I live in an apartment with a balcony in Auburn Hills, Mi (read: cold & suburban). Our family produces a lot of fruit and vegetable scraps, and I hate putting it into the dumpster - I wish I could magically turn it to compost.

However, composting seems fairly involved - everything that I read about composting has a focus on composting quickly with a lot of ratios, turning, adding stuff, etc. As I don't garden, I don't really care if it takes months or years to compost. I'd like to just throw it into a bin a couple times per week, and empty it out as compost after a few years in the woods near my house. I have a feeling that this request is tantamount to sacrilegious for those who are really into composting, and for that I am sorry. I just want to reduce out family waste.

Is there a way to compost with almost no effort?

  • 3
    Props to you for aiming to reduce your household waste! Have you looked into the commercially available 'at-home' compost kits? Not sure of your location but a hardware store should be able to help you out. There is a growing trend for apartment/balcony scale stock as more people such as yourself begin to recognise the importance in reducing household waste.
    – Viv
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 0:50
  • Do you own any pot plants either inside or on the balcony? Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 1:29
  • Related question: Is it feasible to compost in an apartment in a city like New York?
    – THelper
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 8:58
  • Two questions - do you have room for a compost bin on your balcony, and what are you intending to do with the resulting compost eventually?
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 10:19
  • 1
    @THelper - I was reading an article where someone was bashing the idea of using the tumbler (see my answer to this question), and there were a lot of comments from people who were quite happy with theirs. A lot of the positive feedback came from city residents and even, specifically, apartment dwellers who felt the contained nature of that method worked well for their situations. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 13:34

3 Answers 3


I think for "lazy," a barrel/tumbler would be the way to go, just because the turning and maintenance of the compost pile is simplified.

This is a video of how to "easily" make one. I realize that making one flies in the face of the whole lazy thing, but at least you can see the video to understand what kind of device I'm talking about. I've received many advertising fliers for these things (spend money instead of expending the effort to make it), because I'm on gardening catalog mailing lists.

YouTube: How To Make A Compost Tumbler (Fast, Cheap and Easy)

Basically, you add materials to the barrel. You crank the handle to turn it over (greatly speeds the process along), and keep adding to it. You might need to have two, because, at some point, you have to stop adding or you'll never be able to have nothing but finished compost.

So, you have one, keep adding, keep adding, then stop and keep turning until it finishes, while starting another batch in the second one.


I suggest vermicomposting (composting with worms). I have been doing it for the past ~3 years and the only actions I have to take with regard to it are:

  • Feeding the worms about once a week (5 minutes)
  • Placing food scraps into a small plastic container that I keep in the freezer to break down the materials and keep them from smelling (<1 minute, just part of usual clean up)
  • Harvesting the compost from the bin and spreading around the garden (every few months, takes about 30 minutes-1 hour)

There are commercial worm bins available for purchase, or you can build your own. This option has worked for me because it literally takes care of itself - I just throw food in there once a week. For what it's worth, I use the Worm Factory 360 because I was too lazy to build my own but you can also use standard rubbermaid bins if you want to go the DIY route.

More information: http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/vermicompost107.shtml

[Edit] I wanted to also clarify a few additional benefits: - Small footprint: residential worm bins can take up a very small amount of space and can grow vertically rather than horizontally. This means you could potentially put them in a closet or other small location - Not smelly: vermicomposting is aerobic composting which should not smell in the way that anaerobic composting does. This benefit trades off with the benefit from anaerobic composting, otherwise known as "hot composting", which will kill seeds and potentially other pathogens that may be in the compost. If your vermicompost is smelly, there is something amiss and you should add more shredded paper to absorb excess moisture and restore balance to your bin.

  • How well do the worms survive temperatures below 15° F (-10° C) ? Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 14:44
  • Worms don't survive freezing temperatures - ideally, they should be kept between 55° and 75° F (source: naturesfootprint.com/community/articles/worm-bin-temperature). However, I've kept mine in a corner of my unheated garage and they have survived just fine.
    – dothwhilst
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 14:46

Okay, so there's a little bit of a problem. You want to find another, non wasteful, non landfill way of disposing of your fruit and veg waste. The little (easily solvable) problem is, you can't just put only that type of waste into a compost bin, because it will get very smelly, you will need to add some browns (carbon) because your fruit and veg waste counts as greens (nitrogen). Browns (carbon) could be something as simple as crumpled newspaper or torn up cardboard, but you will need to add some. There's a fairly relaxed explanation of browns and greens and C:N ratio here http://www.gardenmyths.com/how-to-compost-browns-greens/

Once you've read that (it's not very long) have a look at this video https://youtu.be/RE5hMhWBSRk - it may not be scientific in the way it uses what's readily available for browns, nor does it mention any kind of measurement, but it should work quite well. I think the receptacle shown in the video is a plastic dustbin with a clip on lid that has had holes drilled into it, rather than a custom made compost bin, but up to you what kind of bin you use. If you choose a tumbler type compost bin, one that you can rotate, make sure you have enough room on your balcony to actually rotate it periodically, although to be honest, it will still compost down over time with or without rotation. If you do not rotate it, and leave it alone to do its thing, just adding to it periodically, it will not be suitable for use in pots, but it doesn't sound like that's what you wanted to do with it anyway.

UPDATE: I can't see any reason why it can't be put in the forest, unless you know someone with a garden who might value it - it's nutritious stuff you know, brilliant for soil and plants.

  • So it seems like the formula is add a gallon of shredded cardboard (350:1), then maybe 25 gallons of kitchen scraps (20:1) , bringing me to 30:1 then wait. Tumble the thing once per week. That sounds easy. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 10:50
  • When it is done, is ok to just stick it all in the forest nearby? Or should it be dumpstered? Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 10:51
  • I can't see any reason why it can't be put in the forest, unless you know someone with a garden who might value it - its nutritious stuff you know, brilliant for soil and plants
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 10:56
  • What did you mean by "not suitable for pots" than? So fine for an outdoor garden, but not ok for indoor plants? Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 11:05
  • 1
    Absolutely - although if you turn it regularly, it might get hot enough to kill off pathogens - its compost produced in a cold anaerobic fashion that's not recommended for pots, because it may contain pathogens, and whilst these are fine on open ground, they're a possible risk contained in a pot.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 11:36

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