Cities have a high population density with many buildings and little room for garden settings. Thankfully, city dwellers have the opportunity to start composting with more green innovation. Anyone can begin urban composting, whether they live in the countryside or a tiny apartment.
Composting is available to you whether you have a garden, access to community gardens, or a small balcony space. No matter where you find yourself, you can make use of food scraps and organic material. By diverting organic materials from landfills, we can contribute to a better and cleaner world. If you’re a city dweller thinking of how to begin utilizing your organic waste, you’ll find answers here.
Composting is the process of recycling organic matter naturally. It entails employing methods to speed up the decomposition of this organic matter. The resulting matter is what we know as compost. This looks like fertile soil.
Contrary to popular belief, composting is available to anyone - whether you live in a rural or urban setting. We know that many cities have recycling programs that aid in diverting old items from landfills. By doing so, we reduce the amount of waste that contributes to the world’s population problem. However, composting is also a significant contributor to diverting waste from landfills.
Every home produces food waste that forms organic material, ranging from fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, and grains to tea bags and coffee grounds. When we throw these into our regular waste bin, these food scraps end up in a landfill site. An accumulation of this food waste from many homes contributes to the emission of the toxic gas methane, which in turn contributes to climate change.
As the name suggests, urban composting simply refers to composting in urban areas such as cities and towns. This suggests that we don’t have to leave composting efforts to those in the countryside. People living in cities should embrace composting to curb the effects of this toxic gas and manage food scraps properly.
Gone are the days when you need to rely on a large community bin to toss in your food scraps. You can create a small compost container and compost within your apartment regularly. Here, you can toss in kitchen waste instead of throwing them away in the waste bin.
Related: Check out our guide to zero waste kitchen products for more ideas to reduce waste in the kitchen.
Composting indoors isn’t as difficult as it may seem. You only need to understand the composting basics and continue to learn from there. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or yard, you can add yard waste or garden trimmings to your compost pile.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency revealed that 30% of what we throw out is yard waste and food scraps1. These materials take up space in landfills. They also contribute to the release of the potent greenhouse gas, methane. Instead of throwing these out, you can create a compost heap or compost bin where you can control the process of decomposition.
Related: 33 Food Waste Facts and Statistics
Compost heaps with a good balance of nitrogen-rich materials and carbon sources contribute to healthy soil. The resulting organic matter is a form of dark and rich soil that can aid plant growth. You can then add these to your garden to help your plants grow. If you don’t have a garden, your potted plants can enjoy the benefits of the finished compost. Another great practice is to donate your compost to local farms if you have it in abundance.
We can think of composting as a form of natural recycling. This type requires natural methods instead of going through the artificial recycling process. Every home generates different forms of waste. However, kitchen and food waste are common patterns. Instead of throwing all these organic materials away, we can put them to good use. Your tea bags, coffee grounds, egg and nutshells, rice, amongst other items, can serve a purpose. The resulting materials can help your open or container garden to enrich the soil.
One of the ways composting in urban areas is useful is in helping homes reduce their waste stream. On a larger scale, it also helps cities and towns reduce the amount of trash they toss out.
Contrary to popular belief, composting doesn’t necessarily contribute to an influx of rodents in cities. There are many ways to ensure your compost pile or bin is rodent-proof within the yard and home. There is also a low-maintenance option such as electric kitchen compost. This helps to prevent odors and rodents. On a larger scale, city compost bins avoid the mess that organic waste creates in trash cans.
Apart from reducing waste, composting also helps us generate natural fertilizer. When we create compost heaps, we also create nutrient-rich materials. These nutrient-rich materials help plants grow - whether in gardens, streets, lawns, or within potted plants. As a result, we rely less on chemical additives that are not always environmentally friendly. Compost also improves soil structure, prevents nutrient run-off, and increases the soil's moisture-holding capacity.
Composting in urban areas can restore the environment, help plants grow, nourish the soil, and reduce chemical use. It helps to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill sites.
Indoor composting doesn’t have to be as daunting as you may think. With adequate knowledge, the right ingredients, and a suitable bin, you’re on your way to creating a suitable compost.
First, you need to understand the basic requirements for a healthy compost pile. A good compost pile or bin requires water, air, carbon, and nitrogen. Carbon sources are usually dry materials such as bread, wood shavings, shredded newspaper, pine needles, twigs, and brown plant materials. These are also known as browns or brown waste.
On the other hand, nitrogen sources are moist and fresh ingredients. Green nitrogen-rich materials include leaves, grass clippings, flowers, coffee grounds, fruits, vegetable scraps, and eggshells. You need a good balance of carbon and nitrogen sources. If you have too many browns, you risk having dry compost. Without enough greens, the compost pile won’t decompose fast. A good carbon to nitrogen ratio is 25-30:1. That is 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. If you notice that the greens outweigh the browns, you should add more browns.
Apart from these materials, your compost pile also needs enough air and moisture to aid decomposition. With the right amount of water and air, you’ll notice the quick reproduction of organisms that aid decomposition.
Once you understand this, you need to know the suitable materials to compost and how to get started. Some materials make good compost, while you should avoid adding others to your compost heap or bin.
Here are some good compost materials to add to a compost heap or bin:
Here are some materials to avoid adding to a compost heap or bin:
The reasons for avoiding these materials vary. Waste products like butter, milk, oils, meat, and fish cause odor problems. Apart from that, they also tend to attract unwanted visitors like insects and rodents. Avoid animal products like meat and fish bones. Items like charcoal, ash, and chemically-treated materials can release harmful substances to the soil. These not only affect the soil but also negatively affect plants.
There’s more than one way to compost at home. You could embrace indoor composting where you keep a bin in your kitchen or create compost piles in a backyard.
Related: Read up on our deeper dive into what not to compost and what you can
Many composting options are available to you, even if you live in a big city. Here, you’ll discover product options and tips for creating either indoor or outdoor compost.
If you don’t have an outdoor space, you can compost items within your kitchen. There are many options, from worm bins to electric kitchen composters. All you need is a container to retain heat and help you get started.
Thanks to technology, we now have electric composters to speed up composting. One of the popular options is the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50. It comes in a stylish and portable design, making it easy to maintain. It only needs a cubic foot of space. Each FC-50 composter has a removable waste bucket. The buckets have a lid that features a carbon filtration system that gets rid of odors.
If you’re particular about convenience and ease, this electric composter provides just that. It’s simple to use as the device automatically goes through the drying, grinding, and cooling processes.
This tiny worm bin can serve as an excellent addition to your kitchen or indoor space. Worm composting doesn’t have to be scary. You only need to make sure you keep your worm bin well, observe the worms’ eating patterns, and check on it every few days. Worms will easily eat food and help prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria. This worm composter is BPA-free and has four colors to choose from.
If you’re not into worm composting, you can get a simple compost container that can serve your kitchen. This stainless steel bin supports the build-up of your waste and scraps during the week. One of its best features is its charcoal filter that traps and controls odors. Compost can attract animals due to strong smells. However, the presence of the filter will prevent the odor from oozing out.
This item is the ideal size for any kitchen. It can easily sit on the countertop due to its compact size. So, even if you have a small kitchen, you can fit it in. This way, you don’t have to worry about having an additional large item in the home.
This indoor countertop kitchen composter is excellent for composting and features sustainable materials. The company uses durable bamboo fibers to produce these bins. They are dishwasher safe and biodegradable. Due to these properties, you can easily maintain and use your product for a long time.
This stylish, sustainable, and functional composter is an excellent addition to any kitchen countertop. The best part is that once the product has served its purpose, the material breaks down and returns to the earth. As a result, it has a low environmental impact. These composters also come with a charcoal filter fitted into their lids. The filter prevents and controls the compost odor, thereby preventing rodents and insects from destroying the compost.
If you’re not ready to buy a bin, you can get started with a suitable container. You’ll probably find an old plastic container or bucket that you can use. With the DIY route, you need to ensure that the container is in the right state for use. It’s also best to keep this outside to prevent rodents and odors. Follow these steps to get started:
If you have a garden or yard, you can opt for the traditional composting method of using piles. Find a dry, shady spot to get started with. Then, create a section with soil and dirt. Begin to toss in your green and brown materials over the soil or dirt. Moisten the pile, mix, and add suitable ingredients as you generate waste.
If you’re looking for an outdoor composter that fits even in small spaces, the Miracle-Gro small composter is a good option.
With a compact size that can fit in small spaces like balconies and rooftop gardens, this item is ideal for city dwellers. It features an aeration system and internal mixing bars to ensure you achieve effective compost. This composter also has tightly locked sliding doors that keep rodents and insects out. Within four to six weeks, you’ll have ready-to-use compost.
No matter where you live, composting is accessible to you. Many cities are now putting regulations in place to encourage composting. However, even if your city doesn't provide large bins, you can take matters into your own hands. With various indoor and outdoor composting options, anyone can begin urban composting to turn waste into useful organic material.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (n.d.). Composting at Home
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.