Last summer we took a trip to the Pacific Northwest to scout out where we might want to live some day. As we explored both Portland and Seattle, I remember being so impressed at how almost every food establishment had a compost bin for your food scraps. Why wasn’t Santa Monica doing this? I’d seen compost bins next to the trash at Whole Foods, but that was about it. I was so inspired by the composting I decided I wanted to run home and start a bin myself!
So off I went to Home Depot and bought a paint bucket and lid, and went home ready to compost like a good little eco-conscious person would. I followed some online instructions and drilled holes into the bucket, filled it with food scraps and a few dead leaves from our balcony plants, and left it outside. The result? A fruit fly infestation that wouldn’t quit. We soon had bowls of vinegar spread around the apartment, and I couldn’t drink wine without those little red-eyed buggers landing in my glass. The problem was, I didn’t have enough yard debris and “brown” stuff to cover up the food, thus attracting every fruit fly west of the 405. I viewed this as a DIY failure and left the bucket on the balcony for about 6 months untouched. Recently though, while we were packing and cleaning to move, we opened it up. What was inside? Compost! It actually worked.
Upon arriving in Portland, we were told that there were 4 bins for our trash and recycling. Geesh. One for glass only, one for plastic, paper and other recyclables, one for trash and one for compost. Yay! A compost bin! I immediately looked online and found some tips about how to prevent animals and smells coming from your compost bin. Just the thought of throwing wilted lettuce and onion peels in a container next to the house in the hot sun made me cringe. Not only would it stink to high hell, but I didn’t want to walk outside every time I made a salad, which is pretty much every day. At first I started putting scraps in a Tupperware container and leaving it in the freezer. Although this worked great, it filled up so quickly and took up too much room. It was time I made a compost bin to put under the kitchen sink.
Composting indoors? Visions of fruit flies haunted my dreams and I avoided this project for a while. I had the materials I needed, a plastic container, a charcoal filter I got online, and certified compostable bags. I was ready to go, but I was so worried about odor and bugs. I figured if I fail again, no big deal. I can always go back to the freezer method. I am happy to say though, that after about 3 weeks of composting indoors under the sink, not only can I not smell a thing until I open the container, but I haven’t seen a single fruit fly in our house! This really works and is incredibly easy and cheap to make. I calculated it probably cost about $5. You don’t even need to use compostable bags, you can use paper bags or newspapers if you want, but I wanted to make it as easy and clean as possible to empty into the compost bin once a week. Here’s how I did it-
What You’ll Need:
Plastic bucket or container with a tight-fitting lid. An old litter pale works purrrfectly. Sorry, I had to.
Drill, or hammer and nails to poke holes
All you need to do is place the filter on the inside of the lid, and mark the perimeter. This is so you only drill holes where the filter will go, thus preventing anything from flying in or out. Drill a bunch of holes into the lid, this will allow the food to breath but the charcoal filter will prevent odors from escaping. Now tightly tape the filter over the holes on the inside of the lid, making sure again nothing can get in or out. Yes I am fruit fly paranoid! Now just throw the compostable bag in there and put it under your kitchen sink or wherever is convenient.
Add food scraps whenever you want, and empty it about once a week. I tried to go longer and no lie, the compostable bag literally started composting. And by that I mean it started falling apart and leaking stinky onion liquid in the bucket. Ew. But ya know what? It didn’t smell until I opened the lid! The filter really works great. One of the best thing about composting, other than the fact that you’re preventing more waste from being buried in a land fill, is that your kitchen trash won’t smell either!
Keep in mind this is just a kitchen food compost bucket. This isn’t going to turn into compost to put in your garden. You can add this to your backyard composter, or if you are lucky like me and your city composts for you, you can let them take care of it!
Here are some resources on why it is important to compost, and what you can and cannot put in a compost bin.
Have you ever composted at home? Leave your answer in the comments below, I’d love to hear how it went!