Garden, Home and Garden

How to Compost In A Flat

Joy from Sustainable Jungle, a sustainable living blog, and podcast, is here today to share her how to compost in a flat knowledge with Moral Fibres readers. Joy has been composting in her flat for six months and is keen to share her multi-pronged attack so other flat dwellers can learn from her composting experience:

how to compost in an apartment

Our introduction to the concept of composting started in London in 2017. We had just been on an epic honeymoon through Africa. The time we spent in some of the most impressive and raw places on earth, like Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and the Serengeti in Tanzania, delivered the harsh realisation that we, personally, were doing nothing truly positive for the environment and the ecosystems we care so much about.

So we started investigating living more sustainably, using the fantastic online resources available and made some important changes, one of which was composting. We thought we were rather smart because we discovered that “composting” in a flat in the London Borough of Camden is pretty simple – you collect your food scraps (including citrus and bones) in a caddy and leave it out on the street once a week for the council to collect it. Nice n Easy…

Then… we moved home to Australia. And we discovered very quickly that Australia is generally quite behind on making the most of food waste. We’d become so used to our empty, stink-free waste bins and found ourselves starting our composting journey from scratch. We also moved into a flat… which as it turns out, makes composting a little harder.

Six months on and there have been many iterations. We’ve certainly got a long way to go but we’re pretty happy with how far we’ve come. So much so that we are keen to share our current setup and experience with any flat dwellers looking to divert that valuable food waste from landfill, and perhaps even use some nutrient-rich compost on their own mini apartment garden.

How To Compost In A Flat

Aside from meal planning and better use of the full fruit or vegetable to reduce the amount of food scraps we need to get rid of in the first place, we are currently running the following setup:

Vermicomposting on the Balcony

composting in a flat
Joy’s vermicomposter

We didn’t want to overcommit to a worm farm until we were confident we wouldn’t kill our worm babies, so instead, we invested in a kid’s ‘learn to worm’ type vermicomposter*. I’m pleased to report that we have managed to keep our worms alive, even through a brutal Australian summer!

We love our worms, they make this amazing worm tea (stink free worm wee) which we use on our plants, both indoor and outdoor. This, along with the worm castings, really seem to make a huge difference to our plants’ health. This vermicomposter takes on about 10-20% of our weekly waste (given its quite small) and while worms can eat almost anything, there are some scraps they don’t eat so we had to find other solutions to deal with our remaining food scraps.

worm tea
Joy’s plants thrive on her worm tea

Bokashi Bins on the Balcony

how to compost in a flat
Joy’s bokashi bins

We had grand plans for our bokashi bins*. We were going to keep them inside to make life just that bit more convenient. They’re not supposed to smell and they’re supposed to convert things like bones, onions and orange peels (which worms don’t like) into something that worms can eat, or that can be easily composted in a traditional composter.

They indeed do a good job of converting hard-to-compost items, and they take on another 10-20% of our waste, but boy, do the ones we purchased stink! Our advice after this experience is to absolutely invest in good quality bokashi bins that have a really, really strong seal. Needless to say, our bokashi bins have been banished to the balcony and we’re looking for a suitable indoor version. Worth noting if you want to try this at home: you need at least 2 bokashi bins (for 2 people) as you need to alternate them – one bokashi does its fermenting job while the other one gets filled with scraps.

Local Community Garden, via ShareWaste App

food waste ideas

Probably the most impactful discovery for us was the ShareWaste App, which helped us find a community garden close by and in need of food scraps for their big composters. Our process is to collect our daily scraps in a bowl as we chop and cook. We then transfer to a big plastic bucket once a day and then take this bucket (with our remaining 70-80% of food scraps) to the community garden once a week.

It sounds like a big schlep but it really isn’t. It’s become part of our habit and the garden is near our local dog park where we take our little pooch anyway. We were thrilled to find that our family members have also used the ShareWaste app to find people in their local community who are now gratefully accepting their food scraps too. My mum takes her foods scraps across the road to her neighbour, and now has a new friend too!

So there you have it! I’d say we are intermediate apartment composters now. We still have some work to do both to reduce our waste but also to process our own. This is what we plan to tackle next:

  • Indoor Bokashi: We’re on a mission to find the best indoor, stink-free option
  • Make vegetable stock: This is a bit of a no-brainer, we just need to build the habit.
  • Dog poop composting: We now have a puppy and he is a poop machine. We have a somewhat zero waste approach now but it could be better.
  • Traditional composter: We’re really getting into balcony gardening so we plan to experiment with a traditional composter so we can keep some of that compost goodness for our own garden.

Composting in a flat sure is an art and unless you have heaps of space, it’s likely you need a multi-pronged approach, especially if you don’t have a balcony. I hope that sharing our experience has helped the aspiring flat composters out there, and if you have found a great way of dealing with food waste, please do share your tips on how to compost in a flat – both with us and those around you!

weekend links

Ten Things

Hi there! I’ve got a fire in my belly – it feels like so much has been happening this week. So many more people seem to be talking about climate change and thinking about how they can help. Have you noticed it too? I really really hope all this talk translates into action and change. We CAN do this.

This week’s links:

1. Could coffee waste replace palm oil? Excitingly, two Scottish entrepreneurs at Revive Eco are working to make this a reality, using the coffee waste from coffee shops. I really hope this succeeds – what a game changer this could be.

There are oils in coffee with a wide range of uses in different industries – cosmetics pharmaceuticals, food and drink, household products – you name it, there’s probably a use there. We’re developing a process to extract and purify these oils. The most exciting part for us is that they have all the same components as palm oil“.

2. Think your actions buying loose fruit and vegetables are just a drop in the ocean? The good news is that collectively we are making a difference – loose fruit and veg sales are actually growing at double the rate of plastic-packed fruit and vegetables in the UK.

3. Before we get too carried away with patting ourselves on the back, it’s worth highlighting that over the course of one week a staggering 35,000 people have signed a petition urging McDonald’s to bring back plastic straws. Whilst I never thought I would be giving McDonald’s credit, McDonald’s isn’t bowing to public pressure and have said that they are doing the right thing, by offering only paper straws and that they are “pleased” to be “taking significant steps to reduce our environmental impact”.

4. This article on Climate Change: The Mother of All Problems is simply superb. Give it a read, all the way to the end – you won’t regret it.

5. Green gas – made from farm and food waste – is now powering 1 million homes in the UK. According to the article, currently only one supplier – Green Energy UK – guarantees all of its gas is green.

5. This quiz on climate change solutions was fun and definitely eye-opening. I won’t ruin any of the questions and answers for you – all I’ll say is try it for yourself!

6. My favourite tweet of the week.

7. Speaking of challenging the system, Extinction Rebellion activists have hailed their protests in London as a “huge success” after data suggested they caused a five-fold increase in online searches for climate change.

8. Hopefully, this new interest and enthusiasm in tackling climate change comes at just the right time. This week alone I’ve read heartbreaking news about giraffes undergoing a silent extinction and the emperor penguin colony that disappeared overnight, losing thousands of chicks.

9. If, after that, you’re feeling downhearted, I was definitely buoyed after reading this piece on the orchestras, the villages, the entire countries all working to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

I especially loved reading about the Swedish orchestra so determined to cut its emissions that it has promised not to employ any musicians or conductors who travel by air. “We are convinced that we can get all we need in terms of talent and artistic energy from within Europe, and from people living in Europe who come from other parts of the world,” said Fredrik Österling, director of Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, and are calling out to artists, conductors and composers willing to make their way to the Swedish city by train, road or boat.

Remember to share what you have been doing to help the environment.

10. Finally, this week is Fashion Revolution Week – the week when we’re encouraged (more than ever) to demand more transparency in the fashion industry, by asking clothing retailers “who made my clothes”?

There are lots of ways you can take part to help campaign for greater transparency. Here are just some examples:

  • Take a photo with your clothing label and ask the brand on social media #WhoMadeMyClothes?
  • Send an email to brands you have shopped with in the past asking them to disclose more information about their supply chain and manufacturing.
  • Write to a policymaker, asking them what they’re doing to create a fairer, safer, cleaner more transparent fashion industry.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!