It may seem like the latest home fad, but composting has been used since the Stone Age. Some evidence unearthed in the British Isles suggests that Scottish farmers improved their little farms with compost as long as 12,000 years ago. Of course, these days you don’t need to live on a farm – or even have a backyard – to reap the benefits of composting. If your crops are limited to houseplants, you can make the most of your kitchen waste to help them grow better when you learn how to compost at home.
Composting at home can help keep a significant amount of waste out of landfills – as much 30 percent! The main reason, however, is to help grow healthy plants without chemical fertilizers, whether that’s out in the backyard or in your apartment. In fact, compost has earned the nickname “black gold” and that’s because the mix of decayed organic matter is very valuable as a nutrient-rich soil additive, according to Colombia University’s Earth Institute.
What Can I Compost?
For what goes into a composter, the list of “do’s” is generally longer than the list of “don’ts” and is driven by the type of composter you buy. According the US Environmental Protection Agency, good compost needs three things:
- Browns – Materials such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs.
- Greens – Materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
- Water – The right amount of water is important for compost development.
The list of things you can compost is long and ranges from vegetable peelings, yard trimmings and tea bags to cotton and wool rags. At the same time, there are items you should never add to your compost in order to preserve its organic nature, not attract pests or generate unpleasant smells. These include:
- Black walnut tree leaves or twigs, because they release compounds that can harm plants
- Coal or charcoal ash
- Dairy products and eggs – but eggshells are fine.
- Plants that have disease or insects.
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils
- Meat or fish scraps, bones or skins
- Pet wastes
- Yard trimmings or anything treated with chemical pesticides.
How to Compost
If you have a larger property and want to take on composting without a purchased composter, the EPA has the instructions for how to get started. Most people will opt to purchase a kitchen compost bin and/or a composter that will do the job, either in the backyard or even in a small kitchen.
The first step to composting is saving all the appropriate scraps and materials that you generate in your home. Then, all you have to do is follow the instructions that come with your particular composter for adding and agitating the material to create your own compost.
We’ve rounded up some of the best essentials you need for composting at home:
Perfectly sized for even the smallest kitchens, this Compact Countertop Kitchen Compost bin can hold about two or three days of kitchen scraps for your composter. It’s cute enough that it can sit on the countertop without taking up much space, making it easy to toss in scraps as you cook. It features a tightly fitting lid to keep odors contained but is easy enough to take off that you can do so with one hand. The heavy-duty bin has a sturdy handle so it’s easy to carry it to your composter for dumping.
For a stylish bin that can sit nicely on the counter, the 1 Gal. Kitchen Composter from Norpro is a great choice. This gallon-size kitchen compost bin is ideal for storing coffee grounds, vegetable scraps and other bits until you’re ready to take them to the composter. The ceramic bin comes in a bright white or a bold red, wither of which is an attractive countertop addition. It also comes equipped with a charcoal filter for the lid that can be replaced and, according to buyers, does a fantastic job of containing odors. This 1 Gal. Kitchen Composter should be hand washed.
The Exaco One Gallon Kitchen Compost Bucket is a versatile size with a cute farmhouse look. Crafted from metal with a washable interior plastic bucket, it’s easy to use and looks great sitting on the counter. This countertop compost bin comes in your choice of four colors to complement your kitchen color scheme. The lid seals to contain any odors as well as keep out any insects or pests. The painted bin resists stains and cracking as well as algae growth, corrosion and rust. Best of all, it’s easy to keep clean and is dishwasher safe. It even has a one-year warranty.
If it’s going to sit on the countertop, you want your compost bin to look stylish and the Bamboozle 1.2 Gal. Stationary Composter certainly does. Crafted from durable, sustainable bamboo, this dishwasher-safe countertop compost bin is contemporary and fits with today’s kitchen designs. It comes with two charcoal filters that buyers say work amazingly well and eliminate all odor. A little on the pricey side, reviewers say it is worth the money because it’s beautifully crafted, ships in compostable/recyclable packaging, and looks very attractive on the counter. Bamboozle’s compost bin comes with a full 30-day warranty.
Ditch the plastic tubs and make fewer trips to empty kitchen scraps with InterDesign’s 1.3 Gal. Kitchen Composter. Made from stylish brushed stainless steel, this countertop compost bin is one that you won’t need to hide under the sink. Pile in your food scraps without worry about bad odors thanks to a double filtration system. It uses charcoal filters that naturally absorb odors for up to 6 months. This leak-proof bin is dishwasher safe after you remove the filter and is also rustproof. A carrying handle makes it simple to empty. Happy buyers say the InterDesign compost bin is great quality, heavy-duty and looks good sitting on the countertop.
For those who love to look of wood and want to be sustainable in their purchases, the RSVP International 1.12 Gal. Kitchen Composter is a good option. The outer bin is made from bamboo, which is a sustainable wood and adds a natural touch to your kitchen. Pile your kitchen scraps and waste into the internal plastic liner bucket that lifts out for easy emptying. The lid of the bamboo bucket contains a replaceable charcoal filter that eliminates any odors from the countertop compost bin. The compact size of 7 inches square and 10 inches tall makes it handy for any size kitchen.
If you’re still skeptical about composting because you don’t generate much organic waste, you can still do it by keeping scraps in the freezer using the Full Circle Scrap Happy Food Scrap Collector and Freezer Compost Bin. This compost bin is also a good choice if you don’t have counter space to spare in a small apartment or home. Simply hang the bin on a drawer below the counter, scoop in your vegetable scraps, and store the bin in the freezer — it’s designed to fit in the door. Made from a soft, flexible rubber, the bin allows you to easily pop out the frozen scraps by pushing on the bottom. There’s no need for filters or a lid because you keep in the freezer.
Convenient and useful both on the counter and under the sink, the OXO Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin, 0.75 GAL/2.83 L is a compact size and a no-fuss design. Made from easy-clean plastic, the bin has a lid that flips up and down and snaps closed to seal in any odor. The 12-cup capacity is small enough that food scraps will need to be emptied frequently, as there is no filter in this compost bin. It features a smooth interior that helps keep the interior and a contoured bottom to make emptying simple. Buyers who are pleased with this kitchen compost bin say that it’s easy to handle and seals in any odors.
Jesintop’s Mountable Small Compost Bin with Lid Green Plastic Waste Basket is super convenient for your kitchen food scraps. This compost bin hangs by a large hook from a drawer or cupboard under your counter so you can just sweep your cuttings from the counter and into the bin. Made from polypropylene plastic, the compost bin is easy to clean with soap and water and is durable because it resists high impact, organic solvents, corrosion and moisture. When you’re not filling it, just stash it under the sink. With a capacity of 0.8 gallons, the bin holds a moderate amount of scraps and prevents any odors from escaping thanks to its sealed design.
Of course, not everyone is keen on keeping for scraps on the counter, so the YukChuk Small Compost Bin with Lid is a marvelously convenient choice. In fact, an editor at Martha Stewart Living loved it so much that it was featured in the magazine. It’s specifically designed to mount on the inside of the cupboard under the sink for discrete convenience. In fact, it can be used in any cupboard in any room of the house. Made from repurposed high-density polypropylene, the dishwasher-proof bin requires no filter because the design keeps odors from escaping and prevents fruit flies. As an option, the bin can be lined with a bag for quick cleanup. The YukChuk is ideal for those who want to compost their kitchen scraps but don’t want to have the bin on the counter.
Once you’ve started gathering your valuable kitchen scraps, you have to actually put them into a computer to transform them into the black gold you’re looking for. Outdoor models like the Redmon 65 Gal. Stationary Composter are a good size for most gardens and easy to use. Made from UV stabilized plastic, the composter is durable and features four access doors so adding new scraps and removing the ready compost is a breeze. All sides have aeration holes to eliminate bad smells and bring fresh air to the decaying materials. The snap-on lid has extra protection from crafty wildlife with bungee cords for keeping it closed. Redmon’s 65 Gal. Stationary Composter is waterproof and resists fading, cracking, staining, algae and mildew. It also comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Another way to compost scraps is with a worm bin, like the Homestead Essentials 5-Tray 1.3 Gal. Worm Bin. This method uses worms to recycle food scraps and organic materials into vermicompost, or worm compost. The worms eat the scraps, which pass through the worm’s body and exit as compost. This outdoor composting kit comes in your choice of three colors and is designed with multiple trays for better drainage and air circulation. The composter features aeration holes and a spigot at the bottom. Assembly is required for the four-cubic-foot worm composter, however, buyers say it’s easy to do. The worms are not included.
Keeping waste out of landfills is an important step in sustainability and is convenient to do with some essential equipment like a kitchen compost bin and a composter. Once you start saving up your scraps, you’ll see how much you can reduce your trash and provide invaluable nutrients for your garden and houseplants.