How to have a Zero Food Waste Apartment
Updated: Jun 24
We all recycle paper, plastic, glass and metal, but in volume terms a huge percentage of our waste consists not of these permanent materials but of food waste. To the extent we cannot reduce food wastage by meal planning and using all the edible parts of fruit and vegetables, we simply throw away food waste, perhaps thinking vaguely that landfill is not such a bad solution for biodegradable waste. Some local authorities offer collection of food waste, but there are ways that it can be recycled and reused much more locally and to far better effect.
“Compost” conjures the idea of a heap in a large garden, and a process too unwieldy (and perhaps smelly or messy) for a domestic setting. The reality is, though, that it can be done without a garden in a flat on a manageable scale. A flat occupier with a balcony will even end up with a nutrient rich mix to use on their own plants.
How to compost using a vermicomposter
Worms living in a steadily layered compost bin transform food waste into worm tea (odour free worm excreta) which can be used plants, both indoor and outdoor. While worms can eat almost anything, there are some scraps they do not eat. Hence, other solutions are needed in relation to the remaining food scraps (see e.g. below in relation to bokashi bins). Worms speed the process, but the method below can be used to compost without them.
Follow these four easy steps to compost with worms in a flat:
1. Buy a container
Buy a large plastic or ceramic container at a gardening or department store. Poke holes in the lid and bottom of a plastic box to create ventilation and allow water to drain. Place a tray beneath the container to catch the liquid. You can keep the compost pile inside or outside your flat, but it should be in a cool spot that gets plenty of sunlight.
2. Layer the waste components
Before you can throw scraps in your compost, you'll need to prepare the bin. Begin by cutting strips of paper (you can use old newspapers) and soaking them in water. Use half of the strips to coat the bottom of the bin. Pour soil over the paper and drop in worms--the container size should be relative to how many worms you put inside. The bin needs to be one square foot for every pound of worms.
3. Toss in Scraps
Now that you have a pile of paper, soil and worms, you can start throwing in your scraps. Compost piles can contain fruits, vegetables, produce peels, egg shells, paper, tea and tea bags, coffee and filters, and leaves. Do not add plastic, animal waste, citrus, meat, bones or dairy. Each time you add scraps to your compost pile, cover it with the soaked paper strips.
Bokashi bins work by fermentation. They are not supposed to smell, and can 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. It is recommended that a model with a strong seal be chosen to ensure that any odour does not carry in a flat, and that two be bought so that one can receive scraps while the other is fermenting.
You can find a range of Bokashi bins on Amazon or try at your local garden supply shop.
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