Urban Composting Made Easy – Step By Step
Did you know that 30% of what we throw away could actually be composted? Instead, it ends up in a landfill where it creates methane, which is a greenhouse gas. If you’ve been thinking of incorporating urban composting into your life, now is a better time than ever.
Since farmers have been composting for centuries, it seems like a practice only possible in the country, where there’s more space to contain compost. That’s just not true today – even people living in the city can compost. Here’s how.
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1. Decide which form of composting is best for you
For people living in urban places, the way you compost will largely depend on if you have outdoor space or a garden. If you have a larger patch of greenery, patio or balcony space, you might have room for a bigger compost bin. This can be a literal pile that you throw food scraps on, a bin, or a tumbler. With the pile or bin, you can expect to manually turn the materials to provide airflow, with equipment like a spade or rake. With tumblers, the container is set up on a stand that makes turning the bin easy, so the scraps mix inside as you turn the container.
If you don’t have outdoor space or a garden, a compost bucket is a small, convenient container with a lid that you can keep in your kitchen. A great small space, urban hack is to create a food scrap bowl in the freezer. This will avoid the possibility of any smell. When it’s full, just bring it to a local community compost pile or send it with local food and waste collection. I like this one, which comes with odour filters.
The final option is a worm bin. These bins can be as small as you like and will need to be stocked with redworms specifically. Keep it in your apartment, as worms are sensitive to extreme temperatures. The worms will ensure there are no bad smells!
2. What to put in urban composting
What you put in the compost really depends on what sort of compost it is. If you are using it for the garden, you may not want to add all leftovers, especially processed foods, which might not contain the nicest chemicals. It’s important to think about what chemicals you want going into the soil that’s then going into your homegrown food.
If it’s going into general food waste bins, you can be more liberal with what you put in as the local authority often uses it for gas. Always best to check on their website to be sure about what you can add.
Things you can expect to compost include:
- Fruits & veggies
- Coffee grounds, tea bags, filters
- Grains, cereal, bread
- Shredded newspaper
- Hair, nail clippings (human or pet)
- Compostable packaging
- Ripped up egg cartons
Proceed with caution & avoid these if using a worm bin:
At my parent’s place, for example, they would never put avocado or orange peel skins in their compost. There may be an element of trial and error where certain foods don’t break down fast enough or there are fears of the skin being sprayed with nasty pesticides.
- Animal waste – probably not applicable to urban dwellers, but it is possible. It’s best to only add this if you have a digester.
- Eggshells, oily food, meat, bones, & dairy – if composting indoors, avoid these completely as they can attract other pests you don’t want around.
- Paper – any colour-saturated or glossy paper is a no-no as it could contain plastic.
- Plant clippings – be sure not to add any diseased plant clippings as this can allow rot to spread to the soil.
Definitely don’t include:
- Pet poo or cat litter
- Baby nappies
3. Find balance in your urban composting
To start, you should add some straw to the bottom of your compost bin as this will allow airflow. Then, as you add scraps, you’ll need to ensure balance. Do this by having a mix of “greens” and “browns,” plus a healthy air flow.
- When the compost is too wet, add “browns” like paper and cardboard.
- When the compost is too dry, add “greens” like kitchen and garden waste.
- Throughout, be sure to add in scrunched up cardboard which will create air pockets. You can also just mix the compost from time to time.
- If you have a pile in the garden, cover it to avoid rainwater leaking in.
4. Put the compost to good use
After 4 months to a year, your urban compost will be ready to use. You can add it to flower beds or share it with friends and family. Wherever used, the nutrient rich compost will help suppress weeds and improve soil quality.
Are you ready to start with your own urban composting? Leave a comment below and let me know which method you’ll try!
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