Waste Reduction Week: Indoor Composting Options

It’s a gripe for people living in many parts of Montreal. Unlike most other big Canadian cities (and smaller places like Prince Edward Island), we do not have universal kitchen waste curbside pickup. If you’re an apartment dweller, you may not even try to compost your fruit and vegetable scraps because it’s not obvious how to do it when you don’t have a backyard.

Here are a few options:

1. Vermicomposting. The worms are red wrigglers and no, they don’t escape from the bin. They prefer the dark and will happily move around under a bed of newspaper in a worm bin. The worms don’t actually eat your discarded veggies and fruit. They eat the microorganisms that break down the food. If you care for a worm bin properly you won’t have fruit flies and you end up with amazing compost. But you need to be willing to learn how to manage the bin and you need to be comfortable with putting your hands into the bin and with checking moisture levels. If you’re squeamish about worms or touching wet veggie and fruit scraps, this is not the method for you.

The worm bins I’ve seen most often have been Rubbermaid Roughtotes with holes cut or drilled into the sides or bottom and can be had at your local Eco-quartier (for I think around $40- I am going to check this). They will teach you how to vermicompost. Ferme Pousse-Menu also sells vermicomposters and worms. Prices for a bin with worms start at *$37, taxes included. My bad = I misread. Prices for a small bin start at $115, including taxes. The delivery charge is $24 for a small bin. Worms are $13.

Worm Girl Susan McVety appears to have moved away. It’s too bad. She offered an amazing service where she not only sold worm bins with worms but delivered them and taught people how to manage them.

2. Have someone pick up your compost. Jenn Hardy wrote about her experiences being unaware that compost is not part of the green waste pickup in her neighbourhood. She ended up hiring Compost Montreal – they offer a service where you can have compost picked up for $5 week and you get back finished compost the following spring.

3. Communal composters. The Eco-quartiers know where communal composters are located. They either manage them or work with partners who manage these bins. Because of problems in the past with people putting meat and dairy products into the bins and attracting rats, most community collective composters have a set of rules for participants. You usually have to attend workshops to learn what to put in the bins and you pay a small deposit on a key to access bins. You may also be expected to volunteer to help care for the bins.

bokashi bucket4. Compostgenie. I have a Compostgenie bin and have mixed feelings about it. The company behind Compostgenie, Cooter Muck,  used to be based in NDG but left Montreal for Van Kleek Hill, Ontario. Compostgenie was originally promoted as a composting method – now they say it’s all about preventing smells in compost. The way Compostgenie works is you buy monthly packets of “seeds” (I’ve bought them at the Coop La Maison Verte and seen them at Quincaillerie Monkland) -that contain probiotics, beneficial bacteria. You need a plastic bucket with a lid so no air gets in (mine looks like one of the white plastic buckets you see restaurants using). You need to place a piece of cardboard with holes in it to place at the bottom of the bin (it acts as a false bottom). That way you can drain the liquid compost “tea” to use on plants and keep it separate from the rest of the compost. Each time you add small pieces of veggie and fruit scraps, egg shells or even meat and dairy scraps, you sprinkle the “seeds” over the scraps and they break down to a certain point. If you do this right, you don’t have any smells or mold. To finish the process, the compost has to be buried in soil. So I suppose if you have a balcony or even a place to keep a garbage bag with soil in it you can finish your compost that way.

5. Bokashi is Japanese for “fermented organic matter” and it produces great compost. Compostgenie is a form of this “pickling” method of  composting but you can create your own mix (it includes warm water, molasses, wheat bran and something called EM) for composting. City Farmer has an excellent recipe and instructions. You probably need to have a place outdoors to keep the buckets while the bokashi mixture “cooks.” I’ve never prepared a bokashi recipe so I can’t speak to the experience. Check out the Compost Guy Web site for all sorts of information about bokashi and composting in general.

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