We have this pretty great arrangement whereby I keep a canister for kitchen scraps on my counter, and our neighbor, who has a small garden and compost bin behind her apartment, takes the scraps down each week. I use an old flour canister, which works but can be a little stinky and doesn't quite hold enough to get me through the week. Our neighbor is using this beauty from Williams-Sonoma, which holds a gallon of food scraps and has a filter neatly fitted into the lid. It's the Cadillac of composters.
At $49.95, the stainless-steel pail is one of the more expensive models available, but it's gorgeous and has a charcoal filter in the lid that helps absorb odors. It can go in the dishwasher (this is key) and holds one gallon of food scraps, which for me is a few days' worth of light cooking, or one big dinner party's worth of compostable matter. Like a new pair of fancy running shoes, its beauty and functionality might actually get you to compost more than you ever dreamed. My friend says her outdoor bin is almost full!
Here are a few other kitchen composters I like at a range of prices:
The Ceramic Crock from Gardener's Supply ($29.95) has more of a country kitchen feel, and also has a filter. At 3.5 quarts, it's a little smaller than the stainless pail. Like the stainless, ceramic doesn't absorb odors or stains, so this is another option for those who want their composter to add style to their counter top.
Gaiam sells a large plastic bin, with a filter, for only $18. It is large, with room for more than a gallon of scraps. It's not as attractive as the stainless and ceramic versions, but I've seen many people use these as an under-counter composter.
The budget choice is Cook's Garden's $11.95 plastic, filter-less compost bucket. It holds 2 1/3 gallons of matter, so I'd recommend this if you juice a lot, use a lot of vegetables regularly, cook for a large crowd regularly, or want a second option for when you cook for large parties. Without the filter, it could get stinky.
Actually, the real budget choice is to just use any old covered container. I have used one of these plastic storage containers that are meant to be like giant Tupperware for professional kitchens. A company called Cambro makes these. They're inexpensive and very sturdy. The 6-quart size with optional lid is about $8.
As for the actual composting, if you don't have a backyard or a place to put a compost bin, most local municipalities have a compost collection. Check with your local farmers market or green-thumbed neighbor.
• Stainless-Steel Compost Pail ($49.95, Williams-Sonoma) 1 gallon (4 quarts) capacity, 7"d, 11"h.
• Ceramic Compost Crock ($29.95, Gardener's Supply) 3.5 quart capacity, 7"d x 10.5"h
• Plastic Compost Bucket ($18, Gaiam) 5.5 quart capacity, 7.5"d x 7.75"h
• Plastic Kitchen Compost Bucket ($11.95, Cook's Garden) 2.3 gallon (9.3 quarts) capacity, 10.25"d x 10"h
• Cambro White Storage Bin ($4.59, $2.69 lid sold separately, Web Restaurant Store) 6 quart capacity, 8.375 square x 7.25"h