If your idea of composting is an old school compost pile in the corner of the yard, you’re probably surprised to learn that there are plenty of compact composting options available for urban gardeners. When I first started gardening on my apartment balcony, I thought composting wasn’t an option until a friend of mine mentioned they had a small compost bin on their back porch. After a ton of research, I was finally able to find the best small compost bins for urban gardeners and other people with limited yard space. Check out the best options below to start composting in your apartment or condo.
Best Small Compost Bins
This article focuses on compost bins themselves, which are containers you use for organic waste that is turned into compost. These are not to be confused with compost buckets or containers for kitchens which are used to temporarily store organic waste until it is transferred to a composter or picked up by the trash man for off-site composting. You may want to buy a compost bucket to use in addition to your small compost bin.
While shopping for a small compost bin, keep the following in mind. You want to get the biggest bin that you can comfortably fit in your space. A larger bin has more success breaking down material at lower temperatures compared to a small compost pile which needs to be much hotter. It’s also best to place a compost bin in a sunny spot, so take that into consideration when you decide how much space you have for a composter. If space is a huge issue because you’re an apartment dweller who only has a patio or porch available for gardening, you may want to consider a worm bin as an alternative.
Traditional compost bins generally have an open bottom, meant to be placed in a yard. If you’re going to be composting on pavement, on a patio, or a porch, a compost tumbler will probably be a better choice for you. These are self-contained composters that can be placed anywhere outdoors (or in a garage for winter). Since they’re usually up off the ground, they’re a great option to keep rodents away as well.
Envirocycle Mini Composting Bin
Billed as the cutest composter in the world, it’s not hard to see how this mini composting bin that’s available in black and pink is considered adorable. Designed specifically for people in cities who need a compact composting solution, this tumbler looks sleek and meets most gardener’s composting needs. The tumbler itself creates the compost while the base can collect compost tea for fertilizing (or you can opt to drain it directly to the ground). It’s designed to be easily turned as the tumbler rests on wheels on top of the base so you can regularly mix and aerate the pile. The Envirocycle also features wheels on the bottom so you can easily roll it around your yard or into a garage for winter storage and composting. Because it’s so easy to use, we recommend the Envirocycle for new and experienced composters alike.
So what are the cons with the Envirocycle? This mini composter is generally great, but some people have had issues with the door mechanism. The seal can cause issues with insects or water getting in. If you keep the Envirocycle outdoors year round, there can be issues with water freezing and damaging the door. Luckily, they have fantastic customer service and will send replacement parts free of charge. If compost tea is your main goal, you may be frustrated with the design of the base. It is not easy to drain the compost tea. You have to tilt the base at a 30-degree angle, which can be difficult since the composter is heavy when filled. If that’s a problem, you may want to consider a different option.
With two size options, these are great small compost bins for urban gardeners with yards or rooftop gardens. The 17-gallon version is under two feet tall, so you may even be able to find room for it on a deck or patio. I’ve seen many traditional homeowners buy two or more to generate compost for their large yards and garden or keep multiple batches “cooking” at the same time.
Made in the USA from food-safe, BPA and rust free materials.
Capacity: 17 Gallons or 35 Gallons
Dimensions: 21.5″ tall or 27.7″ tall
Makes compost and compost tea simultaneously
Compact and sleek design
Company has top rate customer service
Tumbler design prevents rodent access
High price tag
Door design can lead to issues with insects or water leakage
Difficult to drain compost tea from the base (must tilt at an angle)
Miracle Gro Small Compost Tumbler
If the Envirocycle is outside your budget, Miracle-Gro offers their own small compost bins perfect for urban gardeners at a lower price point. This tumbler design features legs that hold the composter off the ground and make it easy to tumble or turn your compost regularly. It also has a locking mechanism to keep it from turning. While it is taller than the Envirocycle, the 70L tumbler is designed with a narrow width so it’s easy to keep in the corner of a yard, deck, or patio. The door slides out to easily add new waste or remove finished compost. Since this composter is up off the ground, it should be safe from most rodents.
Miracle-Gro brags that is a year-round composter, but you may want to keep it in the garage if you have especially cold winters. One thing to watch out for is there are drainage holes, so liquid can drip out of it, so you may want to put a tray under it in your garage.
Made from food grade, BPA free, and UV protected plastic. Assembly required (about 20-30 minutes).
Capacity: 70L (~18 gallons) or 105L (~27 gallons)
Dimensions: 18.1 x 23.6 x 33.1 inch
Easy to use compost tumbler
Narrow sized fits well in limited garden spaces
It does leak a bit, which is not ideal for some locations
The 105L model is not as sturdy with plastic legs
Worm Factory 3 Tray Worm Composter
This mode of compost isn’t for everyone. If thinking about keeping worms makes you squirm, keep scrolling! But if you love those little wigglers and all the benefits they bring to your gardens, worm composting might be a good option for you. I’ve had a few apartment dwelling friends turn to worms to help them compost inside their homes when a traditional garden is available, and it works great. This three tray worm composter is perfect for beginners because it comes with a manual and a DVD to introduce you to worm composting.
The worm factory is designed to use three stackable trays, allowing worms to eat their way through the waste and move up in the trays as it transforms into compost. You just keep adding trays as you add more waste and eventually the bottom tray will contain the compost. Empty that tray and move it to the top to add more food waste. The worm factory also collects the leachate, which you can easily use as compost tea.
One of the challenges with worm composting is you will need to keep your worms alive. That means if you live somewhere with extremely hot summers or very cold winters, you will have to keep your worm factory indoors or in a garage during those extreme temperatures. For apartment dwellers, that’s actually a plus if you don’t have yard spacing for composting. When you order the kit, it does not come with worms. You can easily purchase worms at a local garden store or bait shop once your bin is set up and ready to go.
Available Colors: Black, Green, Terra Cotta
Dimensions: 16-inch x 16-inch x 13-inch
Capacity: 12.5 pounds per tray (expandable to up to 7 trays)
Produces compost & compost tea
Can expand to include as many trays as you need
Year round composting
Can compost indoors
Have to use worms
Have to keep in moderate temperatures
Must maintain ideal conditions to keep worms healthy
Lid is not airtight to keep out water or flies
Best Indoor Kitchen Composter Bins
These are indoor composters that actually compost your food waste, not composting buckets used for temporary storage of food waste. These solutions are great for city dwellers who live in apartments and don’t have access to a traditional yard or outdoor space. Indoors and container gardeners will enjoy these compact composting options.
Food Cycler Platinum Indoor Kitchen Composter
If you’re willing to spend the extra money for a high-tech composting solution, this indoor “composter” is a good option. The Food Cycler is a countertop appliance that you put food scraps in and get compost in as little as three hours. Yeah, you read that right. It sounds like some sci-fi tech from the future, but it’s available for urban gardeners looking for small compost bins. Inside is a bucket that you can scrape your food waste into. When you press the start button, it dries out the scraps, then agitators break the food waste into small pieces, which is then heated to cook it down into compost. Depending on what you put it, the cycle takes about 3-6 hours and then the unit automatically shut offs. Once it’s done, the compost is ready to be mixed in with your soil. The built-in filtering technology means there are no odors. The Food Cycler makes composting quick, easy, and convenient.
The machine has a very small capacity, so if you have a big family or a lot of food waste you may need to run it daily. One of the downsides is this does not create traditional compost because of the quick processing time. People who have used it in houseplants found that it turns slimy and gross. The manufacturer recommends you let the soil mature for at least 30 days, though you can use it immediately if you want. We recommend it for use in outdoor plants and gardens.
Dimensions: 15 x 13 x 17.5 inches
Processes food scraps in 3-6 hours
Compact, countertop appliance great for people without yards
High price tag
Need to buy replacement filters periodically
Not “traditional” compost. Not good for use in indoor plants.
Urban Composter Countertop Bucket
If compost tea is your goal, the Urban Composter is a great option for gardeners who want to compost in their kitchen. These counter sized buckets are designed to take your organic waste and break it down to leachate, which can be used as compost tea for fertilizing plants and gardens. Based on the Bokashi process, you simply put your waste in this bucket and spray it with their Compost Accelerator Spray, which is a concenrate of beneficial bacteria that speeds up the composition process.
The buckets come with tight-fitting lids that help keep unpleasant smells inside and keep insects out. There are two sizes to choose from based on your composting needs. Both are compact enough to keep on a kitchen counter or in a cabinet or pantry out of site. The spout on the bottom is perfect for draining the liquid for instant use as fertilizer. This is a perfect option for indoor gardeners and other urban gardeners lacking the yard space for a traditional compost bin.
Available Colors: White Bucket with Black, Green, Purple, or Red Lid
Capacity: 2.1 Gallon or 4 Gallon
Dimensions: 10″ diameter x 10.5″ high or 11.5″ diameter x 16″ high
Compact size for use indoors
Easy to drain compost tea
Only makes compost tea
Requires continual purchase of compsot accelerator