Friday, October 7, 2016

3 indoor compost bins for the modern apartment dweller

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
Are you considering composting, but live in an apartment? Maybe you don't want to handle earthworms or you're worried about the smell?

Whatever your reason, here are three ideas for indoor composting for the apartment dweller. With these bins, you don't need to own a house or a farm to make your own compost. The compost bins are brilliant for small space composting - even in a small apartment :-)
Three indoor compost bins for the modern apartment dweller
Three indoor compost bins for the modern apartment dweller

Honestly, the first time I heard about composting many years ago, it sounded daunting.

Why would anyone bother to handle their own food waste risking a house smelling like rotten eggs? And on top of that, you would need to handle earthworms in the process... I used to play with earthworms as a kid, but to have earthworms as permanent residents in my apartment is entirely different ;-)

As the years went by, my understanding of food waste increased. Not only is composting a practical way of reducing the amount of food waste that goes into the regular recycling process, but also a way to remind us how much food we throw away. Hopefully with a conscious mindset we can reduce the amount of edible food that goes into the bin.

None of the composting systems below have been tested by the author. The pros and cons of each product are based on online information from the companies. This post doesn't contain any paid links.


In Japanese, 'Bokashi' means organic fermented matter. Instead of earthworms, you use bokashi bran to make compost.

Simply explained - the bokashi bran is inoculated with beneficial microbes that starts a fermentation process once it comes in contact with organic matter, such as food scraps. The process is called anaerobic, which means that the microbes work without air. Bokashi composting must be done in an airtight and sealed container, for the microbes to work without producing bad smells.

Read more about bokashi composting.
Bokashi bucket - composting indoors / Bokashi bøtte kompostering
Bokashi bucket - composting indoors / Bokashi bøtte kompostering.
Photo courtesy of Bokashi Norge.

Advantages of the Bokashi bucket:
  • Claims to be an odorless compost bin
  • Takes up minimal space in your apartment
  • All types of food scraps can be composted, including citrus, meat, fish, tea bags and coffee ground
  • Claims to not attract insects
  • The compost liquid can be used to fertilize your plants directly
  • Doesn't require earthworms
  • Holds the food scraps of four people (L33 cm*W27 cm*H38 cm). According to Bokashi Norway, a family of four will use a couple of weeks to fill one bucket, maybe less if you have guests for dinner.
  • Compost period: at least 5 weeks (2 weeks for fermentation process, and 3-6 additional weeks for the "pre-compost" to turn into ready-to-use compost)
  • Low maintenance: sprinkle 2 table spoons of bokashi per liter of food scraps, and then compress the food scrap content to eliminate air pockets

Disadvantages of the Bokashi bucket:
  • Liquid foods such as soup can't be composted
  • Large food scraps such as animal bones will most likely take longer time to decompose and needs to be chopped into smaller pieces
  • Requires a soil factory: To complete the decomposition, the "pre-compost" requires to be mixed with soil for 3-6 weeks before you have ready-to-use compost. Your alternatives:
    • Burry the pre-compost in the neighborhood garden, your parents' garden or something similar.
    • Blend the pre-compost with dirt in a large lidded box inside the apartment or on the balcony.
  • An expensive product: one 30L stainless steel Bokashi bucket in the UK costs almost £60. You most likely need two buckets of appropriate size if you want continuity in the process. If you spend two weeks filling up one bucket, the other one can be allowed to ferment at the same time. So you always have one bokashi bucket available.
    • Check if your municipality subsidies household composting systems. Here in Oslo, the municipality gives one-time subsidies of maximum NOK500 per compost set, essentially financing approx. 40% of the price for one Bokashi start kit.

Another good news is that the Bokashi bucket has been on the market for some time now :-)

If I've peeked your interest, you should check out:


An American team is behind the Sprout compost bin, which is created for small spaces, whether you live in a dorm or apartment.
Sprout - indoor compost bin for the apartment dweller
Sprout - indoor compost bin for the apartment dweller.
Photo courtesy of Sprout.

Advantages of Sprout:
  • Use of bokashi and doesn't require earthworms
  • Takes up minimal space in your apartment
  • You can compost any food scrap including citrus and meat
  • Claims to be odorless if composted correctly (a carbon filter blocks out smells and allows air intake)
  • Compost period: 1-2 months
  • Compact and minimalistic design and apparently durable
  • Perfect if you're living alone (20cm*20cm*25 cm) as one bin can hold about 10 liters (2.77 gallons) of food scraps
  • Low maintenance: sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of bokashi every time food scraps go into the bin, and then compress the food scrap content to eliminate air pockets
  • Designed to be a flower pot after you're done composting

Disadvantages of Sprout:
  • Liquid foods can't be composted
  • Large food scraps need to be chopped into smaller pieces to speed up the fermentation process
  • Fits only one person's food scraps

As far as I know, the product is still not commercially available. About three years ago the team behind Sprout started crowdfunding and they've managed to reach their goal of $7500. Maybe it's only a matter of time before it hits the market? :-)

Check out the Sprout composter right here.


Bionicraft is the team behind Biovessel, a start-up group from Taiwan. The Biovessel requires vermicompost, another word for composting with the help of various worms including earthworms.
Biovessel - small space composting
Biovessel - small space composting.
Photo courtesy of Bionicraft.

Photo courtesy of Bionicraft.

Advantages of Biovessel:
  • Sleek design that fits the modern kitchen
  • Claims to be an odorless compost bin
  • Based on photos and video, it seems like the Biovessel may hold the scraps of two-three people (L45cm, W22,5 cm, H16,5cm)
  • You can compost leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, grass and garden clippings, tea bags, brown paper, black and white newspaper
  • 500 g of earthworms can break down 500 g -1 kg of food scraps every week
  • Apparently no problems of organisms escaping because of the optimal design and the environment inside the vessel
  • Presumably low maintenance: add water every time food scrap goes into the bin, check of light, moisture and PH-level
  • Outlet opening designed for standard plant pots to fit in (10 cm / 4")

Disadvantages of Biovessel:
  • You can't compost citrus, meat, fish, salts, sugars, breads, cereals, fats, oils, salad dressing
  • You need to acquire 7 liters of humus and sawdust soil, containing 500-600 g earthworms 
  • An expensive product: The exact retail price hasn't been released, but during the company's crowdfunding they sold a Biovessel starter kit at $159 (Early Bird price).

The team behind Biovessel has estimated that the Biovessel will be for sale on February 2017.

Read more about the Biovessel right here.

Do you know about other indoor compost bins that will fit in an apartment? Please share in the comment field below :-)

Continue to read:
7 easy ways on how to minimize food waste.

How to keep lettuce crisp and fresh.

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