The Zero-Waste Kitchen Composting Edition: A Newbie’s Survival Guide

Most of the contents of our kitchen trash are organic trash, meaning they can be composted and made into rich garden soil

Sustainability, Environment, Garden, Nature, Compost, Sustainable Living, Chemical Free, The SustainabilityX® Magazine

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So you’ve decided to zero-waste your kitchen. You’ve done good work in reducing single-use plastic and excessive packaging. But your trash can’s content hasn’t been reduced dramatically so you’re disappointed.

Well, there’s a magic bullet that halves your kitchen trash.

It’s called composting.

Most of the contents of our kitchen trash are organic trash, meaning they can be composted and made into rich garden soil. They don’t belong in your trash can, they belong in your garden or in your plant pots. But first, they must go through the process of composting.

Composting is more than just letting your stuff rot (smelly and dirty). Composting decomposes your organic stuff using the right blend of greens and browns to give you fertilizer.

Here’s how to use composting to half your kitchen trash.

What's Required

  • Fruit peels

  • Vegetable peels

  • Any plant-based thing that was never cooked

Choose Your Method

  • Faint-hearted: Can be sent to a composting service

  • Mildly stout-hearted: Into a worm farm

  • Bravehearted: Compost it

For The Faint-hearted

If you want to do it the easy way, just subscribe to a composting service either in your municipality or thru an app. The ShareWaste app does wonders. You can sign up as a donor of kitchen scraps and then have it sent. Just remember not to be the disgusting donor with the smelly bin. Make sure to accumulate at most two days worth of kitchen scraps and then have it picked up — any longer than that and it will start to smell. For colder climates, you can make it three days worth of kitchen scraps. That’s because the hotter the weather, the faster the breakdown.

How to do it? Keep a can (no metal as it will rust) with a lid in your kitchen. Every time you slice up your greens or veggies or eat a banana, just toss the peels, the wilted greens, the spoiled fruit into the can. Then have these cans picked up every two days or when it’s filled up.

 

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For The Mildly Stout-hearted

This method is very easy, a set it and forget it kind of thing. But you might get squeamish with the one doing the composting for you — worms. But this method might still see you throwing out some of your kitchen scraps in the trash bin because worms eat pretty slow. From experience, binning scraps every other day is ideal. Don’t overfeed the worms as they escape when there’s too much food in their bin.

Words of Wisdom: Don’t overload the worms with too much kitchen scraps as they will die or escape. Add the kitchen scraps when you see just a few pieces of the scraps you originally left. Keep the worm box or worm hotel moist NOT WET. Wet environments make them escape or they will drown. Cleaning up under these situations is for the brave-hearted. It’s a nightmare. It’s better to take preventative action rather than deal with a mess.

How to set up?


You either buy a worm hotel or use an ordinary wooden box. Both will work fine. Just set it up in a quiet, dark, and cool place in your home.

For the wooden box, add a lot of soil. Dump your African Night Crawler worms in there, bury your food in the soil by section so you won’t disturb the worms. The first food is buried in the outermost section, the next one on the section beside it, and move your way there.

For the worm hotel, add a lot of moist shredded or crumpled paper in the bottom tray then add your kitchen scraps. Cover the scraps with moist shredded paper. You can add your kitchen scraps to a different tray once you see that the first tray is halfway full of vermicast or worm poop. Make sure to add a lot of moist shredded paper to keep it from getting too wet. Pizza boxes torn into chunks work great in keeping worm hotels less wet.

When you have enough worm poop or vermicast, you can harvest it. No matter what technique you try, you will come across a stray worm or two when you harvest — this gets to be the grossest part. You can ask a gardener to do the harvesting for you and “pay” them for their services with the vermicast.


For The Brave-hearted

First things first, your compost, no matter how well managed will have a smell. It won’t be stinky but it will have an earthy smell. And whenever the ratio or the timing is wrong, it will inevitably stink.

So composting is better for those with a yard, garden, or an area outside the house. You can use a composter or do a compost pile.

Words of Wisdom: When you dump your kitchen scraps, make sure you dump quadruple the amount (by volume not weight) of shredded paper or leaves. This will win you 50% of the battle of having a stink-free composting system. So if you put in one cup of scraps, dump in four cups of shredded paper, too. The other half of the battle is aerating or turning your pile. From experience, every two to three days does the trick.

How to do it?


Every time you have kitchen scraps on hand, dump them onto the compost, then cover them with shredded paper or leaves.

Then schedule your “turning” days where you spin your composter or turn your pile to give it enough oxygen. If you use a compost pile, that means dumping the entire contents to the ground and building another pile in reverse order. The top pile becomes the bottom pile and so on. If you don’t see any shredded stuff in your compost, add it in by layer. Like building a lasagne. Compost stuff then shredded stuff then compost stuff.

What's Required

  • Meat

  • Left-overs gone bad

  • Cooked food

  • Expired food

  • Burnt toast

  • Cheese gone moldy

  • Meat past its due date

  • Fruits and plant-based stuff

  • Everything in your kitchen, actually

There’s only one composting method that can handle both meat and plant-based. It’s the Bokashi system. It becomes an easy and effortless trash can for anything organic. The only drawback of this method is, your stuff becomes pre-compost and is not totally composted, so you still have to compost it, and a very strong smell of sourness comes out every time you open your bin.

Words of Wisdom: Don’t overload it with too much meat as it starts to stink up, smelling like a sour garbage bin. Put in more Bokashi bran than recommended so it staves off the possibility of stink.

How to do it?


Put some Bokashi bran at the bottom of the bin, add all your kitchen stuff. Cover your kitchen organic material with at least ½ inch of Bokashi bran (err on the side of overdoing it than under, because of the smell issue). Drain the spigot every day or frequently so there won’t be a nasty liquid build-up in your bin. When your bin is full, you let it sit there for at least three weeks and then have it composted or bury it in the ground to break down.

Composting your kitchen waste is kind of like taking out the trash, but this time, you’ll be taking your organic trash to your composting system instead of to your curbside. Composting is your magic bullet in reducing your kitchen waste by half, usually only taking up to three days to fill up the trash now as opposed to daily.

 

Jean Ong is the founder of Ecolover United, a movement that makes it easier for the everyday folk to live sustainably and in style. She graduated college with a degree in Business Management major in Marketing, she currently work as a store manager by day, and an Earth Hero at night and on the weekends. She’s a keen nature lover, maybe this came from fulfilling the prophetic nature of getting her name? Her Chinese name is Lin, meaning forest or grove of trees. She believes that if it’s good for Mother Earth, it’s good for you.