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How to Collect Compost in an Apartment or Small Home


Saving and repurposing food scraps is simple.

So you want to get started with compost? Even if you live in a small or shared space, you can compost easily (and smell-free) while reducing your personal trash output and helping gardens and crops to grow.

Composting keeps literal tons of food from rotting in our landfills, preventing climate-harming methane gas from being emitted in the process. The act of composting, due to its simplicity and impact, has been mandated recently in states like Vermont and even called an act of resistance.

It will take a few small commitments and shifts in how you manage personal waste—but once you form a new habit, I guarantee you’ll be a happy composter for life.

First, find a drop-off (or pick-up) spot

While it’s certainly possible to turn food scraps into compost at home, or even utilize worms to vermicompost in your backyard or even indoors, I’ll assume for the purposes of this article that you’re looking to take your food scraps elsewhere.

The first step is to find a local drop-off zone for food scraps to be turned into compost.
The first step is to find a local drop-off zone for food scraps to be turned into compost. Many local governments offer these services — a quick Google search for “compost drop off in [your city name]” will get you started. Also check your state and local websites for resources.

If your local government doesn’t offer composting services (during the pandemic, sadly many composting budgets have been unfunded or paused), you can try calling around to city parks, local farms, and even neighbors with backyards or gardens. Instagram and Reddit may be good resources for finding these partners. Some citizens have taken up the initiative of collecting community compost on their own — I drop off my own compost with a do-gooder neighborhood pug called Rocky.

Once you’ve secured a drop-off location, check with their policies, as different municipalities can compost different things depending on their setup. Your local regulations supersede my tips below!

Next, designate a bin or container(s)

You’ll need somewhere to collect your food scraps. You can either invest in a designated countertop compost bin designed for this purpose, or collect scraps in another secured container that you already have.

I rinse out and save large plastic yogurt containers, and sacrifice one or two Tupperware containers as overflow.

If you choose to go the bring-your-own-container route (I applaud you, because reusing plastic is the next best thing to not using plastic), then you’ll want to free up space in your freezer to store your containers. The freezer method prevents spoilage, so your compost scraps won’t smell or rot until you’re ready to drop them off or have them picked up.

Also — hold on to any paper bags you come across, because you can use them to transport your compost!

Start collecting

Collecting food scraps is as easy as it sounds. Anytime you use vegetables or fruits, you can throw any part of them in your compost container — they are generally all fair game. Some examples include the tops of carrots (although you can also use them to make a pesto), the peels of potatoes, the cores of apples, and any fruit or vegetable that has gone bad. Make sure to take off and discard anything that isn’t food, including produce stickers and wrap ties.

Make sure to take off and discard anything that isn’t food, including produce stickers and wrap ties.
You can also compost plain rice, stale bread, and pasta, although some people warn against this because they attract pests. If you do so in moderation, and if your compost drop-off partner is OK with it, you will likely be just fine to include grains as they will break down easily. Another surprising thing you can compost is coffee grounds, and oftentimes the filters that you use to make coffee.

Some things that you may be able to compost, depending on your location: paper products like toilet paper tubes and paper bags (just nothing glossy), newspaper, fallen leaves, and used potting soil or dead houseplants (excluding any that were diseased or had pests.) “Compostable” goods like forks, knives, and plastic-like bags are sometimes accepted, but can take a while to break down and aren’t often advised.

A no-no with compost in most drop-off locations is animal products — that is, dairy (like yogurt) and meat. Those must be thrown away in the trash instead, but confirm with your compost drop-off just in case. (One exception is egg shells, which are fabulous in a compost pile, and can also be used as a plant houseplant fertilizer at home.) Also avoid adding oil or oily food to your pile.

A few best practices, regardless of what you compost: Find a balance between browns (like paper) and greens (organic plant matter), since both are required for a healthy compost pile. And chop up any large item into smaller pieces, which will help it break down easily and also maximize space in your apartment-sized compost container!

Composting is hugely satisfying. I see it as an action I can truly take into my own hands to make a big difference for the environment, and reducing my personal garbage is also a huge plus (I take out my household trash once a week or less now, instead of multiple times a week).

Best of luck on forming sustainable compost habits. The earth — and some hungry worms—will certainly thank you.


This article was originally published by Kayli Kunkel,

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