How to Compost in an Apartment With or Without a Balcony!

Woman throwing food scarps into a composter

Composting is essentially the perfect system. The food scraps from your kitchen waste can be composted and that compost can then be used to grow more food. Besides allowing you to use your fruit and vegetable scraps and other organic material to the fullest, composting is also a much better end source for food waste than throwing it in the trash.

Yet, we don’t all have access to a big yard, or spare yard space where we can place a large bin for composting. Because of this, many of us who live in cities and the suburbs wonder if indoor apartment composting is even a possibility. Read on to learn the answer to this question, or jump ahead to learn about the best composter for apartment living!


Can you compost if you live in an apartment? 

light blue bin sitting on a countertop

Composting in a condo or an apartment, whether it’s a large space or a tiny one, is indeed possible. Don’t feel that just because you don’t have a yard, you’re forever doomed to throw your food waste away. Composting is a great way to dispose of organics like kitchen scraps, divert waste from landfills while creating your own compost for your house plants! 

And while you obviously can’t build a giant, open bin for composting in your third-floor walk-up big-city apartment, that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of options available to you if you want to start sustainably disposing of your food waste. Plus, thanks to technological advancements, some of the available composting options are really cool!

If you are interested in getting started with composting at home, check out our article on the best indoor compost bins!



How to compost in an apartment?

Lomi with food scraps in it and surrounded by plants

Whether your apartment has a balcony or not, there are many easy composting methods to choose from. The best composter for you will depend on the size of your space and the amount of time you have to dedicate to composting. Some of the best indoor composting solutions are:

  • Electric composter
  • Compost tumbler
  • Countertop composter
  • Upright compost bin
  • Worm bin
  • Freezer bin 

Note that regardless of the DIY apartment compost system you choose, many require you to maintain a ratio of “brown” and “green” matter to generate the right level of heat and keep the smell down. 

The proper ratio of browns to greens is 3:1. Brown items aren’t always brown and green items aren’t always green! If you don’t want to have to worry about your ratio and just want to be able to toss all of your food scraps in, try an electric apartment size composter.

Here are a few more examples of brown and green compostable organic matter.

Green Materials

Brown materials

Vegetable peels

Sawdust

Grass clippings

Paper plates & napkins

Tea bags

Coffee filters

Houseplant trimmings

Dry lint

Crushed eggshells

Printer paper


And if you’re wondering what to do with finished compost once you have the broken down material, you can actually add it to your indoor plants!


 

 


4 apartment composting methods to use if you have a balcony

If you live in an apartment with a balcony or patio then you have almost as many compost options as someone with a full yard. True, you won’t be able to build a large compost station out of wood and chicken wire - which is a popular DIY for those who live in a house. But there are several routes you can go to produce beautiful finished compost that you can then use for your indoor and outdoor plants. 


1. Try a compost tumbler 

Black tumbler on a white background
Image Credit: Amazon

Compost tumblers are popular composting units for people who have yards, but also work great for apartment-dwellers who have a balcony or a patio. Tumblers are airtight, meaning they won’t attract pests.They’re also excellent at trapping heat, which speeds up the composting process. And the best part? Unlike with traditional compost piles, you don’t have to shovel the fruit and vegetable scraps and other waste items. All you have to do is turn the crank a few times a week until the organic matter has completely decomposed. 

Use this method if: You have a medium amount of organic waste. Tumblers come in a variety of sizes and the larger two chamber models can hold up to 43 gallons. Just make sure your patio or balcony is wide enough to fit a tumbler before purchasing one. 

Try this product: VIVOSUN Outdoor Tumbling Composter 

Pro tip: A tumbler with two chambers allows for one side to “cook” while you add fresh organic waste to the other side. It helps keep the decomposition process efficient!


2. Invest in an upright compost bin 

Tall green composter sitting next to a berry bush
Image Credit: Amazon

While the majority of people who have an upright bin have a yard, there’s no saying you can’t also use one if you have a balcony or a patio. However, make sure you purchase an apartment-friendly compost bin as not all of them are airtight and could attract critters. Also, many of the upright bins on the market don’t have a bottom as they’re meant to be placed directly on the grass. The upright bins that do have bottoms collect the liquid from your finished compost in a tray - which you can then use to fertilize any potted plants you have on your balcony or in window boxes.

Use this method if: You have a lot of organic waste. Upright bins can hold twice as much organic matter as a tumbler. Also, because they’re tall and thin they work great if you only have a narrow outdoor space.

Try this product: Exaco Aerobin 400-T Insulated Compost Bin

Pro tip: Using an insulated upright bin allows your organic matter to stay warm year-round, meaning you’ll be producing usable compost - even in the middle of winter.


3. Use a compost bag to save space 

Man holding a green plastic compost bag
Image Credit: Amazon

A compost bag is a budget-friendly outdoor composting option. Made of fabric, these bags come with handles and can easily be moved around. Much like an upright bin, you open the lid and dump your organic waste on top. Use the handles to help turn your compost a few times a week and keep an eye on the decomposed material at the bottom of the bag, which you can access through a small opening.

Use this method if: You have limited outdoor space. Compost bags are much more compact than tumblers or bins and work really well if you’re wondering how to compost in a small apartment. Plus, they’re collapsible and can be folded up and put away when not in use.

Try this product: DQRICH 15 Gallon Multifunction Composting Bag

Pro tip: Compost bags are multipurpose, with owners of these bags reporting they’ve used them to store items indoors during the off-season.


4. Set up a compost area in an outdoor common space

Food scraps being dumped into a large black bin
Image Credit: Amazon

Even if you do have a balcony or patio space, you may want to take your composting game to the next level. If your building has an outdoor common area, get permission from management to set up a community compost area. Sweeten the deal by saying you’ll maintain it and that the broken down compost can be used for the building’s flower beds. Once you get permission, you can use almost any outdoor composting method as long as you have the space for it, but keeping it simple - and affordable - is probably your best bet. Try setting it up near the outdoor garbage and recycling bins so residents can easily add to the compost pile. 

Use this method if: You want to encourage a community of composters - and you get permission, of course!

Try this product: Zodight Expandable Outdoor Composter

Pro tip: Consider putting up a small sign near the community compost pile letting everyone know what can and what can’t be added.


4 easy ways to start composting indoors if you don’t have a balcony

If you don’t have a yard or space outdoors for composting, the inside of your apartment is an equally good option! There are tons of solutions for indoor composters, and if you manage your bin properly, you won’t have to worry about the smell or about attracting pests. 

1. Try an electric composter

A man scraping food waste into electric composter

If you’re looking for an indoor-friendly composting method that’s easy, fast and odor-free, then an electric composter will be your new best friend. About the size of a small appliance, electric composters sit on your countertop and do all the hard work for you. Simply toss in your food scraps, turn it on and overnight it will turn your waste into a nutrient rich fertilizer you can then add to your indoor potted plants. And some electric composters such as Lomi can complete the process in as little as four hours!

Use this method if you: Live in a small apartment. A lot of the indoor composting methods require a bit of space, which you may not have. Electric composters are about the size of a bread maker or food processor, meaning they’re perfect for a neat and tidy kitchen apartment. 

Try this product: Lomi

Pro tip: Lomi can even break down “Lomi Approved” bioplastics and packaging. Now that’s what you call a hardworking electronic!

Lomi by Pela

Lomi

★★★★★

Lomi allows you to turn food waste into plant-ready nutrients in under 24 hours. Boost your plants while reducing your waste.


2. Let the worms do the work

black worm composter bin sitting on a hardwood floor
Image Credit: Amazon

Apartment composting with worms is exactly what it sounds like: you put your food scraps in a big bin full of worms! To get started, DIY or purchase a worm bin, then head to a local garden center or bait shop and pick up one pound of vermicomposting worms such as red wigglers. While some people like to keep their worm bin outside, vermicomposting worms actually prefer room temperature - making them perfect for an apartment without a balcony or patio. And the best part about vermicomposting is that it can be done indoors year-round.

Use this method if: You don’t mind handling the worms. Worms are one of nature’s most wondrous creatures. But not everyone wants to have them living in their home. But if the thought of a worm bin doesn’t bother you then this composting process is fascinating to observe.

Try this product: The Essential Living Composter

Pro tip: Because the residents in the worm composter move around the organic waste for you, there’s no need to turn your compost. 


3. Keep it simple with a countertop composter

off white compost container on a white background
Image Credit: Amazon

Perhaps the most straightforward way to learn how to compost food scraps in an apartment is to get a countertop bin for composting. It’s pretty much as simple as it sounds - place a bin on your counter and fill it with your food scraps. What you do with the bin once it’s full is up to you. If there are community gardens nearby, or your municipality has a place to bring organic waste, then you may want to go those routes. However, a step up from the simple bin on the counter method are Bokashi bins. The Bokashi compost method involves placing your compost in an airtight bin and then adding a special activator that helps speed up the decomposition process.

Use this method if: You don’t mind the smell. True, compost can get a little stinky. But if you use an airtight container - such as with the Bokashi method, the smell will be kept to a minimum. Plus, then you can try composting in an apartment without worms sharing your space! 

Try this product: TeraGanix Organko Complete Bokashi Kit

Pro tip: Unlike some other compost methods, the Bokashi method allows for all food scraps including dairy products, egg shells, bones and citrus peels.


4. Store your organic waste in the freezer

Green plastic bin filled with vegetable scraps in a freezer door
Image Credit: Amazon

If you have access to a compost option away from your home, such as a local community garden or municipal collection center, you’ll need somewhere to store your scraps between trips to the pile. But we get it - the thought of old food sitting on your counter may not be very appealing and can even lead some apartment dwellers to rethink composting all together. The solution? Store your scraps in the freezer! Putting your scraps in a bin in the freezer puts the decomposition process temporarily on hold. While in the freezer, your scraps won’t smell and won’t attract flies. 

Use this method if: You don’t like the idea of food scraps sitting on your counter. The great thing about storing your kitchen scraps in the freezer is its odor free and pest free. The scraps freeze and stay that way until you’re ready to take them to their final destination.

Try this product: Full Circle Food Scrap Collector and Freezer Bin

Pro tip: Use a freezer bin that’s easy to clean so you can give it a quick wash between uses. You could even use a few different bins on a rotating basis.


The bottom line: what is the best way to compost in an apartment?

Kitchen composter filled with assorted food scraps

Now you know the answer to the question of how to start composting in an apartment, you may be wondering which of the many methods is right for you. And while each of the above routes is a much better option than throwing your kitchen scraps away, not all of them will work for everyone. 

Thanks to its compact and innovative design, an easy composting method that will work in any situation is Lomi! With Lomi, there is no need for an outdoor space like a balcony or patio. There’s also no need to keep worms in your home, deal with the smell of decomposing waste, or store food scraps in your freezer.

So what does all this mean? It means less work for you - and less food waste for the planet! If you’re ready to get started, order your Lomi today and see how easy it is to turn your kitchen scraps into something you can reuse. Also, check out our blog for a deep dive into indoor composting without worms.


Written by: Larissa Swayze