Using a kitchen compost bin or indoor compost bin can change your life and put you on the path to sustainable living. We’re actually a bit obsessed with composting, you can read a little more on that here: Our Zero Waste Plan.
If you missed our article on the benefits of composting, here’s a summary of what composting can do:
- Reduce greenhouse (namely methane) gases by preventing organic waste from going to landfill
- Manage and reduce waste (some people have even been able to cancel their waste collection, citing composting as critical to this achievement)
- Enhance the quality of the soil for those plants you love so much AND even provides natural pesticide and fertilizer (especially, if you use the vermicomposting method and harvest the worm tea)
An increasing number of humans live in apartments or tiny houses these days. Space is then a bit of a luxury. But that doesn’t mean you can’t compost! There are loads of options. This article will help you find kitchen compost bins and indoor compost bins that allow you to compost in your very own kitchen. We include the best compact composting bins that have high satisfaction ratings, are more durable than competitors, and look good in your kitchen!
To clarify, not all “compost bins” bins actually compost. Some (like this one) just collect kitchen waste, keeping away odors with charcoal filters, but require you to take them elsewhere (like an outdoor bin) once food is broken down. These are great to have as secondary bins in which you can collect more scraps while others are composting. Others actually do most or all of the composting work, completely breaking down scraps through either natural fermentation or scrap-eating worms. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the latter, specifically, the following types:
- Bokashi bins: Bokashi is simply a different method of composting. The word “Bokashi” is Japanese for “shading off” or gradation and is derived from methods used centuries ago to ferment food. The method itself typically involves throwing food scraps into a bin, along with a mix of micro-organisms (which you buy separately). The Bokashi method doesn’t entirely convert your food scraps into rich compost. The micro-organisms used ferment the food scraps and turn them into another form of waste that can go straight into the garden or into a worm farm/traditional composter for further breakdown. The beauty of these bins is that you can “feed them” meat, fish, citrus and onion – i.e. food scraps which you should not feed your worms unless they have first been fermented by a Bokashi!
- Vermicompost bins: Also known as worm bins because they use worms (typically red wrigglers) to break down food scraps into super nutritious compost and worm tea that can be fed to your plants. Worms can break down just about everything and can be hugely productive once you get them going. They need a little more care (they’re living beings after all) but can be kept inside successfully without smelling or attracting other bugs
- “Traditional” composting bin systems: These can come in many forms but typically come in plastic or metal bins and use aeration and moisture retention to decompose your organic matter. This process emulates what would naturally happen in nature but speeds it up by controlling the environment. This “aerobic” process requires turning to help the little aerobic organisms “breath”. There are also “anaerobic” bin options which ferment organic waste instead of decomposing – these are not used as much as they tend to smell
- High-tech: We don’t know how to categorize the techy bin we found! It uses electricity to fast track the process of breaking down food scraps (does it overnight). Much like the Bokashi, the waste that comes out of this machine can be buried in your garden (or in your plant pots) or added to a worm bin/traditional compost bin. This looks like it would making a composter’s life a whole lot easier but bear in mind, they use resources (electricity) and are probably more complex to deal with at the end of their life (google e-waste)
When choosing a kitchen compost bin, ask yourself:
1) How much space do you have? Do you have a full-size compost bin outside or a curbside composting program? If you have a small living space, fear not. There are options, but take a look at your living space and determine where you might put one. On the counter? Beneath the sink? In a closet?
2) What is your budget?
3) How much work do you want to put in? This will determine whether you get a collection bin, a bokashi-type bin, a worm bin (vermicomposting) or a self-sustaining bin
Bear in mind that there is generally a trade-off between 2 and 3, but if you live a busy life and don’t have time to compost or plan on doing a lot of composting, a more expensive vessel is well worth the investment. Plus, if you eat a lot of meat and dairy, you’ll likely need a more complete system.
We’ve already covered the benefits of composting above, but consider that kitchen or indoor composting, specifically, also has the benefit of being done in a small confined space and is generally pretty low maintenance. This is great for urban living and on-the-go lifestyles.
You should also be aware that leakage and odors have been reported by fellow composters as an annoyance when composting inside. There are however, ways and means to avoid this including adding dry bedding to the bottom of the bin to prevent leakage and making sure you’re sticking to the rules of what they can and can’t “eat” (e.g. worms don’t like meat which will make your worm bin stinky).
Now, let’s get our hands dirty and look at some kitchen composters we really like.
As described above, Bokashi bins are a form of pre-composting if you like and can take a huge amount of pressure off landfills, especially if used in conjunction with a worm bin or a composter. This is exactly the method we use. In fact we have two Bokashi bins which is just the right amount (more on this below). For us, the big win is that the Bokashi process can convert meat, fish, citrus and onion (food scraps that can’t be fed to worms) into more easily consumed worm food and/or compost input. They are pretty simple to use:
- Keep one in your kitchen, throw in food scraps as you generate them
- Sprinkle on bokashi bran (the stuff that contains the micro-organisms that do the breaking down, bought separately)
- Use the little tap to get the bokashi juice out
- Dilute the juice with water and feed your garden with it
- The remaining scraps become “bokashi waste” and can either be buried in the garden, fed to a worm bin or added to a compost bin for quicker composting
Many reviews suggest using two buckets, one to be in composting mode and one in collecting mode. We started with one to get the hang of it, but soon found it wasn’t enough. Now we’ve been using 2 for a few months and can happily say that none of our food waste goes into the trash! We also have a community compost drop off center which we enjoy visiting when our worms are a bit too full!
These bins seem to be super accessible around the world and various brands make them, here are some ideas (don’t forget to also buy the bran). Also this site has a bunch of great tutorials on how to Bokashi! You can always make your own if you’re feeling crafty!
A family owned business, started by Luke Gregory while studying at university. He tried traditional bokashi composting but “found the bokashi brand hard to manage”. He wanted to improve the system so it wouldn’t attract rodents and could thus be placed in kitchens where more people might be encouraged to compost. The Urban Composter was thus born in 2011 and is now distributed across the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Australia.
This composter is the least “complete” of composters on our list, falling somewhere in between collection bucket and full-on composter. It uses the bokashi method, which relies on an oxygenless environment to ferment food, where an added compost accelerator, or “activator”, breaks it down. Once you set it up, you just let it do its thing. No need to worry about the balance of greens and browns.
This bin improves on regular bokashi bins by simplifying the accelerator, utilizing a citrus-based spray instead of traditional bran. Just line the bottom with a sheet of paper, (this acts as both bedding and a screen to prevent clogging the spout), add your scraps, and spray with compost accelerator. Within a few days, you can start collecting liquid fertilizer leachate (compost juice) from the locking pour spout at the bottom. The decomposed food scraps, while not complete compost (which would take about 6 more weeks being mixed into soil) can still be used as topsoil to slow-release nutrients into a base soil.
The great thing about this bin is you can keep adding scraps as older ones are fermenting until the bin is full. Between the extra tight lid and the compost accelerator, it is odorless, when closed and mild when open. They come in both 2.1 and 4 gallon sizes and you can choose from 4 colors for the lid. Since the body is a sleek tan, it can fit with any décor and looks much nicer than other inexpensive bokashi bins.
Even though it isn’t as fancy as other complete composters on our list, it’s a great inexpensive starter bin until you really decide whether you want to commit to composting (which we hope you do!)
Started in 2008 by owner and master craftsman Chris Bradley, Sacred Resources makes custom, hand-crafted woodwork, all made using traditional techniques and joinery out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Chris focuses on function and durability, making sure each product is built to last a lifetime. We love that he uses reclaimed and locally harvested wood, particularly trees killed by the mountain pine beetle, a substance in “tragic abundance”. Chris states, “It’s an honor to create things of beauty and usefulness with a material that most consider firewood at best.”
These beautiful vermicomposters are made of upcycled beetle-kill pine, giving them a unique blue cream-colored wood look, a result of a blue-green fungus that forms in the outer sapwood layers when pine beetles lay eggs. Who would have thought worms could look so elegant!? Even if you aren’t keen on having worms in your house, this receptacle looks so beautiful you might even forget they’re there. Just kidding; don’t do that or your worms will starve!). And for sheer craftsmanship, at $115, it’s hardly any more expensive than other vermicomposters.
You can purchase 3, 4, or 5 bin sizes and get them with or without a custom metal drip pan, useful for making your own worm tea! To minimize packing materials, the composters come in pieces, but even so, reviews rave about how remarkably easy-to-assemble it is.
Worm Factory is one the major players in the vermicomposting game and have been making vermicomposters for a decade now. They are USA-based and ensure all their products are US-made out of high-quality recycled materials. They back their products with a 5-year warranty.
The Worm Factory 360 is an excellent, odorless vermicomposter for beginners and experts alike, with simple set-up and low maintenance requires (only about 15 minutes per week!). The tray set-up is designed so that once you fill one, start filling a higher one and the worms will migrate to the new food source once their old one is depleted. You can easily collect the castings (worm compost) remaining in the old tray. The first tray can take about 3 months to fully compost, but as worms mature, it can take as little as one month. Plus, with a bottom spigot, you can also harvest worm tea easily and frequently.
The smallest number of trays available is 3, but it is extendable up to 8 trays (which are inexpensive to purchase) making it have a higher capacity than most kitchen or indoor composters with no extra footprint; only vertical space. The Worm Factory 360 is often compared to the similar VermiHut, but the general consensus favors the Worm Factory 360 for its greater durability and great worm health.
In fact, reviews overwhelmingly rave about how easy it is to regulate this system. It maintains moisture well and regulates temperate better due its redesigned “Thermo Siphon Airflow” feature, which allows air but not light into the trays. Unlike the other vermicompster on our list, this one is unfortunately made of plastic, though it is 100% recycled food-safe plastic and is designed for durability and sustainability.
Urbalive is owned by Czech company Plastia who has been making plastic products since 1993 and seems to be a much loved brand. The Urbalive brand includes a line of planters, bird feeders and a worm farm. The Urbalive Worm Farm has to be the best looking worm farm we’ve ever seen. It has that Nordic, minimalist look about it and would look amazing in anyone’s home. This worm farm was “created with the goal of simplifying your path to nature, a healthy lifestyle and sustainability of natural resources”
Much like other worm farms / bins, the kit comes with trays where the worms convert scraps into compost and worm tea which can be added to the garden. Urbalive claim their farm is easy and odour free, making it perfect for keeping indoors, although reviews suggest you really need to follow the instructions to avoid worm escapees!
Envirocycle is a U.S. owned and manufactured company that began in 2015, and makes only two products because they believe in perfecting those. One of the strong selling points of this company is their stellar customer service, affirmed by countless reviews.
They call the Envirocycle Mini Composter the “cutest composter in the world” – we can’t argue that the simple black (or pink, if you like) design is classy and pretty inoffensive for any home. It’s designed primarily for outdoor use, such as a porch or balcony, but at a compact 21.5” tall, it’s fine for kitchen or indoor use as well, and would fit perfectly next to a door or even under the kitchen sink.
Unlike many kitchen composting bins, even the mini bins have a large capacity of 65L (17 gal.) The large bins are 133L (35 gal). It comes in an easy, no-assembly required, all-in-one complete system that’s super low-maintenance. Start by adding scraps until the drum is full; Envirocycle recommends a ratio of 75% green material to 25% brown material. Then, turn the drum 3 times every 3 days to aerate.
A full composting cycle takes 4-8 weeks, though plenty of reviews rave about its ability to decompose solid waste in a matter of days. While it’s making magic, add your organic waste to a separate collection bin so you’re ready to start a new batch when you’re compost if finished. Plus, collecting the leachate (compost tea for your garden) is easy by simply rolling the drum off its base. It’s a little more costly but still more affordable compared to many other complete composting systems on the market, and many 5-star reviews agree.
Recently, they also began offering international shipping via Amazon USA!
Food Cycle Science started with three entrepreneurs who wanted to revolutionize green technology in effort to reduce methane emissions created by landfill food waste. They wanted to balance affordability with ease so that it could easily fit into everyday routines and “show people that every little bit helps, and what they do every day really does make a difference.” The FoodCycler is energy efficient (using only 1kWh when in use) and creates 94% less greenhouse gas emissions than landfills. It’s even more eco-friendly than a backyard composter, producing 54% less CO2.
This little machine does in a few hours what other composters do in months through a combination of heat and vibration. The FoodCycler breaks down both cooked and uncooked food scraps (including meat and dairy- i.e. things you can’t feed worms), sterilizing and dehydrating it to shrunken mass with a 90% reduction in volume. In other words, this system uses dehydration rather than fermentation. This dehydrated mass functions exactly like fully formulated compost. You can either add directly to soil as an amendment material or top dressing, or let it mature in the bin for extra composting power. Watch the full explanation here.
It uses carbon filters for odorless function, is easy to clean the removable ceramic interior, and requires no venting, draining, or additives. And best of all, it’s small, taking up less counter space than your average microwave oven, and easily blends in with your appliances. Especially if you eat a lot of meat and dairy, this composter is a great option.
We hope we’ve been able to help in your search for the perfect kitchen composting bin. Just by choosing to compost your organic waste, you’re choosing to reduce your own landfill waste by up to 50%. That’s about 475 pounds per person in your house per year. Compost bins can be an investment, we know, but what better thing to invest in than your home, family, and planet? If you already have experience composting, we would love to hear your thoughts on your favorite bin. The more we know, we more we grow. In the case of compost, literally!