Composting for Apartment Dwellers: A Novice’s Guide
Growing up, I always looked at my grandma’s garden and imagined myself living in a similar place. A huge garden filled with plants and trees and my own vegetable patch that would decide what was on the menu that week. Things don’t always pan out the way you imagine them, and I now live in an apartment.
- I’m not complaining about my life at all but as I consciously started moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle, I found my mind constantly drawn back not to that garden I loved so much but to the compost heap that was the fuel behind the food.
Composting sounds scary – it brings to mind smelly decomposing food, worms that wriggle, and the various dos and don’ts of what you can put in the compost heap. Add apartment-living into the mix and I thought I had a recipe for disaster.
Anyway, practice what you preach right? I took a deep breath, bought a nose-clip and plunged right in. Here’s what I found:
- Composting is easy
- There are plenty of resources and products out there to help you
- You don’t need tons of space or a backyard
- You don’t need a nose clip
Why you should compost
An important part of an eco-conscious lifestyle is reducing the amount of waste you produce. But food scraps decompose so it shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Wrong – food waste needs specific conditions to turn into rich organic matter. Food-waste chucked into a landfill generates methane gas – one of the biggest contributors towards climate change. Turning your kitchen scraps into compost reduces our dependence on landfills and embraces nature’s cycle of life and decay.
How to start your home composting journey
There are multiple ways you can compost at home and there is no real one size fits all solution to this. That’s why I’ve discussed a few methods for you to choose from and try. One step common to them all is segregating your food waste from your other waste and chopping it into tiny pieces.
- Give your food waste to a composting company:
This is probably the easiest way to do it. If you live in a large residential complex, companies like Mobitrash collect segregated kitchen waste and compost it for you. Others can help your building set up a composting pit in your complex and manage it for you. One drawback may be getting everyone in your complex to agree to it.
- 3 – Bin Composting:
This method of composting is fairly straightforward. Three bin systems are widely available on the market. They comprise of three bins that may be stacked up to save space. Add dried leaves in the pots and add ‘remix powder’. Add your chopped kitchen waste and top it with the remix powder. Cover with a sheet of newspaper. Repeat until the bin is full, removing the newspaper every time you’re adding fresh waste. Once the bin is full, add some microbes provided by the company, rake it and ensure the compost remains moist. Your compost will be ready in about 6 weeks. Use the other bins for your waste until then.
Vermicomposting uses earthworms to compost your food waste in bins. If you want to go DIY, there are plenty of tutorials online on how to set them up. They are typically raised bins with drainage holes at the bottom and air holes at the top. Apart from your veggie waste, worms also need bedding like ripped newspaper, shredded office paper, ripped cardboard, coconut shell husks Unlike what you may think, the worms don’t crawl out of their boxes to check out your home!
Be warned though, worms are a little finicky. They’re strictly vegan and don’t like oils, citrus fruits, onions, or garlic either.
- Bokashi bins:
These are easy-to-use home composting kits that use Bokashi – an anaerobic process to ferment your kitchen waste. It uses lactobacillus to break down your food. The kits are easily available from multiple retailers online. You simply have to add your kitchen waste to the bins and add the bokashi powder on a daily basis. The effluent from the composting process can be used to fertilize plants or even as an organic drain cleaner. Once the bin is full, you need to leave it alone for 10-15 days after which the contents need to be transferred to another bin with coco peat or buried in soil to turn it into usable compost.
Every form of composting has a list of what you can and cannot compost in an apartment. As a rule of thumb, avoid composting rotten food stuff, citrus fruits and animal products including dairy.
There you have it – composting isn’t difficult even if you live in a flat. Your indoor plants will love the nutrient rich food you supply them. If, like me, you make more compost than you can use, share it with your family and friends, or give it to the gardeners at your local park – they’ll thank you for it too!
Until next time,
Your compost-loving eco-storyteller