A guide to backyard composting (even for apartment living!)

Here at Everusely, our number one focus is reducing the amount of plastic waste produced each year. While plastic waste is a huge contributor to landfill, it’s not the only thing that ends up in there. In fact, organic waste makes up over 60% of our landfills (think food scraps and paper and cardboard). If more of us adopt backyard composting, we could radically reduce this figure. 

The average American household throws out 650 lbs of organic waste every year. That’s 295 kg!

But surely all those food scraps just go about their business and decompose in landfill…right?

Nope! Wrong. 

Unfortunately, this not the case. Because organic waste needs oxygen to break down, and landfills are not aerated, and because a lot of this organic waste is put into plastic bags before its discarded, it just sits there, buried in a hole in the ground, perfectly preserved

When organic waste is left in an oxygen-free (or anaerobic environment), it starts to produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Methane is actually 72% more stronger than CO2, which means it plays a massive role in climate change. Many countries are now starting to harvest the methane generated from landfills to create energy, which is great! But wouldn’t it be better to reduce the amount of stuff that we have to bury in giant holes in the ground, don’t you think? 

That’s where you come in!

Even if you’re trying your absolute best not to waste any food (remember your five R’s!), you are still going to be left with some food scraps. There are a lot of recipes online for some pretty unconventional things you might not have thought of to cook with these scraps before. But aside from a potato skin soup (we don’t know if this a real thing), there is another option…and that is backyard composting! 

With just this one simple lifestyle change, combined with using as much of your food scraps and not wasting food, we can really reduce the amount of trash we throw away each week.

Compost is nutrient rich, decomposed organic matter. It’s an important addition to keep soil and plants healthy in your garden, veggie beds and pot plants! Composting is a lot easier than you might think. There are only a few little rules to remember. 

The first is about what can and can’t go in your backyard composter. 

Things that CAN’T be composted:

There are a few things which shouldn’t be composted in your backyard compost bin; meat, dairy products, grease and oil, along with any bleached or laminated paper products, inorganic materials like coffee cups, and “compostable plastics” (which are only compostable under very specific conditions, often not even met in commercial composters).  You also can’t compost manure from cats and dogs, or other omnivores, in your backyard compost. 

Things that CAN be composted:

Pretty much all of your kitchen scraps can go in the compost. Think vegetable and fruit scraps, egg and nut shells, coffee grounds and tea! You can also add unbleached paper, natural fibers like cotton, linen and hemp, even unbleached paper towel and toilet rolls! There is lots of advice that warns people against composting citrus, garlic and onion, but in small doses in a healthy composter, especially in the warmer months, these will not be an issue. It’s also not necessary to only compost organic waste, as pesticides will breakdown in the composting process.

Secondly, it’s important to keep the balance between carbon and nitrogen. Carbon heavy items are things like cardboard and paper. You might not be able to recycle that greasy pizza box, but you can certainly compost it! Things that are rich in nitrogen are your food scraps, like vegetable stalks and peels. You’re going to want to keep the balance of these two components at about half and half. 

Other than that, it’s a very simple process! Scraps in, compost out ????

There are different styles of composters to suit any commitment and skill level and lifestyle! There are even composter available for apartment living. And no, you don’t have to worry about the smell, contrary to what you may believe. 

Enclosed bins

Enclosed bins are a great option if you have a backyard. These do take the longest to produce compost, but they are also very simple to use.


Tumblers are the easiest composter to use, and very conveniently sized for balconies or small backyards/courtyards. You just put your food scraps in, give it a tumble, and in a few months you have compost ready to use!


Vermicomposting uses worms to turn your organic waste to compost. These little guys are quite sensitive to temperature, so it’s best to keep them inside. Don’t worry, they don’t smell! It’s actually the other components in your general waste, and the fact that it’s not aerated, that makes your trash smelly. So if you live in an apartment, and wouldn’t mind a few thousands little pets, then this is actually great option for you! Just don’t give them too much citrus, or you might have to dig a thousand tiny graves.

Trench Composting

If you have the space or want to do some reconnaissance for a black ops mission, you can always go with trench compositing! All you have to do is dig a hole about a foot deep and bury your food scraps. It should take about a month for it to decompose with all the critters and microbes already living in the soil helping you out.

If none of these options sound like they are for you, you can always hire someone to come and collect your scraps. There are organisations who handle this, or sometimes just someone on AirTasker will be willing to take the scraps off your hands to a commercial composter. It’s also a good idea to see what your local community does. Many community gardens have composters that you can put your scraps into. And many sellers at the farmers market will take the food waste generated there back to the farms to compost. 

Once you have compost, you can use it in your garden, houseplants, or give it to friends and family to use.

Whatever you decide to do will be far better than putting food scraps in your general waste bin!