Once thought to be a luxury of homeowners, composting has moved its way from the back yard into the hearts and apartments of residents. Fear not: This is not your father’s composting bin.

Then again, composting in apartments has already been around for a number of years in San Francisco, Seattle, and most recently, New York, with Mayor Bloomberg’s food-waste recycling initiative last summer. New Yorkers are now required to separate out their food scraps for collection and composting. Sure. There are the usual misunderstandings about the craft of composting that range from rats to bugs to unseemly smells in the confines of an apartment. But done properly, composting can extend the life of landfills, reduce air pollution and make a great little nutrient-rich garden.

“We actually expect it to reduce odor and vermin issues in New York City,” says Ron Gonen, New York’s deputy commissioner for recycling and sustainability.

Waste Management, with over 20 million U.S. customers, already offers a food waste pickup in a number of apartment communities. The biodegradable foodstuffs are collected in specially provided bins and then composted into fertilizer. Many believe this is just the beginning of what will become a necessity, even requirement, in the apartment community of the near future.

Technically, apartment-dwellers have at least two options in doing their part to save the planet one potato peel at a time: A composting container on their patio or balcony, or an indoor composting container using fast-acting worms. Don’t get jiggy. Worms don’t like light. They prefer the cover of the compost and will remain in the small heap doing their little worm jobs eating and outputting.

My fantasy pick is to some day offer worm-farm containers in my apartment trash rooms. We’re not there yet, but when the day does arrive and it’s the hottest thing going, remember that you heard it hear first. I shall brand it: Worm and Churn.

Until that day comes, residents can still create small composting containers in their apartment using a plastic or ceramic container. When you’re ready to give it a go, there are details to know for set-up so that the project stays the course. It’s important that it has air holes, a lid, and be small enough to tumble the contents from time to time. You can also buy a commercial worm condo, or make your own using a shallow container.

Be worm-particular. Only certain worms will do as garden worms sneak out to the bars at night. Eisenia fetida (known as red worms to their friends) are loyal and loving worms that remain committed to their job of input/output. Their perfect world is one between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Big Red will deliver nutrient-rich soil inside two-to-three months.

Composting is fun and one small step toward a cleaner plant. So what do you do with this wonderfully rich part-science, part-pet concoction? Be the envy of your neighborhood with the most lush flowers or vegetables there are. Don’t have a garden, make friends by giving it away.

My fantasy pick? Someday we will carve out an arrangement with our landscapers to take, or even buy-back the fertilizer so all the residents can enjoy the fruits of their labor.


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