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Composting in Urban Areas: Overcoming Space Challenges

Urban living often means limited space, but that doesn't have to limit your composting ambitions. Composting in an urban environment is entirely possible and can be incredibly rewarding, helping to reduce waste, improve urban soil, and even grow healthier indoor and balcony plants. Here’s how you can overcome the common challenges of urban composting and successfully compost, no matter the size of your space.

Man carrying organic waste bin outside

Choose the Right Composting System

  • Worm Bins (Vermicomposting): Worm bins are another excellent option for indoors. Red wigglers convert organic waste into high-quality compost. These bins can be kept in a basement, kitchen, or balcony.

  • Electric Composters: A more high-tech option, electric composters can compost kitchen waste rapidly with minimal odor, suitable for indoor use.

  • Bokashi Bins: Perfect for small spaces, Bokashi bins ferment kitchen waste, including dairy and meat, in an anaerobic process. They’re compact, odorless, and fit easily under a sink or in a cupboard

Maximize Space with Creative Solutions

  • Community Gardens: If your urban dwelling lacks outdoor space, participate in a community garden that offers composting facilities. It’s a great way to contribute to communal composting efforts and benefit from the compost for your garden plot.

  • Shared Composting Programs: Some cities offer shared composting programs where you can bring your compostable waste. This can be an excellent option if you’re unable to compost at home.

Tips for Successful Urban Composting

  • Keep It Balanced: Whether you’re using a Bokashi bin, worm bin, or any other method, maintaining the right balance of greens (kitchen scraps) and browns (carbon-rich materials like shredded paper or dry leaves) is crucial to prevent odors and encourage proper decomposition.

  • Manage Moisture: Urban composting systems, especially indoor ones, can become too wet. Monitor moisture levels and add more browns if the compost becomes soggy.

  • Regular Maintenance: Even in small-scale composting, regular maintenance like turning the compost (in systems that require it) and checking for proper decomposition is key to success.

  • Be Mindful of What You Compost: To prevent pests and odors, be careful about composting meat, dairy, and oily foods, especially in systems not designed for them. Stick to fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, and similar materials.

Benefits of Urban Composting

  • Waste Reduction: Composting can significantly reduce the amount of household waste sent to landfills.

  • Soil Improvement: Use your compost to enrich the soil of houseplants, balcony containers, or community garden plots.

  • Environmental Impact: By composting, you’re contributing to a larger environmental effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainability.


Urban composting presents unique challenges, but with the right approach and system, it’s entirely feasible to compost effectively in even the smallest of spaces. By choosing a suitable composting method, staying mindful of maintenance and materials, and taking advantage of community resources, you can make urban composting a successful part of your eco-friendly lifestyle.

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