Home Compost Bins: A Guide to Indoor Composting

If you are a space-challenged urban dweller or lack outdoor space, you may have figured you couldn’t compost indoors. Scrap that idea! It’s easy to compost indoors even with limited space. If you are already container gardening in the comfort of your own living room, you can compost indoors to feed your plants while also benefiting the planet.

If you aren’t yet an outdoor or indoor gardener, what else can you do with your compost? You can offer it to your neighbors who garden or donate it to a community garden. To encourage urban composting, many cities including New York City, Chicago, Austin, Denver, and San Francisco now offer compost pick-up services. If you’re adventurous, consider becoming a guerrilla gardener and deposit your compost in planted areas around your neighborhood.

We get that the challenges of compact living demand clever small space composting solutions and we’ve got some. First, let’s begin with the basics.

Composting leftover vegetable scraps in small plastic container.

What Is Composting?

What is composting? Composting is a process in which organic waste matter biodegrades to produce a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

4 Indoor Composting Methods

To compost indoors, you’ve got some choices: Worm Composting (Vermicomposting), Indoor Bins, Anaerobic Bags, or the Bokashi method. 

1. Vermicomposting

Also known as worm composting, this is the most common form of indoor composting, this aerobic method makes compost in a ventilated bin using red wriggler worms to efficiently digest the organic matter. If you can get past the worm thing, you can make your own worm-powered bin or purchase a commercially available system, both of which require very little space.

2. Indoor Bins

Aerobic bins with ventilation holes on the lids work by heating organic matter to speed up decomposition. You can make your own from a plastic bin, garbage can, bucket, or you can purchase one. To minimize odors, it’s best to use a bin under 5 gallons (19 liters.)

3. Anaerobic Bag

A method of indoor composting that uses a plastic garbage bag to produce anaerobic (without oxygen) microbes. It’s highly economical, requires almost no set-up or prep, but may not smell so great.

4. Bokashi Method

An odorless Japanese method in which you basically pickle or ferment your food waste. Unlike aerobic methods, with Bokashi you can also add your meat and dairy products. After assembling a variety of materials, including wheat bran, molasses, and effective microbes (or EM), you cover food scraps using this mixture of microorganisms to ferment the organic material. Bokashi requires a bit of advanced preparation but can produce compost about twice as fast as other anaerobic methods.

Vegetable scraps and eggshells ready to be composted in a metal bucket.

What to Compost

A common question many face when beginning their composting journey is, what can I compost? Fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, shredded paper (not glossy or coated), untreated wood, and houseplant trimmings are all great additions to your compost bin or pile.

Generally, it is not recommended to compost meat, fish, bones, dairy, and fats unless composting using the Bokashi method.

Where to Place Your Compost Bin

The size of your space will determine the size of your bin. For convenience, place your small compost bin on the kitchen countertop for easy access. Not enough counter space? If you have room under the counter or sink, consider installing one of those under-counter glider shelves that allow you to easily slide the bin in and out. If your kitchen is too small, a less convenient alternative is to keep the bin elsewhere like in a closet or under a table––but keep the bins away from pets or young children!

Once you get going, small space indoor composting will reap big benefits for you and the environment. Let us know how it goes!

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Vegetable scraps and eggshells ready to be composted in a metal bucket with text, "Beginners guide to indoor composting"
Vegetable scraps and eggshells ready to be composted in a metal bucket with text, "4 indoor composting methods"

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