With many cities now diverting food waste from landfills, composting has become more than just a way to generate nutrient-rich soil for your garden. In some places, it’s a requirement. According to the Center for Sustainability & Commerce at Duke University, the average person generates more than 4 pounds of waste each day, which amounts to maxed-out landfills, carbon emission and methane buildup. Much of your family’s food waste doesn’t need to end up in a landfill; it can be composted at home with little time and effort. If you’re ready to do your part, here’s how to create a small kitchen compost bin and keep it odor-free and active.

Materials

  • A container with a secure lid for your compost
  • A charcoal filter (available at pet stores) 
  • A tray with raised sides to catch any spills
  • A small bag of potting soil
  • Old newspaper for shredding
  • A drill or punch for creating holes in the lid

Keep in mind that you’ll want to empty the container every few days depending on how much waste you generate. Before you begin, decide what you’ll do with your compost. You can use it in the garden, or have a larger bucket or compost bin available outside where you can empty your small kitchen pail.

The Setup

  1. Choose a space under or near your kitchen sink to place your tray and container. Containers specifically designed for food scraps are available, or you can use a plastic ice cream bucket or coffee container. Choose something that fits your space. 
  2. Carefully punch or drill a few holes in the lid of your container and cut the charcoal filter to fit inside the lid. This will help control odor from escaping from the container. If necessary, glue the charcoal filter in place.
  3. Add a couple of inches of soil to the bottom of the container.
  4. Add a layer of newspaper.

Ready to Compost

  1. You’re ready for food scraps! Add items from the above list, and be sure to cut them as small as possible to increase their surface area and speed decomposition.
  2. Consider the balance of wet and dry items, and add shredded newspaper when you add food scraps.
  3. Each week, mix the compost and add a new layer of soil. 
  4. When the container is full, empty it into a larger, outdoor compost bin or integrate the nutrient-rich compost into your garden.
 

Organic Material for Composting

  • Egg shells
  • Vegetable and fruit stalks and peelings (including corn cobs)
  • Grass cuttings and weeds (sparingly)
  • Tea leaves and coffee grounds
  • Paper towels, tissues, newspaper
  • Flour items (bread, crackers, doughnuts, etc.)
  • Old spices

Things to Avoid

  • Dairy products
  • Fish
  • Meat and bones
  • Grease or oils of any kind
  • Diseased plant material
  • Disposable diapers
  • Glossy paper
  • Ashes

Troubleshooting

  • If things start to smell, the balance of wet and dry items is likely off. Try adding more newspaper or replacing the charcoal filter. Make sure your compost has access to plenty of air and drill more holes if necessary.
  • If you notice a particular scrap isn’t composting well, don’t add more of that item. Be sure to keep the size of your scraps small, especially if they’re dense (like a corn cob), to speed up the process.
  • Don’t be afraid to start from scratch if things aren’t working well the first time. It might take a few attempts before the balance in your bin is perfect for creating compost.

With a little practice and minimal weekly work, you can create a kitchen compost bin that will drastically reduce the amount of waste you’re sending to the curb each week. Some cities have had such success with composting programs that they’ve reduced the frequency of their trash pickups! Remember to keep the cycle going and use the compost you’ve created in your garden to feed the next generation of fruits, veggies and flowers.