Apartment Composting

Tips for apartment dwellers

Your landlord, friends, or neighbors may allow you to use or share in an existing compost pile. There are "in home" kits available to help you compost fruit and vegetable scraps in your home using red worms (vermicomposting). These worm kits usually consist of a plastic bin with a top and vents for air circulation. Worms need to protected from freezing, and require a damp environment to live in. Sound icky? Well, when you think about it, people keep iguanas and snakes around, why not worms?


Vermicomposting is a unique and viable alternative for situations where normal composting techniques cannot be practiced. The term "vermicompost" is actually a compound word. The prefix "vermi" is a derivative of the Latin word for worm, vermis. A special kind of earthworm is used to break down the organic materials.

These animals are called red wigglers and are capable of eating their weight in organic matter each day. Along with the waste, the worms consume their bedding, then excrete castings. These castings are an excellent natural plant food, that can be richer in certain materials than topsoil. Because composting using worms require less space than normal methods, it is ideal for offices, classrooms, apartments, and high density urban areas. It also provides a place to put food waste in the winter months.

While an outdoor compost pile is still active during the winter, the decomposition is relatively slow. Most people are not generating yard waste after the snow falls. The only organic waste would be food and kitchen scraps.

Vermicomposting allows a person to conveniently get rid of organic material without having to venture outside.

The Vermicomposting Bin

This bin is designed for composting food wastes using earthworms. A high-quality compost is produced which is suitable for use on house plants and seedling transplants as well as for general garden use. Vermicomposting can be done indoors year around, or can be done outdoors in the warm months and indoors in the cold months. It is an appropriate method of composting for apartments and offices, as well as for people who would like to avoid trips to the backyard compost heap in winter.


This bin is sized to suit a family of four to six people generating about seven pounds of food waste each week.

1 - 1/2" sheet of plywood
1 - 12' 2"x4"
1 - 16' 2"x4"
1 lb. 2" ardox galvanized nails
1/2 lb. 3 1/2 ardox galvanized nails
2 galvanized door hinges
Non-toxic wood preservative
Tape measure
Skill saw or rip handsaw
Saw horses
Long straight edge or chalk
Snap line
Drill with 1/2" bit


Measure and cut the plywood as indicated in the drawing.

Cut the 12' 2"x4" into five pieces: two 39", two 23", and one 20" long. Nail the 2"x4"s together on edge with two 3 1/2" nails at each joint as illustrated in the Base Frame diagram. Nail the plywood base piece onto the 2"x4" frame.

Cut four 1' lengths out of the 16' 2"x4". Take each plywood side piece and place a 1' 2"x4" under each of its ends so the 2"x4" is flush with the top and side edges of the plywood, and nail the boards into place. Nail the side pieces onto the base frame. To complete the box, nail the ends onto the base and sides. To reinforce the box make sure there is a nail staggered at least every 3 inches wherever plywood and 2"x4"'s meet. Drill twenty 1/2" holes through the bottom of the box for drainage and aeration.

To build the lid, take the remaining 12' 2"x4" and cut it into two 45" pieces and two 20" pieces and lay them flat - short pieces on the inside as indicated in the diagram above, so that the plywood top is inset from the edges of the 2"x4" by 1 1/2" all the way around the perimeter. Nail the plywood onto the 2"X4"'s securely. Place the hinges on the backside of the box at either end of the 2"x4"s, and on the under side of the 2"x4" lid frame, so that the lid will stand upright when opened.

Note: Do not use pressure-treated or chemically-treated wood. Treat the wood with a non-toxic wood preservative.

2 x 2 Earthworm Composting Bin

This bin will accommodate the needs of one to two people generating about four pounds of food waste each week.


1 - 1/2" sheet of plywood
36 - 2" ardox galvanized nails
Non-toxic wood preservative


Same as for large bin.


Cut four pieces of plywood 23 1/2" x 8" for the sides. Nail them together, overlapping at the corners.

Cut one piece of plywood 24" x 24" for the bottom. Secure the bottom to the sides using about five nails per side. Drill twelve 1/2" holes in the bottom for aeration and drainage.

Use a dark plastic sheet over the top of the bedding as a cover or make a lid out of the remaining plywood.