Living Green in Apartments

Many cities across Canada are now offering “green bins” to their residents that can be filled with household organic waste.

According to a 2013 Statistics Canada survey, 45 per cent of all Canadian households reported composting kitchen waste and 68 per cent of people with a lawn or garden composted yard and garden waste.

More than 60 per cent of these households used curbside collection programs.

But what can you do if you live in a rental apartment building and don’t have access to one of these green bins?

It’s a common misconception that apartment dwellers simply cannot join the green team by composting. These tips will help you change all of that!

Where to Put It

You’ve made the decision to compost, but the location is an issue. Apartment composting is not any different than composting in a backyard – you just need to do it on a smaller scale.

If you have a balcony, putting your compost container outside would be ideal. Otherwise, under the kitchen sink is a great place to put it (especially if it is right beside your regular garbage can. It will remind you to compost that organic waste!).

What You Need

To create a simple composting system, you will need a few supplies. A plastic or ceramic container will be first on your list.

The size of the container will depend on your needs and how much organic kitchen waste you create – just remember that the bin you choose must come with a lid that fits securely.

You’ll also want to grab a tray to put under the bin in case of any spills or leaks. Finally, you’ll need some soil/fertilizer and some old newspaper to get your compost bin running at full speed.

Getting Started

Composting is very easy to do once you get your container set up. Prepare your bin by first adding a layer of soil that is several inches deep and then cover it with a layer of dry, shredded newspaper.

Finally, you’ll need to poke holes into the lid of your container to allow air to circulate properly (and prevent bad odours in the long run!). Now you’re ready to begin adding your organic kitchen waste.

For rental apartment compost bins, the smaller you can make the waste the better it will be. Remember that you are using a much smaller container, so the waste needs to fit the bin.


When you add your organic waste, throw in some shredded newspaper at the same time – this keeps the wet/dry balance in check.

Mix your compost once a week and add a fresh scoop of soil to accommodate the new scraps.

When you’re ready, your compost can be used to fertilize potted plants in your rental unit, donated to a local community garden or even used on the flowerbeds at your apartment building.

If enough people are composting in your building, you could start a rooftop garden that everyone can use.

More Tips

Below we offer even more great tips on how to make composting in your apartment a reality!

Figure out how much food waste you create. Hate crusts? Eat a lot of shelled nuts? Do you have a balcony? Some spare room?

1. Determine the best place for compost: Under the sink, in a closet, on the balcony, in a window flower box.

2. Obtain something to compost in: A plastic/metal box, a garbage can.

3. Punch holes in the base and sides of your composting box.

4. Get a tarp or a tray to go under your compost box.

5. You will need some soil or fertilizer to start. Place a three-inch layer of soil into the box. You will also need to sprinkle in a handful or two of dry bedding. This can be leaves, newspaper, (no colored inks or glossy magazines) straw, dry grass clippings, cardboard, nutshells.

6. Learn what can be composted and what cannot.

7. Shred, pulverize and cut your compostables as finely as possible to speed process.

8. Add equal parts dry bedding to the compost heap.

9. Stir the compost every week or two.

10. Add a handful of fresh soil every fortnight to refresh microbe supply.

11. If composter emits odor, add more dry bedding. If it’s dripping liquids, add more dry bedding.

12. Create another compost box.

13. Once your original box begins to get full, scoop out fine soil-like compost into your new box. You should have one box for finished compost and one box for compost in the making.

Go Green! 🙂

The Team