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Can You Use A Curbside Composting Service If You Live in An Apartment?

Want to compost in an apartment but aren’t sure that a curbside composting company will work for you? Read on to answer your curbside composting questions and find out if a composting service can solve all your food waste woes.

Curbside composting services, like WasteWell (the company I own and run), are great options for those who want to compost at home but don’t have the time, resources, ability, or interest to manage a compost pile on their own. They’re available in most major cities in the United States, especially if your municipality doesn’t already provide this service using your tax dollars.

While I think composting services are great for apartment dwellers and those who don’t have sufficient outdoor space to compost themselves, I get lots of questions from apartment and condo residents about whether or not a composting service would actually work for them.

Curbside composting companies run the gamut in terms of size, style, and price. But one thing most of them have in common… they’re designed with apartment and condominium dwellers in mind. Nonetheless, I get a lot of hesitancy about the whole process and how it fits into an apartment lifestyle.

Compost bucket sitting outside an mutli-family housing building

Frequently Asked Questions About Curbside Composting For Apartment Dwellers

Today, I’m answering a bunch of questions I get about composting in an apartment using a curbside compost service. Let’s dive in.

Can I really compost even if I live in an apartment?

Short Answer — Heck yeah! And I hope you do. So many curbside composting services focus on providing services to those who don’t have outdoor space. They make sure that their processes work even if you don’t have a lick of grass or patio on which to store your bucket.

For WasteWell, our apartment dwellers are some of our favorite customers. When I pick up their bucket, my quick jaunt to their door or climb up the stairs to the unit is my cardio, and it’s good for my glutes. Not to mention, the buckets can get really heavy when they’re full of food scraps. A few bicep curls with each bucket, and I’m done with my workout for the day.

But wait… I still have more questions.

I thought you might have a few more questions. Most people do.

The absolute most common question I get…

Where can I keep my compost bucket?

I recommend storing your food scrap bucket under your sink or on a balcony. Some WasteWell customers also store them outside their front door.

You want me to keep my food scraps under my sink?! Gross!

Yep, I do. And it’s not gross, really.

(Deep breath)

Many people hesitate about this and worry about pests and smells. But where are your food scraps now? Probably in your trash can… under your sink or in another cabinet? This isn’t the case for everyone, of course, but most people already keep their food scraps under their sink in a container without a lid.

When you use a service, your food scraps stay in a sealed bucket. I prefer to keep food scraps in a countertop container with a charcoal filter lid and empty that container into the compost bucket or bin once every few days to a week.

You can also freeze your food scraps and add them to your bucket just before collection day (if you have space in your freezer), leave them in a bowl on your counter and empty into the bucket at the end of each day, or toss them into the bucket each time you create them. Check out these eight ways to store food scraps at home for composting for more options.

At WasteWell, we rarely hear from customers about odor issues. I don’t recommend sticking your head into the bucket and taking a whiff (that’s pretty gross), but you won’t have a stinky kitchen from opening the bucket under your sink every once in a while.

Will my compost bucket cause smells or attract pests under my sink?

I can’t make any definitive promises, but I really don’t think it will be an issue. WasteWell, for example, has many customers who keep their buckets under their sinks without any issues. And as an act of good faith, I sometimes keep compost in a bucket under my sink for two weeks to test this out through different seasons. So far, so good.

Where do I put my compost bucket on pickup day?

Most of our WasteWell apartment dwellers who have exterior doors that we can access leave their bucket outside this door in the morning before pick up. After speaking with friends who own curbside composting businesses elsewhere, this is pretty standard.

Those who live in apartment buildings without direct access to their unit door can leave their bucket in the lobby of their building or near their mailbox. You may need to coordinate with your management company to ensure they’re aware of the service, but you’re unlikely to encounter issues. Your local composting service will have the best ideas about what works in your area. But rest assured they definitely have customers living in apartment buildings and will be familiar with the requirements.

Will my maintenance team accidentally take my bucket?

This rarely happens. So far, WasteWell has had one customer who lost a bucket to their trash company and that’s it. It was actually our very first customer, and it happened the very first week she left her bucket out for collection. We can’t make this stuff up!

We quickly decided to put stickers on top of the buckets that say “Not Trash. Do Not Remove.” to prevent confusion. It’s pretty effective, so I don’t think your maintenance team will take your bucket.

Shameless Plug For Composting Services: Why not encourage your apartment complex management company or resident community group to partner with your local composting service or promote it to your neighbors? The more people in your community who use it, the more familiar your maintenance people will be with the buckets (and the less likely they are to accidentally take them).

Many composting services also offer referral credit. Share your referral link with neighbors, an apartment community group, or have your management company distribute it on your behalf. Build up your account credits while also helping the environment (and not being the only eco-nerd in the building with a bucket of leftovers at your door).

It’s a win-win-win for you, your neighbor, and the planet!

Will a neighbor “borrow” my bucket?

Well… I don’t know your neighbors so I can’t say for sure, but this isn’t a common issue. Because most customers only leave their bucket outside on pickup day, it’s generally not out for curious consumption that long.

If you do have a sneaky neighbor who “borrows” your bucket indefinitely, ask your composting service provider if they have a gently used bucket to replace it.

Buckets come back from existing customers for a handful of reasons. At WasteWell, we clean the buckets and are happy to provide them to customers who need a replacement bucket but don’t care about getting something that’s brand-spanking-new for their food scraps. Friends at other composting companies in Philadelphia have similar policies, so I bet you could convince your local curbside composting service to do the same (if they don’t already).

But I Still Have More Questions

That’s a-ok! Hopefully, this was helpful, but if you have more questions don’t hesitate to ask. Leave a comment below or drop me a DM on Instagram @honestlymodern. I’m happy to see if I can help.

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