Urban gardeners and city dwellers might think they’re limited on choice when it comes to compost bins, but we’re here to prove that isn’t the case.
There’s plenty of composters out there that fit the bill of being compact, efficient, and odorless.
I’ve rounded up the best urban compost bins for balcony composting, indoor composting, patio composting, and composting in a small garden.
Best compost bins for balconies and patios
Balconies are small and attached to your living space. The perfect composter for a balcony needs to be space-efficient and not smell.
Also, there should be no chance of leaks as there is nothing to soak up any liquid on a balcony.
Worm Factory 360
If you hadn’t already guessed from the name, the worm factory 360 is a vermicomposter. Worms eat any food scraps you put in, digest them, and then pass them out as worm castings. The worm castings make a rich, nutritional compost!
You can place the worm bin inside or outside. It’s an odorless, mess-free system, so it’s even suitable for small apartments. Because the worms do most of the work, this bin is also an excellent choice for time-pressured city dwellers.
We like the worm factory 360 because the stackable trays mean you can expand the farm if you need more capacity without it taking up any more space.
The standard bin comes with four trays, and you can purchase an additional four trays. The manufacturer claims this gives it the largest volume with the smallest footprint of any home worm farm.
It also has a built-in tray to collect any liquid runoff (worm leachate) with a siphon tap for easy collection.
The bin doesn’t come with worms so you’ll need to purchase them separately. We recommend uncle Jim’s worms. We’ve always used these worms and have never had any problems.
- suitable for indoors and outdoors
- works year-round
- large volume with a small footprint
- made in the USA with recycled plastic
Miracle-Gro Small Composter
This tumbler is the perfect size for a balcony. It’s around waist height and can hold a total of 18.5 gallons.
The hexagonal design is really good for churning your compost because it encourages mixing. There are also internal mixing bars. This means more air will get into your compost helping it progress faster (in 4-6 weeks!).
It’s mounted on hinges too so super easy to turn. It will only take you a few seconds.
If you have a bit more space, you can buy a two-chamber version. With two chambers you can have two lots of compost on the go. While one The best compost bins for apartments will be completely odor free and be suitable for operating inside. is curing you can be filling up the second chamber.
- mixing bar to aerate the compost
- BPA-free, UV-protected plastic
- high user rating
- slower in winter
Best compost bins for apartments
The best compost bins for apartments will be completely odor free and be suitable for operating inside.
Bokashi indoor composter
Unlike standard aerobic composting, bokashi is an anaerobic process meaning it needs to be devoid of oxygen. One of the best ways to get rid of oxygen is to squish things into the smallest space possible, making Bokashi bins very space-efficient. You can even keep them on your kitchen counter – and don’t worry, they don’t smell!
The anaerobic microbes ferment your food scraps, including things you can’t usually compost like meat, dairy, and oily foods, and you end up with a mixture of pickled organic matter.
The downside to bokashi bins is that the output isn’t finished compost. You need to either bury the fermented matter in a garden, put it in an existing compost bin, or give it away. Your local compost pick up service should happily take it.
Bokashi bins work well with regular compost bins or worm bins because the pickled food breaks down much faster than fresh scraps.
I like this particular bokashi bin because it comes with a built-in siphon tap for you to collect the leachate. And you get some Bokashi bran included, which is the inoculant you need to mix with your food scraps.
- can compost meat and dairy
- doesn’t require brown materials
- works year-round
- output isn’t finished compost
This neat little device dehydrates food then grinds it up, reducing its volume by up to 90%. The lid is fitted with charcoal filters which will absorb any smells that may try to escape.
Once you’ve put the food waste in this machine will turn it into a useful soil amendment in just 3 hours! This means you don’t have to worry about having extra space to store your food waste before you compost it.
You also don’t have to worry about storing up ‘brown materials’ to balance out your food waste since the composter works with no additive.
While the output of the composter isn’t technically compost, you can still use it straight away as if it was. The only time I recommend not using the soil amendment straight away is if you put meat or dairy in the composter.
If you rehydrate the meat too soon, it can attract flies. Leave it for a few days to fully dry out.
- doesn’t require brown materials
- can compost meat and dairy
- very quick
- very small
- doesn’t produce actual compost
Biovessel eco living composter
This is a really cool, eco-friendly product that allows you to combine composting with growing stuff in one vessel – ideal for space-saving in an apartment.
The brand aims to bring nature into urban homes and make composting possible for city dwellers.
The modern-looking container works as a vermicomposter. It uses worms to accelerate the decomposition of your food waste just as they would in their natural habitat. Over time the soil in the vessel will turn into a nutrient-packed compost that you can use to feed plants. You can also remove the compost from the vessel and use it to fertilize other plants around your house.
There’s an observation window so you can easily monitor the conditions in your bio vessel and see how the worms are getting on. And you also get a moisture and pH checker included.
Its sleek-looking design is a bonus for anyone wanting to keep it on their kitchen counter. But it doesn’t just look pretty. The inventors used data to shape the bin so that it helps the worms work as efficiently as possible.
- stylish design
- compact size
- can grow plants in the composter
- works year-round
- lower capacity
Best compost bins for small gardens
The best compost bins for small gardens will have features that help speed up the composting process.
FCMP Compost Tumbler
If you’re lucky enough to have a small garden, then you can use an outdoors composter.
I recommend going for a compost tumbler rather than a stationary bin because they have added features that make the composting process faster. Fast composting is important if you only have a small space.
This compost tumbler from FCMP claims you can have compost in as little as two weeks! The eight-sided chamber is lined with spikes that efficiently break up and mix the compost with lots of oxygen when you turn the drum.
It’s dual-chambered, which is great for urban environments because it means you can continually fill the bin up. When one side is curing, you can use the other side to store food scraps.
Another plus for small gardens is that the tumbler is lifted off the ground, meaning it won’t attract any rodents.
- large capacity
- made using recycled materials
- aeration spikes
- slow in the winter
Jora Composter Tumbler JK270
The Jorafoam composter is at the higher end of the price spectrum for a compost tumbler, but if you want fast compost then it’s well worth it.
Having a small garden means that you want your compost bin to be as efficient and possible, and that’s what the jorafoam offers.
The bin has a thick layer of insulation that keeps heat in. Heat is one of the major components that influences how fast the composting process is. The more heat there is, the faster everything breaks down.
The outside is constructed using galvanized steel and there are two locking latches that make sure no rodents can find their way in. It’s also dual-chambered, so you can have two lots of compost on the go at any one time.
- rodent proof
- hard to assemble
Best kitchen compost bins
While not technically a compost bin, kitchen compost bins give you somewhere to store your food scraps before transferring them to your actual compost bin.
I used to freeze my scraps until I started running out of room in my freezer, so I had to find an alternative. These are the best kitchen compost bins I found.
EPICA Stainless Steel Compost Bin
This countertop compost bin is made from one sheet of stainless steel, meaning it’s 100% leak-proof. And it’s effortless to clean since there’s no joins for food to get stuck in.
The airtight lid combined with a vented charcoal filter stops any smells from escaping, so the bin is suitable for you to keep inside. And fruit flies aren’t a problem.
Designed to be able to fit on a kitchen countertop the bin measures just 7.16” in diameter x 11” in height. I find it’s big enough to hold 3-4 days of waste before it I need to empty it.
- stainless steel
- easy to clean
- takes up some countertop space
YukChuck Under-Counter Food Waste Bin
This indoor kitchen food waste bin from YukChuk has an innovative design that means it takes up minimal room in your kitchen.
The slim-fit bin hangs on a cupboard door so can be kept out of sight under your kitchen sink and won’t take up any valuable counter space. The tight-fitting lid prevents odors and stops fruit fly problems without the need for a charcoal filter. If having to replace a filter bothers you then this bin could be the solution!
The bin is made using re-purposed high-density polypropylene and is dishwasher safe. To make it even easier to clean, you could line the container with compostable bags.
- fits in a cupboard
- no filters to replace
- hinge needs to be treated with care
What can you do with spare compost?
When composting in an urban environment, it’s quite common that you’ll end up with more compost than you need. This is especially true if you’re using a super-efficient method like vermicomposting.
So what can you do with all the extra compost? There are several options:
- Donate it to a local community garden or school. Community gardens will always welcome extra compost, and schools sometimes need compost to use in gardening projects with their pupils.
- Give it away on craigslist or advertise it in your local supermarket. Everyone loves a freebie, so why not see if one of your neighbors can give the compost a good home.
- Use a curbside collection service. Check with your local authorities to see if there’s a service available for compost collection in your area.
What to look for in an urban compost bin
Buying a compost bin for a small space requires a different train of thought compared to buying a standard compost bin. Here are a few of the most important things to consider and look out for.
Worms or no worms?
A lot of urban composters use worms because worms make the composting process more efficient. This is useful if you only have a small space but want to compost a lot of scraps. Also, worms produce compost all year round.
If you want to learn more about vermicomposting then check out my guide to composting with worms which will tell you everything you need to know.
Worms aren’t a necessary component to composting in a city, so if you’d prefer to skip the worms that’s okay.
You can use conventional composting methods in an urban area, just on a smaller scale, which means it’s going to be a lot slower. Compost tumblers are your best bet if you want to compost efficiently without worms. They make aeration and turning easy, which helps speed up decomposition.
Always measure wherever you’re planning to keep the compost bin. Once you know the dimensions of the space you want to use, you can cross-reference this against the compost bins to make sure they’ll fit.
Generally, the smaller the compost bin, the less waste it’s going to be able to process. Also, with a small container, you have to be careful not to overload it.
The compost will turn sour a lot quicker than in a big bin because there’s less ‘buffer’ material to deal with excess moisture or rouge anaerobic microbes. However, it’s much easier to keep the compost aerated, which cuts down on maintenance time.
The last thing I would think about is how much effort you want to put into the composting.
Do you want a bin where you can chuck your food scraps into it and forget about them until they’ve turned into compost? Or do you enjoy a more hands-on approach, so don’t mind a system that requires a bit more maintenance?
Both compost tumblers and worms farms can usually be left alone as long as you get the mix right and keep the moisture levels healthy. Worms are also temperature sensitive, so you need to keep an eye on that.
Harvesting the compost from a worm bin can sometimes be a bit more involved because you need to separate the worms from their castings. I have more information on how to do this in my guide to vermicomposting.
Bokashi is also a bit more involved because it requires two steps.