Sustainable living

6 ways to compost for every home

Here are some ways to compost, whether you live in a house or apartment

Worm farm

When it comes to domestic waste, food is still the largest contributor to landfill at 35%. The best way to reduce your impact is to stop putting kitchen scraps in the red lid bin.

If you want to replace your bin liners now that free supermarket plastic bags are a thing of the past, this is another reason to compost. The majority of wet, funky rubbish comes from food. So by composting your food waste you can remove the need for plastic bin liners altogether.

We've also put together some ways to compost, whether you live in a house or apartment.

Consider community composting to reduce food waste and see your garden thrive.
Consider community composting to reduce food waste and see your garden thrive.

1. In your kitchen

Food waste typically makes up around one-third of our residents’ red lid rubbish bins. By collecting and recycling food scraps separately, we can reduce waste to landfill. We can then convert the food scraps into compost for use on gardens and farms.

The City of Sydney has completed an important food scraps recycling trial involving the separate collection and recycling of food scraps from residential properties.

We've provided participating households with everything they need to separate their food scraps, including a food scraps bin, kitchen caddy and compostable caddy liners.

Instead of throwing everything into the red lid bin, residents involved in the trial collect food scraps in the kitchen caddy, then put them in a dedicated food scraps bin for collection and recycling. The food scraps are converted into compost for use on gardens and farms.

Currently, the service is available to around 1,000 houses and over 265 apartment buildings across the city, comprising more than 20,200 households.

Our team is evaluating the trial results to inform a wider service rollout.

2. In your backyard or balcony

You can set up a mini composting system even in limited space. Bokashi bins harness the power of good bacteria to ferment any kind of food waste. They are small, compact, sealed systems suitable for indoors. You can even keep one under your kitchen sink. Your local gardening store could provide more advice. Also, your balcony is a great spot for a worm farm. If you’re a beginner learn how to set one up at this Sydney City Farm workshop. Here are some more ideas for recycling your food scraps at home.

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3. Shared green space

If you have shared green space in your apartment block, you can talk to your agent, landlord or strata about setting up a compost bin or worm farm. When establishing, make sure you provide plenty of instructions for other users, as you don’t want any animal products or other non-compostable bits in your bin.

Some basics: turn the compost regularly and use a combination of green (kitchen waste) and brown (shredded paper, straw, dry leaves) matter. Use the resulting fertiliser on your plants and share it with others.

Here are resources and information for building managers and building champions who want to recycle food scraps in their apartment buildings.

4. Community composting

Consider joining a community garden. Among many wonderful benefits, they usually offer composting facilities. You can also set up a community compost system.

A community garden in Green Square.
A community garden in Green Square.

5. Compost with friends

Work out an arrangement with your friends and bring over your compost with a Saturday morning coffee. If they have a worm farm, their worms will appreciate the food and their garden the nourishment. Or, if you don’t want to rely on your friends, find a friendly composter on ShareWaste or The Compost Exchange Facebook group.

6. Compost drop-off

Check out Positive Waste, a fee-based community compost scheme started by a Newtown resident for the inner city. Positive Waste collects food scraps from homes and delivers them to an anaerobic digestion facility where the organic waste is converted into green energy.

The Lowe family from Erskineville has signed up to Positive Waste.

“We’re a family of 4 and as our 2 boys grew, we found the amount of food waste we produced grew with them,” Nic Lowe said. “Even though we had a worm farm for our herb garden, there was still far too much food waste ending up in the red bin.

“Positive Waste allows us to separate our fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat, bones, eggs, dairy, pasta, tea bags, coffee grounds and much more.

“To know that it’s then being turned into compost or energy rather than being dumped in a hole somewhere is very reassuring.”

A City Farm workshop.
A City Farm workshop.

Reduce waste

Even if you’re composting correctly, the goal always is to reduce waste as much as possible.

Avoid or reduce food waste by planning your meals, shopping wisely, being creative with leftovers, and storing food correctly.

Foodwise and Kitchen Hand are great resources for recipes and educational tools.

You can also find more about urban farming and growing your own food with Sydney City Farm.

Published 9 July 2018, updated 9 May 2023