Composting for the Rest of Us

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Not everyone has the time or space for a backyard compost pile. But that doesn’t mean you can’t compost. Whether you’re an apartment dweller or just don’t want the hassle, there are still options to soothe your environmentally conscious soul.

As a renter I’m hesitant to do anything that could go awry, cause damage or be smelly. But like so many other environmentally-conscious people, it pained me to throw away perfectly compostable banana peels.

So, my first approach to composting was slinging food scraps into a storage tote on my apartment balcony. I was foolishly hopeful they would magically decompose into beautiful, lush soil. Thankfully the unit next to mine was empty because it got real smelly real fast, and I was left with a bucket filled with moldy, rotten vegetables.

Compost Pickup Service

Once I discovered private compost pickup services existed, I signed up because it was reasonably priced and I didn’t have to deal with any of the mess.

Private compost pickup services are a good option if you live in an apartment. They provide the buckets for you to fill with food scraps and other organic materials and they pick up your filled containers and leave clean ones for you to fill up again.

Every service is different, so check with them first to see what they will and won’t accept before signing up.


I stayed away from this method because I’m scared of harmless worms. I’m an exception though, as many people who don’t even rent enjoy vermicomposting.

Basically you have a special bin to put bedding and worms in, then mindfully layer fruit and veggie scraps. There is a limit of what and how much compost you can put in your bin because you can kill your worms with things like citrus or too much food. The worms are sensitive to temperature changes so you’ll need to keep them in a pantry or cabinet.

The downside: if you kill your worms you’ll not only have a mass of rotting food scraps, but also a mass of dead worms. The upside: once established, vermicomposting is free to continue and makes some of the very best compost soils. And when done correctly, it’s not messy or smelly.

City of San Antonio Organics Program

Now I’m in a rental house using the City of San Antonio organics bin, and it’s equally convenient. Renters in single-family or multiplex housing may even have access to city organics bins.

The bins are great because they’re so large, but they can be difficult to clean. So I line my personal compost pail with a certified biodegradable bag to keep my food scraps from fouling up the bigger green bin. Check the city’s organics program website to see what’s compostable and what’s not.

Whatever method you choose, keep in mind your lifestyle and the food items you would compost.

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