New to Kitchen Composting? Tips and Equipment To Get Started
Composting is a great way to cut down on the amount of waste you send to a landfill. Did you know that more than 30 percent of what we throw away is food scraps and yard waste, and a lot of that can be composted?
When I think about all the fruit peels and vegetable stems that go in the garbage, it’s easy to see the difference composting can make.
There are two main ways to compost at home: in your backyard, or through municipal or curbside pickup programs.
Read on to learn the basics of each, our recommendations for kitchen compost bins and other equipment to make the process easier, and tips for getting started.
Backyard composting benefits and basics
Backyard composting is an amazing process that turns kitchen scraps and yard waste into a nutrient-rich mix that gives a boost to your soil. It can even help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because organic material like food scraps create methane when it breaks down (EPA).
There are three basic elements of compost: green material for nitrogen, brown material for carbon and water for moisture.
Brown material includes dry elements like dead leaves and twigs. Green material is where food scraps come in. Fruit and vegetable peels, cores and stems, and coffee grounds are all compostable at home. Do not compost meat, dairy, oils and fats, since they can smell and attract pests.
As you build your compost pile, it’s important to layer greens and browns, and maintain enough moisture to help everything break down.
The exact mix of greens and browns you’ll need depends on your soil, but recommendations range from about half of each to four parts brown to one part green. I’ve included some links at the end of this article to helpful resources about composting at home.
Municipal and curbside composting expands what goes in the bin
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you have the option to compost through city programs or your waste removal service, you have an opportunity to compost even more. This can really reduce the amount of waste that goes into the garbage.
Each program is structured a bit different, and it’s worth looking up the guidelines for your area. In Minnesota, some of the extra items we’re able to compost through city programs include:
- Meat, fish and bones
- Fats, oils and grease
- Pizza boxes from delivery
- Tissue paper
- Paper egg cartons
- Paper towels and napkins
- Certified compostable products
- Houseplants and flowers
- Chopsticks, popsicles stickers and toothpicks
- Hair and nail clippings
Many programs require compost be bagged before it’s dropped off at specific locations or added to curbside bins. Again, it’s important to check with your local service to see what they require.
Kitchen composting gear: Countertop compost bin, charcoal filters and bags
Having the right equipment can make kitchen composting easier. Here’s an overview of three products we recommend as you get started.
Countertop compost bin. Having a bin on your countertop like this Countertop Bamboo Composter helps keep composting top of mind as you cook. It’s easy to sweep scraps right from the cutting board into the bin as you cook. Once the bin is full, you can grab the handle and head outside to add the scraps to your compost pile.
Compost bin charcoal filters. Composter Charcoal Filters go in the top of the compost bin to reduce odors. They can be washed, but their effectiveness fades over time so they may need to be replaced periodically.
- Compostable bags. While these aren’t needed for backyard composting, municipal or curbside programs may require compost to be bagged for pickup or drop-off. Compostable bags sized for countertop compost bins are a good option. Typically, these are labeled as compostable and carry the BPI seal, and your local program should have guidelines on what it requires.
Kitchen composting tips and helpful resources
The more I learn about composting, the more excited I get about the opportunity we have to reduce the waste we send to landfills.
Here are some kitchen composting tips I’ve picked up that can help turn composting into an everyday habit.
It can take some time to get into the habit of composting. Start small and expand as you get more comfortable. Once you get started, it’s easier to notice what you can compost and what you can’t.
You can refrigerate your kitchen scraps if you’re noticing they’re starting to smell or break down. This can be helpful if you’re trying to reduce the number of trips you’re taking to a drop-off location or don’t generate enough scraps to empty your countertop bin every day or two.
Save your fruit and vegetable scraps and coffee grounds for your backyard compost, and add anything else to your municipal bin. Separating these items is a bit of extra work, but also lets you keep the good green stuff for your home use.
Paper grocery bags are typically compostable and hold larger items like pineapple tops or cantaloupe rinds better than countertop compost bags. Just check to make sure you can use the paper bags curbside, first.
Here are some additional helpful resources for more about composting:
- Composting At Home, from the EPA
- Composting in Home Gardens, from the University of Minnesota Extension