6 Alternatives for City Composting When You Can’t Compost At Home

 6 Alternatives for City Composting when you can't compost at home - The Urban Ecolife

In the past, I’ve offered up some pretty cool ways to compost if you’re an urban dweller and don’t have the backyard space to have a full-fledged system. There’s this DIY Balcony Worm Farm and this Bokashi Composting System. There are those of us, however, who might not have the space or resources to do either and because it’s my goal in life to make composting sexy and totally accessible to everyone, I don’t want to leave you guys hanging!

Some may ask the question, Why would I bother going out of my way to compost my kitchen scraps when I either don’t have the space to do so or the resources?


The idea, as crazy as it might sounds guys, is to avoid having your kitchen scraps being added to the tonnes of wasted food scraps that find their way into landfill each day. These are precious materials of the earth that should be returned to the earth to help maintain a sustainable cycle of recycling nutrients back into our soil. This makes for more nutrient and mineral rich soil. We want these nutrients to be recycled back into the earth because it all comes back to the food we eat as humans; the infamous takers and grazers of this planet.


Consider this. The more inputs into a system, the more inefficient it is as a system. Often, these systems are resource intensive with low quality production. Efficient? Sure. Sustainable? Not quite so. Think about the agricultural revolution that’s primary aim is to pump out mammoth amounts of food for at as low cost as possible. Not a bad idea to start with. We need food, and lots of it. Sadly, these systems are unsustainable as they require intensive farming practices, a reliance on oil and synthetic fertilizers to maintain a half decent amount of nutrients in the soil to make it worth barely half the time spent toiling the land. Really, at the end of day, what’s the point of harvesting crop devoid of nutrients and sustenance? It’s like eating empty calories dressed up as broccoli. Given, we haven’t quite gotten to this point yet (thank God), but even so, that’s the path we’re on if conventional farming is left to lead the way. Even then, at the end of the day, they are doing little to replenish these nutrients that are being constantly leeched from the earth. What does that leave for the people of tomorrow?


The simple process of composting is, as I’ve touted before, one of the single most effective ways you can contribute to replenishing this planet. We want to be giving back to the earth at every and any given opportunity. This is why I’m never shy of throwing my banana peel or apple core back into clump of bushes on a sidewalk. I’m often left feeling embarrassed though but not because of me. Rather, for them; the people that look at me as though I’m committing the greatest act of sin of mankind to mother earth – littering *cough cough*. Sure, if it was a plastic wrap, then yes, of course (lucky for me it was drilled into me as a child to not dare do this so I can be spared from the wrath of litter hell). But seriously, don’t turn your nose up at me when I’m simply allowing the food to return to its mother earth to decompose. Shock horror for some, if it even acts as food for a wild animal in the process. I know what some might say to this. But what about the rodents and pesky creatures that you’ll attract. Common sense never goes astray folks (sadly it does go walk-about for some. Come at me trolls). I’ll leave you to think that one through for yourselves.


The temptation to not do anything is greater when you don’t have an easy answer. So when stumped with this question, well, how can I do city composting if I simply can’t compost at home? … I just had to make it my problem to find some even niftier solutions.

I’ve made it my business to be here to help after all!


So here are 6 alternatives for city composting when you simply can’t compost at home for whatever reason (that’s not my business).


1. Share with Thy Neighbour


Find someone you know and who doesn’t live too far out of the way who will be willing to take your kitchen scraps off your hands. You’re essentially giving them free compost material and in return, it’s sure to generate those feel good hormones inside you in the process (which you’re entitled to in this case). After all, you’re still going out of your way to make the most of a less than easy situation. If you’re a no-man in no-man’s land and don’t know a single other soul who has an existing compost set up because you don’t have cool friends like me, then either make a friend who does or offer to help a friend to create a set up. There has to be someone who lives nearby who does have the space to compost whether you know them already or they are simply a stranger just waiting to be called a friend.  Breaching the topic may be slightly awkward at first, especially if they have this lofty notion that composting is simply a rotting pile of food that attracts flies and is something only loopy hippies perform the dirty deed of doing. Heck, if you must (and can) offer to manage the whole process for them, all the more merrier! You should totally be the first one to introduce them to this crazy new and totally ‘out-there’ concept and soon-to-be-hobby (they just don’t know that yet). It will blow their mind.


2. Contribute to Your Local Farmer


Speak with the farmers at your local market and see whether you’re able to bring them a bucket of your kitchen scraps each week for them to take back and compost into what will eventually be the food you buy back from them. Here’s hoping they actually practice the trade of composting themselves. If they live within distance to you, you might even offer to drop it off to them whenever you get the chance and see the leftovers of your eating habits at work. It’s really does equate to donating free money in my opinion. Who would say no to free money?


3. Donate to Community Gardens


Most community gardens rely on the participants to manage a composting system where everyone contributes to the process. Even if you aren’t actively involved in the day to day gardening or currently renting a plot, I’m sure they will take you up on your offer to donate free kitchen scraps! Again, kitchen scraps, and consequently compost, is (almost) worth its weight in gold in the gardening community.


4. Find a Composting Business


There are people out there who’ve made it their business to turn scraps into gardening gold. Turn to your friend, Mr Google, and start searching for local businesses in your area who actually come by to pick up your scraps and take them away to compost on their own site. Sure, they may be using your resources to turn this into a profitable business model but all credit to them; they are doing the dirty work for you. This way, your hands can remain completely compost free if dirt just ain’t your thing and you can feel good that you’re at least helping someone else make a buck in doing something good for the planet! Consider it charity.


5. Consult Your Local Permaculture Group


There are Permaculture groups popping up left, right and centre. It’s a global movement that’s sweeping the rebellious citizens of this planet by storm.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way and where there’s a way, there’s probably a Permaculturist who’s come before you to dig that swale for you. So these are your ‘go-to-gurus’ in all matters to do with sustainable gardening, food forests, seed saving and whacky ideas of living outside the box, who are more than likely and willing to be at your service. Seriously, they’ll be so excited that you’re approaching them for advice and help, that they will probably bombard you with offers of help or free seeds or something along those lines. They’ll know what to do!


6. Guerrilla Compost


You’ve probably heard of guerrilla gardening because of this guy, so now I’m throwing out the idea of guerrilla composting. This is totally the rebels way to compost. Do so in a respectful and courteous way of course. As much as you may hate that pesky neighbour of yours, you aren’t winning over anyone by using their front yard as a dumping ground for your kitchen scraps. But you may be able to stealthily set up a composting pile in the dark and forlorn corners of the local park, as long as it doesn’t attract feral cats and way-ward children. If you’re not so keen on participating in potentially ‘illegal’ acts of crime, consult your local council and pinky-promise to them that you’ll maintain and upkeep the premise at all costs. You’re an upstanding citizen after all *wink wink*… meanwhile, when they turn their back, you through some vegetable seeds into the wind to catch breeze and take flight to their next destination to take root along the sidewalk.


 Do you do any of the above, or have some other nifty ways to compost in the city?

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Posted on by Emily Uebergang Posted in EcoLiving, Home & Garden

About Emily Uebergang

Urban hippie by day, wandering gypsy by night. Emily is all about sustainable living and writes like she's out to try and save the world or something. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+

  • Mary Jane Owen

    Our city, Modesto, CA, has city-wide composting. We have two curb side bins, one for “trash” and one for stuff that will decompose. The compost stuff all goes into a giant compost pile that is then used for city parks and for purchase back to the community. My “compost” bin has much more stuff in it that than the “trash” can.

  • https://ecospirit.blog.com Ecospirit

    A great post Urban Ecolife! Thank you for coming up with the composting ideas for people living in units or apartments. I think that vermiculture is the best composting alternative for city dwellers. I have a worm cafe in my tiny kitchen in my tiny flat, right next to the sink. Works perfectly- all fruit and veg peels, a juice pulp and any meal leftovers go straight to my wormies and they happily munch on it. It is no fuss, a very low maintenance system. It faintly smells of wet earth when you lift the lid and that’s all. I think in the near future all city apartments could have a provision of a vermiculture recycling system supported by their local council.
    Many happy composting moments! :-)

  • / Emily Uebergang

    Thank you so much Ankica! That sounds like a sweet set up you have there! I was living in an apartment and was one of the fortunate ones to have a balcony, so I kept my worm farm out there. There are people out who still can’t get there heads around worms though (that was totally me not so long ago!). Which is a shame as I think they are the coolest little critters now. So I agree wholeheartedly agree with what you say! The feeling of raising your own army to save the planet – priceless… mwahaha

  • / Emily Uebergang

    That’s so cool your city does that! I wish more could do something similar. Actually having dedicated curb side bins is a fantastic idea. Time to spread the word to other local councils! (P.s. I find myself emptying the compost almost 3 times as more frequently too!)

  • Felicity

    I consider myself lucky to be able to compost considering I live in a flat. I could potentially take on the compost of 1 or 2 neighbours, and would be more than happy to do so.

  • / Emily Uebergang

    We are lucky to compost aren’t we! I like your attitude too :-)

  • Michael

    I find it hard not to compost. Because I love creating good soil and soil texture, even as a novice, I have ‘always’ made the sacrifice of my back to compost. I never let guilt control my motives. Guilt only reminds me of the love and joy I have of doing certain things if I miss…

    My wife does the gardening, but I do the composting. For me, getting started on a compost system depends entirely on the ‘yard’ and the amount of composting material available. No need to teach experts, but in short for me these have meant choices about whether I can compost by digging holes in the ground, or need to use barrel compost bins, upright ‘bins’ so that I can simply bury the compost as readily as I can once seasonal crops are finished, or whether I need to build above ground beds, or buy a special composter.

    Apparently he Britts showed that composting worms actually produce nasty methane. Aussies know that the best compost is made by turning composting material over and over in soil. Turing the soil oxygenates it and oxygen does its ‘corrosive’ thing. Once soil is conditioned with bacteria, those unappealing white things which are not maggots but grubs, and the simple garden worm, it only takes six – eight weeks to feel the satisfaction of composting. Compost needs to be turned in soil every 7-14 days.

    I read Mary Jane Owen’s post. That is brilliant. I can imagine community based organic composting working in Japan or Edmonds USA, but here? there? Have other people had experience with Inner-city councils and composting? Have any used covenants? How would tower dwellers ensure that unwanted material does not find its way into organic compost?

    I think this is a very worthwhile post. Even to include a discussion of Insinkerators.