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Is It Worth Having a Compost Bin?

            Saratoga Home's White Compost Bin filled with composts in front of a spread of vegetables

Composting is an easy and effective way to reduce your carbon footprint while also reducing the amount of food waste in landfills. With simple steps and minimal effort, you can make a big difference by composting at home!  Even small actions like composting kitchen scraps can add up to create substantial changes in our environment. 

There are many ways to compost at home, depending on your needs and available space. 

If you have a large household with a spacious yard, cold composting may be an excellent choice for your home. Cold composting requires a dedicated space to locate your pile and carefully monitor moisture and oxygen levels to facilitate the aerobic decomposition process. However, it is an affordable, fast way to start composting, suitable for beginners. 

If you are someone who doesn't have a lot of space, indoor composting is perfect for you since all you need is a dry space indoors, such as the kitchen counter or even under your kitchen sink. On the other hand, outdoor compost piles require at least three feet by three feet by three feet—an area that apartment renters or urban home dwellers may not always have available to them.

An indoor compost bin is advantageous because it can operate in a temperature range of 40 to 80 degrees, whereas outdoor compost bins and piles need to be shielded from direct sunlight or heavy rainfall and insulated when the temperature falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Your outdoor compost output suffers during winter since waste degrades more slowly in cold weather.

If you able to compost outdoors, read on for some more options.Otherwise, skip ahead to find out what can go in a kitchen compost bin?

Composting In-place

Composting in-place is the most basic form of composting, using the natural decomposition process to nourish your garden bed. 


Vermicomposting is a cold composting method that speeds up the decomposition process by using worms such as red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and red worms (Lumbricus rubellus) to digest the organic matter. 

Aerated Windrows

Aerated windrows are ideal for groups and facilities that require large-scale composting, such as small farms, community gardens or food processing businesses like restaurants or cafeterias. The technique involves forming organic matter into long piles called windrows. These piles are typically 4-8 feet high and 14-16 feet wide to ensure the piles are big enough to generate enough heat to facilitate hot composting. This is likely not suitable for most at home composting.

In-vessel or Tumbler Composting

In-vessel composting, also called tumbler composting, is an excellent alternative to free-form cold composting piles. The process uses a barrel or container mounted to a frame, allowing it to spin vertically. 

What Can Go in a Kitchen Compost Bin?

Compost bin filled with composts beside a bunch of carrots on top of a chopping board

There are a variety of things that you can compost, including green matter like raw fruits and vegetables (including peels), houseplants, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and tea leaves; as well as brown matter such as nut shells, pulverized eggshells, coffee filters, tea bags, dead leaves, small twigs, hay, straw, wood chips, cardboard, newspaper, or cotton rags.

To optimize your compost, ensure each batch contains these three essential ingredients if possible: brown matter, green matter, and water.

Skip ahead to what not to put in your compost bin

Brown matter: brown materials are high in carbon and include items such as twigs, branches, paper, and cardboard. Most of the time, these items will be brown naturally. However, there are some exceptions to that rule. Brown matter also provides energy for helpful microbes in the compost through its carbon contents.

Green matter: green matter refers to organic waste products that were recently growing and contain some moisture. This can include fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds.

If you live in a location with standard weather, your green compost should have enough moisture. If it's particularly dry out, you might need to water your outdoor compost, so it doesn't fully dry out and become useless. There are different opinions on the ratio of brown-to-green for optimal results, but most recommend 2:1 brown: green. If your mixture starts smelling bad, that means there isn't enough brown matter - add more accordingly.

There are many things you can compost, but there are also several items which should be left out of your pile if you want to create a safe fertilizer. (This goes beyond the obviously non-compostable items, like plastic products.)

What you should not put in a compost bin?

Meat and Fish

One of the most significant categories of compostable waste is animal byproducts: meat, fish, egg, dairy, and poultry products. You may think it's acceptable to compost these items, but they can actually lead to bacteria growth, cause odor problems, and attract pests like rats.

Dairy, Oils, and Fats

Dairy products, processed foods with lots of dairy or fat, and oils/fats should not be composted as they also attract pests.

Plants or Wood Treated with Pesticides 

Pesticide-treated plant trimmings should be avoided as well.

Dog or Cat Excrement

Pet waste can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that pose a danger to human health. For example, cat feces and litter may carry the toxoplasmosis-causing organism. This disease can be especially detrimental to pregnant people and their unborn children.

If you have kids or pets running around your house, be extra careful about what items you compost. Even though most items in your compost bin won't cause any harm, there are some items that may contain parasites or bacteria which could be harmful if ingested.

Can I Use a Normal Bin as a Compost Bin?

Compost bin with composting plastic on it

It is not recommended! When using a normal trash container, it’s common for the compost in the bottom of the can to not get enough aeration. Not only is this much less efficient for making compost, but also leads to putrefaction and bad odors. And flies!

We recommend a Kitchen Composting Bin that allows the bacteria and other microbes in charge of the decomposition to get the oxygen needed to do their jobs. Proper indoor composting bins should allow a sufficient amount of air to aid the decomposing process but also stay sealed enough to keep pesky bugs out. Features like a removable inner bucket make cleaning your bin easy. A good size bucket can hold a week's worth of scraps and keep things manageable without taking up too much space or being a burden to store somewhere in your kitchen. 

Compost is made largely out of rotting food matter, and that means that it will stink. There’s no way around that, but there are plenty of ways to control the smell for a countertop compost bin.  One of the most effective tools to deal with potential compost bin odors is to use a charcoal filter. Air can still flow through the filter, but it will help keep a lot of the smell from escaping. The filters typically last 3-4 months before needing to be replaced. Don’t try to add compounds to the compost itself to control odors because that ruins the careful composition of your compost matter.


Whether you compost for your garden, or send out food scraps for community pickup, our earth and atmosphere will thank you for reducing the amount of food waste in landfills! Getting an indoor compost bin will make the process sustainable for you and your family! 

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