shred or cut your compostables to speed the process.
  • Stir compost every week or two: “because composting is an aerobic process, you can never have too much air, so remember to either turn your pile regularly with a pitchfork, or add paper and cardboard to your pile to give it structure. Moisture is another important factor to keep your eye on.” - Elizabeth Haegele, Apartment Composting
  • Add a handful of fresh soil every 14 days to refresh microbe supply.
  • If the composter emits odor or is dripping liquid, add more dry bedding.
  • Keep balance between carbon and nitrogen. Use the rule of placing three parts soft, green waste to one part woody waste in your pile.
  • Once your compost starts to break down, take a handful from the center; if you can squeeze out a few drops of moisture, then your pile is in good shape. “If it’s wetter, add more woody waste or paper to dry things out a bit.” - Haegele
  • Once your original box begins to get full, scoop out fine soil-like compost into a new box. Have one box for finished compost and one box for compost in the making.

Other Ideas for Your Kitchen Compost

image: kirstyhall


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