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Composting for beginners: how to use a kitchen compost bin

When you think of kitchen compost bins, you might think of smelly odours and endless fruit flies. You might be longing for that dream garden, but the thought of handling your green bin material turns your stomach. It doesn’t have to be an odour-fest if you learn how to use a kitchen compost bin properly. In fact, it’s actually a lot less smelly than your current green bin system. 

There are lots of great reasons to start composting your kitchen scraps. It’s one of the best ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce your carbon footprint. Plus, it’ll make your garden and your house plants look like a million bucks! In this guide, we’ll show you how to use a kitchen compost bin and what to do with your food scraps. But first, let’s look at the benefits of composting your kitchen scraps.

Why should I compost my kitchen scraps?

There are lots of great reasons to start composting your kitchen scraps. The main reason is that it produces nutrient-rich soil that doesn’t require chemical fertilizer. If you grow flowers, vegetables, herbs, or even indoor plants, this will make them grow beautifully. There’s nothing like the real thing!

Gardening isn’t really my thing. Should I still compost my kitchen scraps?

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, learning how to use a kitchen compost bin reduces your carbon footprint. While most municipalities have green bin programs, they’re mostly inefficient and mismanaged. Unfortunately, a lot of green bin material ends up in the landfill, where it creates methane, a greenhouse gas. Additionally, breaking down food scraps at an industrial level requires a lot of energy. This energy is mostly powered by burning fossil fuels. Conversely, composting at home harnesses the forces of nature without the need for external power. 

As a non-gardener, what can you do with the end product of your kitchen compost? Well, you can give it away to community gardens, family members, or friends with plants or gardens. You can even leave it on the side of the road with a “free nutrient-rich soil” sign. Score! 

How to use a kitchen compost bin the right way

Composting kitchen scraps is easy enough, but it’s important to know how to use a kitchen compost bin properly. You can’t put just anything in your kitchen compost bin. Avoid any dairy or meat products, and avoid oils. This includes bacon fat, butter, cheese, bones, and fried foods. If added to your backyard composter, these products will attract rats and raccoons to your yard. Raccoon party, anyone?

Let’s talk about what you SHOULD add to your kitchen compost bin. Things like strawberry tops, potato and carrot peels, coffee grounds, and veggie scraps make great composting material. Egg shells work great too, but make sure you crush them up a bit before adding them to the bin. Some gardeners warn against adding citrus peels, garlic and onions to your compost as they take longer to break down. 

Already, separating the good compost material from meat, dairy, and bones will prevent a lot of odours. But if you want to further prevent odours, we recommend the Rogerie Countertop Composter. This 4 litre bin sits stylishly on your kitchen counter and keeps odours at bay with a charcoal filter. The filter sits right under the lid, which has air holes for proper ventilation, further preventing odours. This is a great solution if odours are turning you off of composting food scraps. 

Do I need to fit my compost bin with a liner?

Lining your kitchen compost bin with a bag isn’t necessary. You can just dump the contents into your backyard compost and rinse out your bin. But, if you must line your bin, make sure to use a biodegradable bin liner so you can toss it into the composter. Note: this will make your kitchen scraps biodegrade slower. 

Types of composters

If you’re the type of person who’s squeamish about odours, we recommend a tumbler composter. They don’t require that you interact directly with decomposing scraps, and they don’t require muscle. Just turn the barrel, and everything mixes together with very little effort.  Tumblers are great because they have two compartments: one for fresh kitchen scraps, and one for ready-to-use soil. 

Compost tumblers can be a little pricey, sitting at $100 each on average. If you don’t have the budget for a tumbler, there are tons of ways to do it for free. Check out this video about making a composter with an old rubber storage container. 

How to add your kitchen scraps to the compost

So, you’ve got enough kitchen scraps to start composting. Congratulations! It’s almost time to learn how to use a kitchen compost bin with your backyard composter. But sit tight, because we’ve got one more thing to cover before we start composting.

When learning how to use a kitchen compost bin, it’s crucial to understand how the composting process works. To break down kitchen scraps into useable soil, we need to create an ideal environment for microorganisms. We do this by mixing our kitchen scraps with carbon-rich organic matter. This carbon-rich material often looks like dry, dead leaves, twigs, bits of brown cardboard, and sawdust. 

This is known as mixing “greens” and “browns” to facilitate biodegradation. Your greens are your nitrogen-rich matter, like veggie scraps, coffee grounds, and strawberry tops. When nitrogen meets carbon (ie. dead leaves, twigs), the biodegradation process begins. 

Everytime you add your greens to your compost bin, you need to add the appropriate amount of browns. The most common ratio for home composting is 2 parts browns, 1 part greens. So, if you add one bucket full of greens to your compost bin, you’ll need to add 2 buckets of browns. Keep a sealed bin of browns nearby for easy access. 

It’s important to maintain the right moisture level in your composter. Too dry, and microorganisms won’t be able to live. Too wet, and the mixture will rot. If your mixture seems a little dry, just add a splash of water and tumble it. If it seems too wet, add more browns to dry it out slightly. 

It takes about 4-6 months during the warmer season to get fully-composted, useable soil. While you can toss your food scraps in your composter in the winter, it won’t start breaking down until spring. 

Can I compost in an apartment?

As long as you have access to an outdoor space, such as a patio or a shared yard, you can definitely compost. You can also make an indoor vermicompost, but that’s not for the squeamish.

Your secret green thumb

Gardening might not be your thing, and it isn’t for a lot of people. But if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, learning how to use a kitchen compost bin is key. And who knows–you might even discover that you’ve had a green thumb all along! 

Looking for more tips to reduce your carbon footprint? Check out our Plastic Free July article for reducing your waste while travelling!