Tips for Indoor Composting

Minimal Space Needed for a Compost Station in the House

Recycling Bin
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If your living situation prohibits composting outdoors, or you just want to try composting indoors, for example, during the winter, there are a few things you need to do.

The easiest way to compost indoors is to use a worm bin, but not everyone is up for keeping a few hundred worms in their home. You can set up an indoor composting system without worms, but it takes some monitoring and attention to do so successfully. And, once you do, you will feel good knowing that you are saving items from the landfill and making compost for your garden instead.

Indoor Compost Bins

If you are going to set up a compost station indoors, it is highly likely that space is at a premium. With that in mind, there are a few containers that make good options for indoor compost bins.

  • Plastic storage bins: These are a good choice because these bins are fairly inexpensive and easy to obtain. You can get them in a variety of sizes depending on how much space you have and how much composting you expect to do. Ten gallons can be a good size, but 18 gallons (which is a pretty standard size) would be even better. You can also stack these bins to save space. Simply drill a few aeration holes in the lid, add your contents, and start composting.
  • Five-gallon buckets: These buckets are inexpensive and stackable. You can get them with matching lids at just about any home center. You will want to drill aeration holes near the top of the bucket.
  • Old wooden dresser drawers, wine crates, or other boxes: If you are able to trash-pick an old dresser or wine crate, you can turn it into an indoor composter. Simply cover the top with either a hinged piece of wood cut to size or a piece of heavy fabric such as painters' canvas.
Bin on a container
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Items That Are Good and Bad for Composting

You can put most food scraps you would put into an outdoor bin in an indoor one. Fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, shredded paper, and trimmings from houseplants are all good options.

You do not want to put meat, dairy, or fats into your indoor (or outdoor) compost bin (though if you want to compost these items, look into Bokashi composting). Some people advise composting dryer lint or hair from your hair brushes. In an outdoor bin, these items can take quite a while to break down; in an indoor bin, which does not heat up nearly as much as an outdoor bin and has less microbial action going on in general, lint and hair likely will not break down at all. You do not want to have to sift through clumps of hair and lint when it comes time to use your compost for gardening.

It is a good idea to avoid composting very smelly items (such as a lot of onion peelings) because you may smell it in the rest of your home. Watery items, such as melons or squashes, should also be kept at a minimum to avoid making the contents of your bin too soggy. After a while, you will get a feel for what to add and whether your bin is healthy or not.

Tips for Success

You will want to keep a few important tips in mind for your indoor composting operation:

  • Have a stash of shredded paper or dry leaves on hand: Add a handful or two every time you add food scraps or coffee grounds to your bin. This will keep it from getting too soggy, as well as provide carbon to your bin.
  • Turn the contents of your bin often: This helps the bin warm up a bit and increases microbial action. Mixing the contents is a good way to avoiding soggy and dry pockets in the bin. You can use a shovel or hand trowel to move the contents of the bin around, or, if you are using a bucket, just roll it back and forth a few times to mix it.
  • Smaller items break down quicker: Chop food fairly small for the quickest results, and shred your paper or tear it into thin strips.