All You Need to Know About Indoor Composting
You may think that composting is only worth it when you live in a house with a gigantic backyard, where you can compost whatever you want outside, but that's far from the truth. If you want to start reducing your carbon footprint at home through composting but don't know how to get started, we'll give you all the tips and tricks you need!
Indoor Composting Methods
Basically, aerobic composting is the decomposition of organic matter such as food waste using microorganisms that require oxygen in the soil layer of the bin. For decomposition, you only need the bin, some ventilation holes in the lid, brown waste (dry leaves, napkins, cardboard, etc.), green waste (coffee grounds, fruit, vegetable waste), and water. Air does the magic here, but it takes some time - about 6 to 9 months.
On the other hand, if you want your compost to be produced faster, in about 2 to 3 months, consider vermicomposting. Use this method only if you wouldn't mind having little, skinny, pink friends in your home, as it uses worms. In fact, it uses a specific type of worm known as a red wiggler.
These worms just eat food scraps, which become compost as they pass through the worm's body. For this method, in addition to the worms, you’ll need your greens, browns, and bedding for the worms made out of newspaper and water. Fun fact: red wigglers can eat half their body weight in food scraps per day. They are the perfect allies of efficient composting!
Is Home Composting worth it?
For sure it is! When you compost at home you not only get the satisfaction from knowing that you’re doing your part to make a positive impact on the environment, but you’re also saving money on fertilizers for your plants, adding natural nutrients that enrich the soil, and much more. Plus, if you have kids at home, you can teach them how composting works and get them familiarized with the process, making it a learning activity for them. How fun is that?
Is it safe to compost indoors?
It’s mostly safe to compost indoors—just make sure that you get proper compost bins and take care of them. If you don’t, you may end up with funky smells, bugs like fruit flies, or other pests. Also, do not put meat, fat, or dairy into your compost bin. It can harbor pathogens and encourage even more pests. Now, in regards to the smell…
Do indoor compost bins smell?
Yes and no. Composting is basically bacteria decomposing your scraps, so it’s normal that it may stink a bit after a while. But done correctly, indoor compost bins shouldn’t smell awful. If you saturate your bin with too many greens it can get slimy, moldy, and smelly, so avoid that in your traditional compost bin. If you take good care of it, it should have an earthy kind of smell.
Now, if we're talking about vermicomposting, this process generally does not generate odour. And if in your case it’s generating any odor, then keep an eye on the humidity of the bin. If it’s too wet, add dry bedding. Also, check to see if the worms aren't eating a specific type of waste because if you leave it there it can cause a little unpleasant odor.
How is Waste Converted into Compost
Let’s get a little scientific in here. In traditional composting, microorganisms in the soil layer use the available supply of nitrogen, carbon, and water in the kitchen compost bin to decompose the kitchen waste. Then, it releases nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, producing nutrient-rich compost. As we mentioned earlier, the main character in this method is oxygen, so you’ll need to aerate your compost bin twice a week.
During vermicomposting, worms eat the organic waste materials, absorb the nutrients, and give out excreta in the form of worm castings that are rich in nitrates and minerals. Unlike traditional composting, you don't need to mix the contents of the bin. The worms do this on their own as they make their happy way through the compost.
Benefits of Indoor Composting
The main benefit of indoor composting is plain to see: you can repurpose your food waste from the comfort of your home! It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment; you can store a compost bin almost everywhere as long as it doesn’t have much humidity or direct sunlight. In fact, indoor composting is perfect for drastic weather changes. For example, if it’s snowing outside, your compost would not be affected.
Also, as indoor composting bins and kitchen compost systems tend to be smaller than outdoor ones, you can easily compost small amounts of kitchen waste.
How much maintenance is required with urban compost bins?
Both vermicomposting and aerobic composting bins require maintenance. However, vermicomposting requires more care but less work than its counterpart. You have to take care of the worms, keep them in an environment where they don't get too much direct sunlight or get too cold, and make sure that the bin environment isn't too wet. Don't drown your little friends!
Aerobic composting therefore requires more work, but less care. Basically, you have to aerate it, mix the compost at least once a week to help the breakdown process, and that's about it.
What are the pros and cons of indoor composting?
We already know the main pros of indoor composting in regards to doing a lot with little space, protecting your compost from drastic weather conditions, and being able to compost small amounts of waste. But what about the cons?
Well, in large families, indoor compost bins may need to be larger due to the amount of food waste produced by each family member. If you have space limitations and a crowded apartment, you may run into the issue of not knowing where to place your bin.
Also, beware of odors! As we said before, a composting bin shouldn’t smell awful, but if you happen to have this issue it can become a huge con for both your neighbors and yourself. No one likes to be in a smelly situation.
Why is composting beneficial to the environment?
Composting is the environment’s best friend. It can divert waste from landfills, reduce greenhouse emissions (if you want to know how keep scrolling), eliminate or at least reduce the need for chemical fertilizers (thus minimizing stormwater runoff pollution), accelerate the nutrient cycle, and even control erosion by allowing more water to penetrate the ground.
What would happen if everyone composted?
In regards to verified data, Project Drawdown, an American research organization that identifies potential solutions to climate change, estimates that if we increase composting levels worldwide, we could reduce greenhouse emissions by 2.1 billion tonnes by 2050. Also, according to the US Composting Council, if everyone in the United States composted all of their food waste, the impact would be equivalent to removing 7.8 million cars from the roads. What a wonderful world.
How does composting help global warming?
As you may already know, greenhouse gases are the main cause of global warming, and one of them is methane. When we throw away our food waste and it arrives in landfills, the organic matter releases methane as it starts to rot.
In the presence of oxygen and water, microbes use carbon dioxide for energy and decompose the organic wastes, releasing methane into the atmosphere. If this process is done in a well-maintained bin, it can reduce significantly the amount of methane released in landfills, and the carbon in the composting organic matter will end up in the nutritious resulting soil.
How do you use an indoor compost bin?
It depends on the type of bin you have. In the aerobic composting bins first, you have to put in your bin the brown waste, then the green one, and so on. The important thing is that the last layer is brown so that you avoid funky smells.
Then, make sure to aerate it twice a week by mixing the contents. Once the compost reaches a deep, dark brown color and a uniform texture, that’s when you know it’s ready to harvest. At this point, just remove the finished compost, add new bedding, and more kitchen waste, and resume composting.
In vermicomposting, you need to place the bedding for the worms made of dry matter, put the worms on top of the bedding and start feeding them with the green waste. Then, each layer is alternated, just like in traditional composting.
Once you notice that the compost is ready, there are many methods to harvest it, but the easiest one is to move the entire content of the bin to one side, add new bedding and food for the worms to the empty side, and wait a bit for the worms to move to that side, leaving the compost worms-free and ready to use.
Items That Are Good and Bad for Composting
To maintain a healthy and successful compost, you can compost fruits and vegetables, leaves, nutshells, houseplants, coffee grounds, shredded newspaper, tea bags, and sawdust. Just be careful with onions, garlic, and citrus peels if you’re into vermicomposting. Citrus can kill your worms if added in large quantities and onions can make the bin stinky.
Now, what can you never add to your compost? Meat. Avoid meat at all costs, it causes odor problems and pests. The same goes for dairy products, fish, eggs, and fats. Also avoid insect-ridden plants, pet wastes like feces, and yard trimmings treated with pesticides.
Where do you keep an indoor compost bin?
You can keep your indoor compost bin in any dark and dry space such as a basement, inside a closet or even in the kitchen, under the sink, or in a cabinet. You can also keep it on the balcony if you have one, but we recommend a dry and dark place so that neither cold nor excessive heat affects your compost bin.
Picking the Perfect Indoor Compost Bin
What Size Compost Bin Do You Need?
A compost bin should have twice the volume of the finished compost that you want. For example, if you want to get 30 liters of compost, you should buy a 60-liter compost bin. To know how much you will add to the compost bin over time, keep track of how much food waste you or your family generates in a 1-week period. Also, the size you choose will depend on the space you have in your home.
Another factor you need to take into account is what kind of compost you need. If traditional composting catches your eye since it does not need as much care as vermicomposting, you can opt for a mini composter, such as the Envirocycle Mini Composter. It has a 65-liter capacity and works similarly to a compost tumbler.
If vermicomposting is your thing since you want to get results faster, there are also different alternatives on the market. Urban Worm Bag is one of them, where you only have to add the organic waste, bedding, and worms.
Now, if you want to speed up the compost collection process, there is the Worm Factory 360. It has 4 trays so that the worms can move between them to process your food waste if you already filled one of the trays.
If you're on a budget or want to do something completely custom, there are also DIY alternatives. You can make traditional composters out of compost collection bins (compost collection bins just collect the waste, they don't compost it) by drilling air holes in the bottom and lit of the bin and placing it on a tray.
Best Indoor Compost Bins
The Vitamix FoodCycler is one of the most innovative composters on the market today. If you have a small space, a small garden, or even no yard but grow your own food, this is the one for you. I first used the Food Cycler for a segment I did on The Marilyn Denis Show, I could not believe that after a few short hours you have this fertilizer that is basically black gold!
You might be thinking, having an item plugged in for hours to create fertilizer is not that sustainable, well, the FoodCycler is energy efficient using only about 1kWh of energy. #greenovation
If you are worried about the smell, you don't have to, the carbon filter lid reduces odors so you can fill the bucket without worrying about the stink.
It's so easy to use. Thanks to heat and vibration in just a few short hours you have composted your food. It's unbelievably convenient. You can place meat and dairy in it which makes it better than vermicomposting as you can't feed these types of foods to worms.
The FoodCycler dehydrates the food and once it's done you can add the fertilizer directly to soil or lawn. It's packed full of micro-nutrients like potassium, and nitrogen which all help plants grow.
It's small and compact, about the size of a microwave. All you need is one cubic foot of space and a power outlet to get started—it’s that easy!
Simply place your food waste in the bucket, put the bucket in the machine and hit "on", let it do it making. The bucket can be washed in the dishwasher too! Once the cycle is done you have this amazing fertilizer to add to your indoor or outdoor garden. It's honestly AMAZING!
I HIGHLY recommend this indoor compost bin.
If you live in an urban area and have a green bin program this bin from KLIIN is for you. It's from one of my favorite eco-cleaning companies. It comes in black or white and has a carbon filter built right into the lid. It's also a really fantastic size, holding up to 6 liters of food waste. That's a lot. And it will look really good on your countertop. It's made from galvanized iron, it's durable, light, and super easy to carry out to your green bin.
Now you can "KLIIN" your home naturally and not have to worry about all that toxic stuff!
To say that I love Net Zero Co. would be a complete understatement. They have become my go-to for everything related to low-waste living. In fact, they are one of the BEST online zero waste shops in Canada.
Do you need zero waste laundry strips, they've got em! How about reusable cotton rounds? Yep, they've got those too. Their zero waste kits make me swoon! Need a cute, affordable, indoor kitchen compost bin? Check it off your list.
The Net Zero Co. compost bin holds 6 liters and is square-shaped, which I dig because it can tuck into a small corner so well. You won't want to hide it away though, it's super chic and is made from 201 stainless steel, compared to its iron counterparts; making it less prone to rust.
Worried about smell? Don't be, the bin's internal charcoal filter absorbs it all, giving you a stink-free experience. You can put anything in it—coffee grounds, eggshells, banana peels, etc. The airtight seal will do its magic.
Net Zero Co. is all about sustainable living. They ship everything to you plastic-free and they also partner with Eden Reforestation Projects to help plant trees in environmentally and economically challenged countries around the world.
Make sure you head on over to their blog to say hi, tons of really useful tips and tricks to live a more eco life.
Do you have any suggestions for smell?
What should you do to prevent and manage potential smells that come from your compost bin? First, whether you have an outdoor or indoor bin, you need to make sure your compost has the right ratio. Don't put foods in any bin unless you know they should go there.
If you are like me and have a strong sense of smell (I'm basically like a Beagle!), then BinBreeze is for you. I LOVE this product so much!
BinBreeze is a compost deodorizing powder that stops smells in their tracks by soaking up extra moisture. All I do is sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons over the fresh food in the indoor compost bin and voila....the smell is gone. Honestly, it's a game-changer.
It also gets rid of fruit flies: the "fossilized algae that are hyper-absorbent and soak in the waxy coatings of insects with exoskeletons, including fruit flies."
It basically works the same way as your layered compost. You want to add it repeatedly to create layers of food waste and BinBreeze.
One box will last you at least 2 months. It's made up of BC rare earth minerals, plus locally-sourced untreated Douglas Fir wood waste and organic essential oils. It comes in different scents—the lavender is really lovely. I am totally digging it!
"BinBreeze was scientifically designed to encourage aerobic decomposition, the non-stinky kind! So as your food waste decomposes, BinBreeze is at work helping aerobic microorganisms thrive."
I really love the fact that when you buy BinBreeze, you are helping to sequester carbon. The wood waste that is used comes from industrial operations that would typically burn the waste, creating emissions. By resuing this by-product, they are helping to put 70% of it back into the soil.
Composting is a really efficient way to reduce methane emissions. If you add carbon earlier to your compost it reduces the volume of methane gas that food produces while it's decomposing.
If you don't compost because of the smell, this is the solution for you! It works!
Indoor Composting is a great way to feed your garden and reduce greenhouse gases!
There is nothing better for your garden soil than feeding it with enriching products, and even more so if these products are organic and come from an activity that helps the environment.
Although composting may seem intimidating at first (especially if you mention the worm's situation), as you dive deeper into this world you will realize that the benefits it can give you are amazing. Even if you live in a tiny space, composting is a great ally to a green lifestyle. At the end of the day, the soil literally feeds us. By composting, we're simply returning the favor.
We've got a ton of guides (and lots more to come) on The Eco Hub to help you compost the right way including:
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