The Biggest Myths About Countertop Composting at Home

published Apr 22, 2020
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woman putting apple peels in compost bin
Credit: Anchiy/Getty Images

Fact: There are far too many myths and misconceptions out there about composting. And all this misinformation often keeps people from getting started. That’s a shame, because composting really isn’t all that hard. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint and to take responsibility for excess food waste. With many of us cooking more at home now than ever before, we figured it was time to separate fact from fiction when it comes to composting. Here, we tackle the biggest myths about in-home composting.

Related: The Best Way to Compost for Most People — Yes, Even Those of You Who Don’t Have a Garden

1. Myth: It’s going to stink up my home.

If you’ve ever let a banana peel sit in your trash can for too long, you are familiar with the stench of slowly rotting food. And you probably do not want to willingly let it happen. Yes, it’s true that the longer food waste sits around, the smellier it gets. But that’s not going to be a problem with your in-home compost program. If you follow the method that Kitchn likes, you’ll empty daily food waste into a larger, tightly sealed bucket, and then empty that bucket on a weekly basis. With this method, you’ll be clearing your kitchen before things get funky.

Note: Cooked food, like leftovers, should go directly into that sealed bucket, which is kept in a not-highly-trafficked area.

2. Myth: I’m going to be overrun with worms.

Blame it on our childhood composting education: Most of us associate compost with wriggling worms. And yes, worms are definitely a crucial part of composting. In fact, their presence means that the process is working, and your stash is producing a healthy environment that will ultimately enrich the soil. But fear not: Worms aren’t part of our daily or weekly bucket method. If they DO make an appearance in your at-home collection bucket, that means you’re waiting way too long to empty it. (Worms won’t appear overnight, or even within a week.)

Now, forgive us but we’ve got to take a moment to talk about maggots. These may appear in your compost bucket, especially during humid and hot months. Their appearance is an indicator that you need to empty the bucket with greater frequency. If you’re emptying that bucket once a week, bump it up to twice a week during the warmer months.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Myth: It’s too confusing to figure out what can and can’t be composted.

Honestly, if you can eat it, you can most likely compost it. And even if you can’t eat it, you might be able to compost it — looking at you, used paper towels, wine corks, coffee filters, etc!

Read more: The Most Surprising Things You Can Compost (In Other Words, Stop Feeling Guilty and Just Compost These!)

4. Myth: Meat and dairy definitely can not be composted.

This myth plays into the myth above. Lots of people will tell you that meat and dairy can not be composted and this may be true, depending on what’s happening to your compost. But most of us are probably going to be giving our compost to a service (that’s what Kitchn recommends, anyway!) and these services usually have a higher capacity and more resources to compost things (meat, bones, fat, etc.). Ask your service what they accept.

5. Myth: You can only compost food if it’s organic.

You can, most likely, compost vegetable scraps, peels, and other items that are conventional, not organic. (Your compost will still do good things for the soil!) Again, citywide services are pretty forgiving. However, some farms and composting outlets will require food waste to be certified organic so that they can maintain their certification. So just ask before you get started.

6. Myth: I’m going to have to deal with a festering pile of food waste in my backyard.

Taking your weekly compost to the next level does require some effort (mostly: turning the pile regularly) and a giant compost pile (usually in a three-walled structure or a compost tumbler). For those of you who don’t want to deal with (or look at) that, our method, once again, has a solution: Just join a service or link up with a local farmer who wants your compost. There are plenty of people who DO want the “gross compost mush” that you do not want. They’ll take it from you and do the turning and decomposing steps that make the rest of us shudder.

Credit: Sarita Relis Photography

7. Myth: If I don’t garden, there’s no point.

Not so! Even if you never personally reap the benefits of compost-fertile soil, you’re doing your part to reduce landfill waste and build up organic matter in your area’s agricultural community. Composting is kind of like holding the door open for someone: It creates good karma and just makes you feel nice. There’s no real reason not to.

Are there any lingering questions, fears, or concerns you have about the process? Leave ‘em in the comments and let’s talk (anti) trash.