Home composting without the hassle

Almost every time the subject of home composting comes up in conversation, non-composters' reactions are the same: “I would, but I can’t deal with the smell it leaves in the apartment.” Or, “I want to...but it sounds awfully messy, and I don’t have the time to maintain it all.”

These are totally reasonable worries! However, I am here to assure you that with proper techniques and a few minor adjustments to your current setup, composting without a stinky mess is possible and easier than you think.


  1. Buy a container: ceramic, plastic or metal are all viable options. A 10–20 gallon container should do the trick; just make sure it has a lid. It’s not a bad idea to purchase a few of these, so that you can keep them rotating—while one round is “cooking,” you can continue to compost the next batch.
  2. Air is fundamental to great compost, so you want to poke 10–15 holes in the lid and base of your bin to allow that material to breathe. You will also want a tray for beneath your bin, as these holes will later allow water and dirt to move through it, as well.
  3. If you have an outside balcony or patio, you can keep your bin outside; if not, a cool spot inside is just fine. Just be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight.
  4. Shred bits of scrap paper or newspaper into 1-inch strips. Soak the paper in water and then line them in the bottom of your bin.
  5. Add a bit of soil (1/2-inch deep) and then add your worms. Keep in mind, your bin should be one square foot for every pound of worms. Place your bin in the sunlight and let the worms burrow into the paper.


  1. You’re ready to begin adding kitchen scraps to your compost creation. Keep a list handy of what you should and should not include in your bin.
  2. Each time you make a fairly large scrap deposit, you want to add a thin layer of moistened paper strips. Note to break your food scraps down and deposit them finely.
  3. If you’re noticing an odor, you can spread a thin layer of soil on top. Avoid dairy and meat scraps at all costs—these don’t break down well in small compost piles and will certainly stink up the place, as well as attract vermin.
  4. Let the mixture sit, or “cook,” until your scraps have decomposed.


  1. Scoop out your soil (not your worms!) and get planting. If you’re not big on gardening, there should be places in your region that accept donations—perhaps a community farm or school garden.
  2. Take pride in your work! EcoWatch reminds us: Food scraps and yard waste make up 20–30 percent of what we throw away and are the largest category of municipal solid waste going into landfills and incinerators, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In landfills, these scraps take up space and release potent greenhouse gases. A little repurposing goes a long way! Thanks for doing your part.

Keep this handy infographic from Sustainable America on the fridge for quick reference, and check out our Instagram video. Good luck!