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Compost Options for Apartment Dwellers

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Now that I’ve moved into an apartment for the first time there are lots of things I have to learn how to do differently. Up until now I’ve been in houses with either compost bins or worm farms (or sometimes both!) in the backyard so we could easily dispose of any food scraps but I wasn’t sure what I could do in my apartment, so I set about doing some research and thought it might be a good idea to share!

According to Food Wise, Australians dispose of approximately 20% of the food they buy and up to 40% of the average Australian household bin is made up of food waste. There’s obviously a bigger question at play about why so much is being wasted, but for today I just want to focus on better ways to dispose of that waste. Common perception is that it’s okay if food waste goes into the normal waste system (aka landfill) as it is organic and will just break down, but unfortunately that’s not the case. The food won’t easily break down and instead just rots, giving off methane and causing huge problems for the planet.

So what are some of the options for those in small spaces and the pros and cons of each?

Compost Bin

Most people think of compost bins as space intensive but you can get them in a variety of sizes, some down to less than 1sqm, which means they are still an option for those with larger balconies or courtyards. It can take most organic waste including fruit & vegetables, eggshells, tea bags, coffee and grass clippings as well as small quantities of bread, meat, citrus and dairy. You do need to layer the organic matter with straw or soaked cardboard/newspaper and it will require regular turning, but if managed well it shouldn’t smell or attract flies.

220L BMW Worm Farm

Worm Farm

Worm farms are approximately 40cmx40cmx50cm so can fit in small spaces, with some people even keeping them inside (generally in the laundry!). They need full shade in summer to ensure you don’t cook the poor worms, but some sun in winter to keep the worms active, so you’ll need to be able to move it around. The worms are happy to munch on fruit & vegetables, teabags, coffee and eggshells as well as small quantities of bread and pasta. They won’t process meat, citrus, onions or dairy however, and the organic matter will need to be layered with soaked paper/cardboard or straw to balance the food scraps. You will also need to check moisture levels regularly and aerate the matter once a week, but if you do that right it also shouldn’t smell or attract worms.

RELN Worm Farm

Bokashi Bucket

The bokashi bucket is based on a Japanese farming practice and involves an air-tight bucket which you fill with food scraps and layer with a special bokashi grain which helps to rapidly break down the scraps and produces a liquid that you can dilute to use on your plants, or use as a drain cleaner. The bucket can process most food waste including fruit & vegetables, tea bags, coffee, eggshells, dairy, citrus and meat. The container is small enough to fit under the sink or in the laundry, however once the container is full you need to dispose of the contents either in a compost bin or buried in a garden, so you’ll need to find a friend or local organisation that you can take the contents of your bucket to.

bucket_mix_hand

Other

If none of these options appeal there are still a few things you can do. If your apartment building has some communal garden space you could always chat to the body-corporate to see if there is any interest for a communal compost bin or worm farm that could then be used to feed the communal garden. You can also visit any local community gardens (or even schools with veggie patches) to see if they accept food scraps from locals, and you may even find there is a local resident who is willing to put a compost bin in their front yard for anyone to contribute to.

I’ve decided to go the Bokashi Bucket route as I’d prefer not to sacrifice any of my balcony space for a compost bin or worm farm (I need all the room I can get for food growing!) and I will dispose of the contents of the container either at my parents place or in the veggie patch at my old house. I shall keep you posted on how I go when it arrives!

Do you compost? What method do you use or have tried in the past?

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