I Live in an Apartment and Have Been Composting for a Year. Here’s My Advice for Novices…

I Live in an Apartment and Have Been Composting for a Year. Here’s My Advice for Novices…

Home composting can be a little daunting when you begin but once you have it down pat it’s actually pretty simple and extremely rewarding. There’s satisfaction from being able to physically see the positive impact of stopping waste from going to landfill. I’ve been home composting for the past year and while I still consider myself a composting novice, I’m here to tell you that if you’ve never composted before, it’s much easier than you think.

Just think of composting as another form of recycling, because that’s basically what it is, except instead of materials such as glass or aluminium, it’s for organic matter. Composting is a process of decomposing different organic matter together (not just food waste and scraps) to produce a soil matter that is full of nutrients and can then be used again.

So why should you compost?

It’s estimated that one-third of all food produced globally is wasted, with a large proportion ending up in landfill. When the matter begins to break down in landfill in amongst other materials, it releases a potent greenhouse gas called methane that contributes to climate change. While not all the food waste sent to landfill is from households, consumers can drastically reduce the amount of food waste that ends up in landfill by way of home composting and thus help to mitigate climate change.

Reducing food waste isn’t the only benefit of home composting; once the matter is degraded, it makes nutrient-dense garden fertiliser to aid plant growth and restore vitality to depleted soil. 

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Compost can be used as fertiliser for growing plants and replenishing depleted soil. Photo: Photo by cottonbro.

Australian social enterprise OzHarvest’s fight food waste campaign is a great resource for anyone wanting knowledge on your food waste impact and simple steps on how to reduce it.

Where to find a compost bin?

You can either build a compost bin or buy one from a hardware store (who doesn’t love a trip to Bunnings!). Before you purchase one brand new, consider buying one second-hand. Browse local Facebook groups and Gumtree for local sellers looking to upgrade theirs; just make sure they’ve given it a good clean for you before you buy it.

There are many types of compost bins but the most popular styles are the rotational or tumble composters which are great for aerating organic matter and the basic freestanding compost bins. Both are usually made of high-grade durable plastic but many are now being made with recycled plastic too so make sure to look out for those.

If you’re living in a small space, Bokashi composting is a great option. The Bokashi bin is small enough that it can be stored in your kitchen or even in a kitchen cupboard. 

You can also check with your local council as many will subsidise the cost of a compost bin in a bid to increase sustainability in the community. Also check in on your local community garden as many will accept compost scraps.

Of course you may not have space for a compost bin, and if that’s the case, free-to-use platforms like ShareWaste allows you to connect with people in your area who have compost bins that you can  drop off your food waste to – the app also allows you to track your impact!

ShareWaste platform allows people to share scraps and compost with members of their local community
The ShareWaste app allows people to share scraps and compost with members of their local community. Photo: Screenshot of ShareWaste website.

Frequently asked questions

How does it work? Doesn’t it smell?

With the right formula, absolutely not. You just need an even mix of brown (shredded paper, dry leaves, straw, woodchips) and green material (food scraps, cut grass, plant cuttings) to aid in the decomposing process. If you open your compost bin and it is a bit smelly, I grab some dry leaves and pop them in, there’s no shame in going out on the street with a little bucket and picking up fallen leaves. It’s for Mother Earth! Also make sure to aerate your compost bin frequently. If you’ve got a freestanding one that’s hard to aerate, this simple DIY compost aerator does the trick.

I keep my food scrap bin outside my back kitchen door as I don’t particularly like the idea of a bucket full of food scraps on my kitchen bench. Of course make sure the bin is closed properly to avoid vermon! This is great in winter however in the warmer months putting a container or brown paper bag in the freezer with your food scraps is a great way to stop them from smelling before taking them out to your compost bin every few days or when it’s full. This is also a great thing to do if especially if you are using the ShareWaste app to avoid dropping off smelly and decomposing food waste.

Does it fill up fast?

Not as quickly as I first thought which surprised me the most as I eat predominantly plant-based meals and produce a lot of food scraps; I was concerned with what I was going to do when the compost actually filled up! Surprisingly everything starts to break down really well meaning there’s plenty of time before you need to consider what to use your beautiful compost for if you don’t have a garden.

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Decomposing food waste and scraps not yet ready to be used as fertiliser and needs more time to decompose. Photo: Flickr.

What things can I compost?

There’s a lot more outside of your general food scraps and garden material that can be utilised in your compost bin. Things like shredded paper, lint from your dryer, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, cardboard, paper towel, tissues, cotton balls, pencil shavings, old clothing made from natural fibres, natural wine cork stoppers, even hair from your hairbrush! Just remember to give your compost bin a helping hand by shredding or cutting everything into smaller pieces.

You can even place compostable mailer bags into you home composting bin; just peel off the labels and in three months time the bag should have broken down. I would suggest cutting up the bags before popping them in to help with the process.

Now that you have your compost bin well under way you can use the resulting fertiliser on your garden beds and in the soil for your pot plants. If you don’t have a garden or aren’t cultivating and indoor garden green thumb, you can share the fertiliser with your neighbours, donate to your local school, community garden or members of your local community by posting about it on Facebook.

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Cover image by Rebecca Murphey.

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