Indoor composting is getting increasingly popular, especially for people who don’t have access to a garden or outdoor space, but don’t want their food waste going into landfill.
It’s well-known that food waste in landfill can cause massive methane production and contribute to many environmental issues.
Composting indoors can reduce your carbon footprint, gives you satisfaction, and you can always use the soil in pot plants or give it away to people with gardens.
Many people who want to compost and don’t have access to a food waste collection service, start-up wormeries, but what do you do if you aren’t keen on the idea of worms wriggling around in a box in your house?
We don’t blame you if you aren’t, so here’s how to compost without worms indoor, with 12 amazing tips and tricks to help you get started.
What Kind Of Composting Doesn’t Involve Worms?
If you don’t want to be using worms in your house, you don’t want to be following a method called vermicomposting. This is about letting soil microbes and worms break down food waste and convert it into vermicompost.
It can be a little easier and more effective, but if the thought of the worms makes you a bit “squiggly,” you have another option.
Aerobic composting uses just the microbes from garden soil to do the hard work, with no worms in the equation. It may not get as hot as vermicompost, but it is perfectly possible to successfully compost food using the aerobic method, and it’s very simple to do.
Get An Indoor Compost Bin
Tip 1: Acquire a bin. Whatever composting method you’re going to use, a compost bin is going to be indispensable.
You can buy a dedicated compost bin, or use any large container with a lid, as long as it will be easy to clean.
If you’re only putting food waste in, it doesn’t need to be enormous, but give yourself enough space.
Anywhere between 5 and 20 gallons should be sufficient. A household of up to 2 with an average amount of food waste may manage with 5-10 gallons, but larger households will need more space or several containers.
You should be able to easily pick up a box, lidded bucket, or even an old wooden box with a lid.
Bear in mind that wood will be a bit harder to clean unless you use liners (which reduce airflow), so plastic or metal may be a better choice.
Tip 2: Drill Air-holes. Your bin must not be air-tight; your compost (especially aerobic compost) needs a flow of oxygen to function properly.
Don’t worry about the smell – we’ll come to that later – but either get a container that has some holes, or drill a few yourself.
Ideally, these holes should be on all sides, the top, and the bottom of the bin.
Make them small so you don’t end up with food falling out, and place your compost bin in a tray so that any leaks will be caught. You can empty and rinse this tray as needed.
What Else Do I Need?
Tip 3: Acquire Microbes.
If you hadn’t guessed from the first section, you’ll need some soil microbes.
Fortunately, this shouldn’t be tricky. You just need to get a couple of handfuls of soil from anyone who has a garden.
It can help to have a regular supply to keep your compost going and keep adding new microbes, but you shouldn’t need large amounts.
Tip 4: Keep A Stirrer Handy. You may also want to have a dedicated spoon or fork to stir the compost with, so you can mix it regularly.
Keep this close to the bin. Other than that, you should have everything you need!
What Should I Put In The Bin?
Although compost bins are versatile and the point is that you should be able to compost almost anything organic, you still do need to pay attention to what you’re adding, especially if you’re using the aerobic composting method.
Tip 5: Best Things To Add:
Vegetable scraps, small quantities of leftovers, house plant waste, coffee grounds, teabags (plastic-free, preferably), breadcrumbs, fruit peels, etc., are all suitable for adding to your home compost bin.
These things will naturally decompose over time.
You can also add small quantities of shredded card and paper, especially if they have grease on them and so can’t be recycled.
Paper is good for soaking up excess moisture in your compost, making it drier, less likely to smell, and pleasanter to deal with.
What Shouldn’t I Put In The Bin?
Tip 6: What Can’t Go In The Compost Bin?
Meat and dairy are two big no-nos. You can’t put these in outdoor compost bins either – they will attract vermin. Indoors, that may not be such a risk, but they will not break down fast enough in an indoor composter.
Meat and dairy can smell awful if they don’t decompose at the right temperatures.
They can also harbor bacteria that could possibly make you sick if you handle your compost and then food without washing your hands (not something you should do, but accidents happen).
If you’re composting indoors, you may have quite a small home, so it’s important that your compost bin is not stinking the place up, or you’re unlikely to persevere with it.
Tiny quantities of meat and dairy will probably not cause issues, but you should avoid composting anything significant.
You should also avoid composting fats, as these don’t break down easily.
Don’t compost any particularly wet foods, either. Drain off excess fluid and allow wet foods to dry a bit before you add them to your compost pile.
What Else Do I Need To Do?
Tip 7: Brown Matter Matters! When you start composting, you should add a good amount of brown matter, e.g. cardboard, to your bin. This will soak up any moisture.
Tip 8: Add Microbes. When you have finished adding compost at the end of each day, you can sprinkle a handful of soil over the top.
This will help distribute the microbes and also reduce any smell. You don’t have to do this religiously every day, but it is a good habit to have.
Tip 9: Stir Often. Stirring your compost regularly will help to keep it active and working quickly.
How often you do it is up to you, but if you want your compost to break down faster, try and do so at least a few times a week. Aerobic composting in particular needs lots of oxygen to work well.
Tip 10: Cut Up Food. Cutting up food and other compost into small pieces will also help to speed things along.
This will make it easier to mix and will prevent any big “lumps” that the microbes will struggle to deal with. Chop thick peels and big pieces of waste into more manageable chunks.
Tip 11: Don’t Let The Bin Get Too Wet. If you can see moisture building up at the sides or on the lid, you need to shred some paper to add. This will soak up excess water and restore balance to the bin.
Will It Smell Bad?
Tip 12: How To Deal With Bad Smells.
Unless something has gone wrong with the balance, compost should not smell bad. You shouldn’t really notice it unless you have the lid off and you’ve recently stirred it.
Even then, the scent should be earthy and pleasant.
If you add a lot of very pungent food, such as onions, or something that has gone off, you might detect a bit of a smell for a short while, but it should soon settle down.
Your compost bin smelling bad indicates something is wrong, so investigate if that’s the case. You may need to rebalance the moisture levels using card or paper.
Alternatively, the compost may need more oxygen. If so, stir it up and poke some holes in it and consider leaving the lid off for an hour or two while it aerates.
You can also try lifting it up a bit to let more air circulate under it; simply stand it on something in the tray, such as a brick.
Don’t leave the lid off full time, as compost does have a scent, and you’re also likely to attract fruit flies if you have uncovered compost for a few days.
If this happens, just keep the lid on, and the flies will disperse eventually.
If your bin is getting too full, you may have to stop composting for a bit (or start a second bin if you have room) to let the microbes catch up with the influx of food.
Once they have started to process the food again, you should be able to start adding compost once more, but try not to put too much in at once.
Composting without worms is not difficult at all. Many people feel a bit daunted and overwhelmed by the idea of composting, but remember that even if you get something wrong, there are no terrifying consequences besides maybe a bad smell and a few fruit flies
The great thing about composting is that it’s very forgiving and even if you make mistakes, it will correct itself over time.
After all, food naturally decomposes – you can’t stop it, even if you want it to! Getting composting right is more about giving it the best possible conditions than doing everything perfectly.
Good luck with your composting journey!