Robin and I both grew up in households that composted. My mom had a huge compost bin in our back garden that was feet deep with organic matter that she would use each spring come planting season.
But I now live in a small apartment in San Francisco. I have no back yard, no balcony for a compost pile or worm bin, no garden to even use the finished compost on. BUT, it turns out I can still compost! In this post I’ll be sharing how to compost when you live in an apartment and everything you need to know to get started. (No worms required!)
How To Compost When You Live In An Apartment (Beginner’s Guide To Urban Composting)
Why Is Composting In An Apartment Important?
Composting (in your apartment or home) is a cheap, natural way to turn your food waste into nutrient-rich soil that helps plants grow stronger and healthier. It saves waste from landfills and also reduces your carbon footprint.
Plus, it makes me feel like a better human. Composting for a year can offset the amount of CO2 a standard washing machine produces over 3 months!
So, is it possible to compost if you live in an apartment? ABSOLUTELY! Urban composting is actually really easy and doesn’t take much extra effort at all in most situations. Here’s how to do it.
How To Compost In An Apartment & Get Started With Urban Composting
Here’s the tea: apartment composting is easy. No worms, no permanent bin on your balcony, nothing. Urban composting is as easy as just adding a third bin to your kitchen and separating food waste a bit better.
I held off starting to compost in our apartment for years because I was convinced that I needed to *actually* compost it all myself. As in, I had to have a large bin, maybe even worms and churn that dirt. Which just isn’t practical when living in a small space.
But then I realized San Francisco has a composting program! And my building actually takes part in the city program so there’s been a composting bin downstairs next to the trash and recycle bins for years, we’ve just never paid any attention to it.
Check Your City Compost Program
The first step to urban composting is to check your city’s composting program that they may already have in place. I find that most major cities have some sort of program just like they have a recycling program. Google it!
If you live in a building your building may already have a large compost bin from the city like ours did. If your building or home doesn’t, you can probably request a bin and pick up service just like trash service.
Share A Waste Program
So, what do you do when there’s not a communal apartment compost bin and/or your city doesn’t have a compost service? I find that most major cities do have a service but if your city doesn’t, check out Share A Waste. It’s kind of like Tinder, but for connecting you with neighbors who do compost and are willing to accept your compost scraps as contributions.
Some of the listings are even for community gardens so you can feel extra good about sharing your food scraps!
My Favorite Apartment Friendly Compost Bins
Ok, so once you figure out how you’re disposing of your compost, the next step is to get yourself an apartment compost bin to start collecting food waste! I found ours for about $30 from Amazon. I keep ours on our floor next to the trash bin.
I picked this once because its affordable, has an easy lid to lock the compost bag in place and even has a handle so I can take the whole compost bucket downstairs to the building bin. I also liked that it didn’t have any holes on the top (because our cat loves to dig around in trash!)
There are a lot of compost bin options. I almost bought this one since I love the design of it. You can buy so many types of compost bins… mountable ones, tiny ones that fit on your counter, ones that go in the freezer. Some that don’t even look like compost bins. Here’s some fun styles:
Shop Cute Compost Bins
Next, Buy Composting Trash Bags
Before you start using your compost bin I highly recommend you buy yourself compostable trash bags. We’ve found that compost quickly develops that “trash tea” aka the gross water mixture that only is found at the bottom of trash cans. A bag will help contain that so your compost bin doesn’t become a compost puddle.
It also helps with any odor inside your apartment AND keeping your communal building compost bin smelling a bit better. Using bags also helps to deter animals and bugs. We buy compostable trash bags from Grove Collaborative, they’re under $6.
What Can I Compost?
Every city is different and has different regulations about what organic materials they will or won’t accept into a compost. It’s important to check what your city requires first.
But, most organic matter and food scraps can be composted. Everything from herb stems to leftovers to egg shells can be composted (but refrain from raw eggs.) You can even compost leaves, sticks, grass cuttings, newspapers, etc. We put a LOT into our compost bin!
Will My Compost Bin Smell?
Nope! Obviously, if you leave it for a long time it will smell just like a normal trash bin does but as long as your take it out on a regular schedule just like your trash or recycling, it won’t smell. We find ourself emptying our compost bing about 1-2 times a week depending on how much we’ve been cooking that week.
Will My Compost Bin Attract Bugs?
Probably not. Again, when you use the right compost bin and compostable trash bags, your compost inside your apartment shouldn’t be attracting any more bugs that your normal trash does. So if you’re not currently having a bug problem with your trash, you won’t have issues with compost!
I would love to be able to go even more zero waste in the future (I dream of growing as much of my own food as possible!) but I don’t think that’s possible at the moment. So, in the meantime I urban compost since it’s a step in the right direction. One day I’d love to have a garden and do backyard composting with worms and all! I shall live out my cottagecore farmhouse dreams one day…*shakes fists*
If trying to make more sustainable swaps in your life is something that interests you I highly recommend you check out Grove Collaborative. This post isn’t sponsored by Grove but they have been a partner of ours for over a year and we’re just huge mega fans. Grove curates sustainable household + beauty brands so you know you’re shopping ethical, sustainable products. They also have some of their own in-house products (like those compostable trash bags!)
Alright, fangirl moment over. If you have any composting tips to add leave them below for everyone to see. And if you have any questions drop a comment or DM me on Instagram @thewhimsysoul and I’ll be happy to help!