How to Compost in an Apartment

Compost benefits the wellbeing of all plant types, even those in pots, by bolstering their resistance to bugs and diseases. It also provides a green approach to disposing of your kitchen leftovers.

Apartment composting can be done using natural, sanitary methods to reconstitute organic waste into humus loaded with plant nutrients and diverse microorganism populations. Increasingly science is discovering the importance of these components – something everybody can create.

What is Compost?

Composting is the natural reduction and transformation of plant- and animal matter into humus. Humus (a Latin word for earth) is the dark-brown organic matter formed from decaying plant or animal material.

The decomposition of organic matter is constantly happening, restrained only by life. Remove the life force of a plant or organism, and biological actions immediately step in to reconstitute that organic matter into a beneficial form.

It’s nature’s way of ensuring its sustainability.

While we can interrupt decay by limiting biological activity by cooling, canning, freezing, or adding salts, we cannot prevent it indefinitely.

Composting is how we can manage the decay process to optimize the beneficial capacity of the product material.

Forms of Composting

There are four forms of composting:

  • Aerobic composting (with air and water)
  • Anaerobic composting (digestion without air)
  • Fermentation composting (using select fungi)
  • Vermicompost (using earthworms to decompose organic matter)

Aerobic Composting (Traditional)

Before we look at indoor domestic composting, let’s briefly look at traditional composting, which produces a product similar to commercial compost, the type you’ll buy from a store.

Traditional composting requires organic materials that contain carbon and nitrogen combined with water and air to support the decomposition process.

The material is broken down into humus in ever-decreasing heating and cooling cycles during the process.

Composting is exquisite in its simplicity and complexity, something you may want to explore in my Composting Masterclass.

When you discover composting’s benefits to soil, plants, and the environment, you, too, will become a compost evangelist.

Anaerobic Composting

The anaerobic digestion process occurs when microorganisms break down organic matter without oxygen, producing biogas composed of methane (CH4), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon dioxide (CO2), and water vapor.

Food waste sent to landfills releases this methane and hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere with dire consequences to the ozone.

Commercial ingesters capture the methane and make it available as a sustainable alternative energy source.

Indoor Domestic Composting

Indoor composting is nothing like the two preceding methods. Firstly, we do not have the space to turn and water piles of decomposing kitchen scraps, nor are we so inclined.

Imagine the mess. So traditional composting is not an option.

Also, who wants a methane production plant indoors with the smell of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulfide)? So anaerobic composting processes are not an option.

Instead, we use containers and include particular organisms to help us. We’ll look at two options of how to compost in an apartment.

Bokashi Composting

Bokashi uses select microorganisms, Effective Microorganisms (EM), to positively influence decomposition.

The organisms selected are all influences able to create a tipping point in the microorganism’s populations towards regeneration.

In any environment, there are three categories of microorganisms:

  • Positive microorganisms – responsible for regeneration
  • Harmful microorganisms – accountable for decomposition and degeneration
  • Opportunist microorganisms

According to Dr. Higa, the discoverer of this process, the ratio between harmful and positive microorganisms is critical because opportunist microorganisms follow the dominant trend.

By creating a tipping point for good effective microorganisms, the opportunist microorganisms are recruited for good.

The Bokashi Process

Bokashi is essentially a fermentation process using bokashi bran to innoculate food scraps.

In my Composting Masterclass book, I go into quite a bit of detail about how to make and use the bran.

Bokashi bran is wheat bran covered with effective microorganisms (EM). Covering food scraps with bokashi bran triggers a fermentation process. We do this in a container designed to separate and drain any liquids.l

Once the container is full, we seal it and store it for a couple of weeks to ferment properly. Then, we can create compost ready for garden use by adding soil to the fermented mass.

Trouble Shooting Problems When Making Bokashi

During fermentation, your Bokashi bin content will create a range of bacteria and fungi spores. The effective organisms, including lactic acid bacteria (yogurt), yeast, and a form of algae, will prevent the content from putrifying (rotting).

There should be no foul smells.

Below is a list of things that may cause a challenge.

Too Much Oxygen in the Process

It is impossible to eliminate oxygen, but you want to keep it below 6 percent. Your effective microorganisms are allergic to oxygen, and you must keep the bin closed and expel the air from the mix daily to do your job.

I use a potato masher dedicated to the job. After adding your food scraps and covering them with a layer of Bokashi Bran, press the mass down for the liquids to drain into the catch-tray and expel the air.

Water Accumulation in the Process

The step above is essential to minimize both air and water. To ensure no liquids accumulate in the bin’s bottom area, invest in a suitable Bokashi bin.

You can cut its running cost by making your bran, but don’t skimp on the Bokashi bin and EM-1®

A suitable Bokashi bin has a false bottom topped with a grid that separates the fermenting materials from the drained liquids.

This section is then fitted with a tap for you to drain the juices, which should be done every second day.

Scrap pieces too big

It is advisable to increase the surface area of your kitchen scraps where possible. Try not to add pieces bigger than a cubic inch (medium button mushroom).

Of course, you won’t need to chop your scrap bones up, but these may take longer to break down.

In my final fermented mass, I sometimes get bones and avocado peels. Still, these readily break down once I add the Bokashi bin content to my soil mix.

Effective microorganisms can’t get to their food source

For the EM to do their work, they must be put at the worksite. When you add your kitchen scraps, it may be a good idea to sprinkle them with Bokashi Bran before you add them.

Alternatively, add a layer of about an inch or two and two tablespoons of Bokashi bran to the mix. Stir the top layer to spread the bran as much as possible.

You want the scraps to be lightly covered with Bokashi bran to speed up the fermentation and limit odors or pathogens.

Remember to press the mix down to remove any air and juices before sealing the lid again.

My advice is to minimize fluid retention and trapped air pockets and maximize contact of microbes with food, as evidenced by Bokashi Bran spread.


Worm composting provides a convenient method for recycling kitchen scraps into a nutrient-rich product. Properly managed, worm composting is almost odorless and can reduce odors associated with kitchen scraps mixed in with garbage.

Combined with Bokashi fermentation, vermicomposting can produce a highly fertile soil amendment.

In Closing

In this article, I have shown you how to compost an apartment using bokashi or vermicomposting. Once you start composting your food scraps, you’ll wonder how you managed your waste.

It’s the right thing to do, but starting is always the most difficult part.

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