Living in an apartment doesn’t mean you have to give up on composting. With a little effort and the right setup, you can turn your food scraps into nutrient-rich fertilizer right from your own home. As an experienced composter who has been at it for years in my small city apartment, I’m here to share all my tips and tricks on How to Compost in an Apartment!

how to compost in an apartment3

Why Compost in an Apartment?

Composting has some amazing benefits that everyone can enjoy:

  • It reduces the amount of organic waste sent to landfills and lowers your carbon footprint. Food scraps make up around 30% of what we throw away!
  • It gives you free, natural fertilizer to grow healthy plants, indoors and out. Compost contains nutrients that feed your plants and boosts soil health.
  • It saves you money by replacing store-bought fertilizers and soil amendments. Homemade “black gold” is just as good!
  • It’s satisfying to see your food scraps go back to the earth and help new life grow instead of being wasted.

The Composting Process

Composting aims to accelerate nature’s process of decaying organic matter into rich humus. To make it happen, you need:

A composting unit – This holds and contains the waste while it decomposes. We’ll go over the options shortly.

A balance of greens and browns – “Greens” provide nitrogen (think fruit and veggie scraps, grass clippings). “Browns” provide carbon (think dead leaves, shredded newspaper). You need both!

Airflow – Oxygen feeds the microbes and bacteria that break down the waste and prevents anaerobic rotting.

Moisture – You want your compost damp but not soaked. Like a wrung-out sponge.

This combination creates the ideal environment for beneficial decomposers to thrive and do their work. If you get it right, you’ll have finished compost in 2 to 6 months depending on factors like temperature and materials.

Choosing Your Compost System

There are several composting methods that work great for apartments:

Electric Composters

Countertop electric composters like the Lomi are designed specifically for indoor use. They make composting clean, quick, and convenient:

  • Sleek, compact size fits easily in your kitchen
  • Speeds decomposition and prevents odors
  • Just plug in, add scraps, and get compost overnight!

The main downside is the higher price point, but these are ideal for small spaces.

Compost Tumblers

Tumblers are sealed drums that make mixing and aerating the compost easy – just rotate the drum! Features:

  • Great for patios, decks, or balconies
  • Prevents odors and keeps pests out
  • Can process compost in as little as 2 weeks

On the flip side, they’re bulkier and more expensive than DIY options. But very effective!

Worm Composting

Vermicomposting uses red wiggler worms to break down food waste. Pros:

  • Fun to observe the wigglers at work!
  • Produces very nutrient-rich “worm castings”
  • Can be done in small indoor spaces

The cons are that worms require more maintenance and some folks are squeamish about having worms in the house.

how to compost in an apartment
how to compost in an apartment

DIY Indoor Bins

Creating your own apartment compost bin is cheap, easy, and customizable. All you need are two plastic storage bins and a drill to poke ventilation holes.

Simply put the bin with holes inside the solid one to allow drainage. Add your organic waste to the top bin as you accumulate it, and cover with absorbent material like dried leaves, sawdust, or shredded newspaper.

The finished compost will fall through the holes into the bottom bin over 2 to 3 months. Easy as that!

Setting Up Your Space

When choosing a composting spot, you’ll want somewhere:

  • With a consistent temperature around 55°F to 75°F
  • Away from direct sun or ventilation to prevent drying
  • Not close to food prep, beds, or seating to avoid odors
  • Near a sink or outdoor hose for easy moisture maintenance

Popular apartment locations include utility closets, mud rooms, garages, and shaded patios or balconies.

I keep my electric composter right on the kitchen counter for easy access when cooking. For DIY bins, under the sink or in a hall closet works well.

What Can You Compost in an Apartment?

The key for indoor composting is avoiding anything that could cause odors or attract pests. Here’s an overview of what you can and can’t include:

Green Ingredients (Do Add)

  • Fruit and veggie scraps
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Fresh grass clippings
  • Houseplant trimmings
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Paper towels

Brown Ingredients (Do Add)

  • Dead leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Straw
  • Dried grass
  • Shredded cardboard
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Natural wood chopsticks and popsicle sticks

Don’t Add

  • Meat, fish, bones, or dairy (creates odor)
  • Oils, grease, or liquids (makes sludge)
  • Pet waste or litter (contains parasites)
  • Weeds with seed heads (spreads seeds)
  • Diseased plants (spreads disease)
  • Invasive plants (reproduces the plant)
  • Coal or charcoal ash (contains chemicals)

I keep a small bin in the freezer to collect food scraps between compost sessions so they don’t smell or attract fruit flies.

Maintaining Your Compost

To keep your compost healthy, you’ll need to monitor:


The microbes in compost thrive between 55°F and 135°F. Apartments tend to stay in this range. You can track it with a compost thermometer if desired.


Your compost should always feel moist but not wet. Use a hand sprayer to mist it when adding dry materials. If water pools at the bottom, open the bin and let it dry out a bit.


Turn and fluff the compost weekly with a pitchfork or compost aerator tool to introduce more oxygen. Tumblers make this easy.


Aim for equal parts greens and browns by volume. If it smells ammonia-like, there’s too much green. If it’s not decomposing, add more greens.

Particle Size

Break or shred large pieces into smaller bits to speed decomposition. Aim for 1-2 inches max.

Follow these steps and your compost will produce that crumbly, earthy, delicious finished product before you know it!

Using Your Finished Compost

Now comes the fun part – using your homemade black gold!

Compost boosts nutrients in any soil it’s added to. Here are some ways to use it:

  • Mix into garden beds before planting each season
  • Make potting mix for houseplants – use 1/3 compost to 2/3 potting soil
  • Top dress indoor and outdoor planters to fertilize existing plants
  • Add to lawn grass to overseed or fill bare patches
  • Mulch around trees and plants in place of bark nuggets

What I love is that it completes the cycle – your food scraps get turned into nutrients that then grow more food or beautiful plants!

Top Composting Tips

Here are my pro tips after years of successful apartment composting:

  • Grind eggshells to speed decomposition and add calcium
  • Freeze scraps before adding to prevent odors and fruit flies
  • Use a compost turner tool to easily mix and aerate
  • Add natural browns like dead leaves or sawdust to balance greens
  • Turn tumblers or bins at least once a week
  • If odor develops, add more browns and turn the compost
  • Keep the bin in shade to avoid drying out
  • Use finished compost within 6 months before nutrients fade

The Joy and Benefits of Composting

I hope these apartment composting tips give you the confidence to start recycling your organic waste right at home, no matter how small your living space.

Composting has brought me so much satisfaction and I think it’s one of the best things you can do for the environment. We can all make a dent in the massive food waste problem and improve soil health.

When you see your plants thrive with that rich, dark compost you created, you’ll feel amazing. And if you can grow some fruits, veggies, or herbs with it, even better!

Let me know if you have any other composting questions – I’m always happy to help spread the compost love. Happy composting!

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Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Environment and Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. My mission is to help other. You can use this knowledge to enhance your life THE BEST environments you possibly can.

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