Compost Options for Apartment Dwellers

Now that I’ve moved into an apartment for the first time there are lots of things I have to learn how to do differently. Up until now I’ve been in houses with either compost bins or worm farms (or sometimes both!) in the backyard so we could easily dispose of any food scraps but I wasn’t sure what I could do in my apartment, so I set about doing some research and thought it might be a good idea to share!

According to Food Wise, Australians dispose of approximately 20% of the food they buy and up to 40% of the average Australian household bin is made up of food waste. There’s obviously a bigger question at play about why so much is being wasted, but for today I just want to focus on better ways to dispose of that waste. Common perception is that it’s okay if food waste goes into the normal waste system (aka landfill) as it is organic and will just break down, but unfortunately that’s not the case. The food won’t easily break down and instead just rots, giving off methane and causing huge problems for the planet.

So what are some of the options for those in small spaces and the pros and cons of each?

Compost Bin

Most people think of compost bins as space intensive but you can get them in a variety of sizes, some down to less than 1sqm, which means they are still an option for those with larger balconies or courtyards. It can take most organic waste including fruit & vegetables, eggshells, tea bags, coffee and grass clippings as well as small quantities of bread, meat, citrus and dairy. You do need to layer the organic matter with straw or soaked cardboard/newspaper and it will require regular turning, but if managed well it shouldn’t smell or attract flies.

220L BMW Worm Farm

Worm Farm

Worm farms are approximately 40cmx40cmx50cm so can fit in small spaces, with some people even keeping them inside (generally in the laundry!). They need full shade in summer to ensure you don’t cook the poor worms, but some sun in winter to keep the worms active, so you’ll need to be able to move it around. The worms are happy to munch on fruit & vegetables, teabags, coffee and eggshells as well as small quantities of bread and pasta. They won’t process meat, citrus, onions or dairy however, and the organic matter will need to be layered with soaked paper/cardboard or straw to balance the food scraps. You will also need to check moisture levels regularly and aerate the matter once a week, but if you do that right it also shouldn’t smell or attract worms.

RELN Worm Farm

Bokashi Bucket

The bokashi bucket is based on a Japanese farming practice and involves an air-tight bucket which you fill with food scraps and layer with a special bokashi grain which helps to rapidly break down the scraps and produces a liquid that you can dilute to use on your plants, or use as a drain cleaner. The bucket can process most food waste including fruit & vegetables, tea bags, coffee, eggshells, dairy, citrus and meat. The container is small enough to fit under the sink or in the laundry, however once the container is full you need to dispose of the contents either in a compost bin or buried in a garden, so you’ll need to find a friend or local organisation that you can take the contents of your bucket to.



If none of these options appeal there are still a few things you can do. If your apartment building has some communal garden space you could always chat to the body-corporate to see if there is any interest for a communal compost bin or worm farm that could then be used to feed the communal garden. You can also visit any local community gardens (or even schools with veggie patches) to see if they accept food scraps from locals, and you may even find there is a local resident who is willing to put a compost bin in their front yard for anyone to contribute to.

I’ve decided to go the Bokashi Bucket route as I’d prefer not to sacrifice any of my balcony space for a compost bin or worm farm (I need all the room I can get for food growing!) and I will dispose of the contents of the container either at my parents place or in the veggie patch at my old house. I shall keep you posted on how I go when it arrives!

Do you compost? What method do you use or have tried in the past?

8 Comments on Compost Options for Apartment Dwellers

  1. Ally @ Om Nom Ally
    February 5, 2014 at 7:06 am (10 years ago)

    Great advice for those of us who want to be green while living in smaller spaces 😀 As someone with a small backyard I use all three of those options (well 4 as I have two compost bins). But my favoured would be the Bokashi bin and the worm farm. My bokashi gets all my meat, citrus, onion/garlic and grain leftovers and the worms generally get everything else.
    It’s great that you have somewhere to bury the Bokashi ‘brick’ after filling, I bet your parents are going to love watching their plants thrive 😀
    Ally @ Om Nom Ally recently posted…Eating for Hormonal Balance + Green Adrenal Tonic Smoothie

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      February 5, 2014 at 9:22 am (10 years ago)

      Ooh so good to hear you’re having good experiences with the bokashi! I can’t wait to get mine so I can give it a go, it’s strange not having somewhere to dispose of my food scraps!

  2. Robyn B | Modern Day Missus
    February 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm (10 years ago)

    Eeek. We’re on a pretty spacious block over here, so space isn’t a worry, but we’re in the middle of renovating the area where the veggie patch is, so I’ve been cringing as I’ve been throwing away all of the scraps.

    I can’t wait until we can compost again – there are truly so many food scraps that can go in there.
    Robyn B | Modern Day Missus recently posted…Bruschetta – 3 ways

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      February 6, 2014 at 9:37 am (10 years ago)

      At least it’s for a good cause while you expand the veggie patch! I’ve been hating throwing away the scraps, they’re pretty much the only thing in my bin at the moment! Can’t wait til my bokashi arrives!

  3. Foodie
    February 7, 2014 at 3:37 pm (10 years ago)

    Thanks for the stats Liz! I had no idea my food scraps were in fact, harming the environment. I’ve been thinking of getting a compost bin and now I have even more incentive to do so. Every little bit counts!
    Foodie recently posted…The Crooked Fork Cafe

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      February 7, 2014 at 7:45 pm (10 years ago)

      It seems so counterintuitive doesn’t it? The best part about having compost bin is you’ll end up with great food for your plants too!

  4. Nicola
    May 13, 2016 at 5:23 pm (8 years ago)

    Liz, I found your blog post after a quick google search. I too am an apartment dweller (in the Melbourne CBD), and have been thinking about going down the Bokashi Bin route. However, I don’t have a garden in which to bury my “bokashi brick”. Any suggestions on what to do with it? Trying to get a feel of things before I invest in one… also because I’ve never composted before, eep! Thanks in advance!

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      July 19, 2016 at 6:02 pm (8 years ago)

      Hi Nicola,
      I have a large bin on my balcony that I store extra potting mix and I bury my brick in there to finish breaking down, giving me really high quality soil to then use on the plants in my balcony garden. I’ve heard of people burying it in public parks, but I’m not sure how your local Council might feel about that!


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