How to compost organic waste in the apartment: the experience of millennials
[According to UNDP, the amount of organic matter in the trash of the Ukrainian family is from 35 to 60% of the total amount of waste. In landfills, organic matter begins to rot and form methane, which can lead to fires and is dangerous to groundwater and air. That is why organic waste should be composted. Text co-created with UNDP and Plato NGO]
Adelina Zakharchenko, 30, Poltava, Logistics Manager, Ekoltava NGO
I started composting waste three years ago when I reduced the amount of meat in my diet. Then there was more plant waste in my trash, and midges were appearing more and more often. Composting has become a smart solution to the problem.
I bought an EM bucket – a special 16-liter container with a lid made of food-grade plastic. It has a built-in tap to drain the liquid from organic residues, which is also called compost tea. Such a bucket cost 1,600 UAN.
We also needed bokashi – microorganisms that activate the fermentation of food waste by the type of milk fermentation and yeast fermentation (a kilogram package costs about 80 UAN). Once a day I shake the waste with bokashas.
My bucket fills up in an average of a week (by the way, you can’t throw meat or milk in there – they cause an unpleasant smell). From time to time I pour “compost tea”, which I use as a fertilizer for houseplants. When I lived in an apartment I took the waste to the country where my parents live. Now I live in the private sector and have a compost pit dug in the yard. Once a year I take its contents to the country and feed the plants.
There are many myths about the difficulties of composting in the apartment, but my experience shows that a properly set up process does not create any inconvenience: there are no insects or odors in the house.
Sviatoslav Stepyak, 28, Drohobych, CEO of Dro Eco.Logic
I studied in Vinnytsia, where two-fractional waste collection was introduced: I dumped dry and wet residues in different containers. For some time I began to sort waste into many fractions. And soon I installed my first composter at home – an EM-container.
I made it myself from two plastic buckets, which I inserted into each other. In the bottom of the upper, in which I accumulate organic matter, heated with fire awl made small holes so that the liquid flowed into the lower bucket. Every three days I poured this compost tea.
But later I learned that such composting does not turn waste into compost. The fermented remnants of the EM container, which I fed my houseplants, provoked a stench. It turned out that they need another 3-6 months to stay in the soil to be suitable for fertilization.
So I decided to try another method – vermicomposting. The thing is that special worms eat and process organic residues. So I bought a family of California worms for almost 600 UAN, found a box near the market, also took a bag of sugar and started to create my own composter in the basement of the apartment building where I live.
The mechanism of preparation of a vermicomposter is as follows: we put a bag in a fruit box, we add the crushed cardboard to the bottom, and from above we put worms with a substrate (soil in which they lived). Liquid will leak from the composter: to keep the room clean, it is better to place a cardboard box or a paper tray under the box. And you can start feeding the worms.
It is important to give the worms a fresh portion of food only when they have finished the previous one, otherwise the organic matter will become moldy and spoil. That’s why at home I set aside a separate bucket in which I accumulate waste. Twice a month, I bring the worms the accumulated organic matter.
After processing the organic matter by worms, humus is formed. They say it’s a good fertilizer. One day I was curious to see if it really worked so well. I grew tomato seedlings and divided them into 3 groups. I planted the first in compost, the second in ordinary soil, and for the third he mixed soil and compost. The first group grew and began to give crops faster than the others!
Now I use this compost to fertilize houseplants. I mix it into the store soil mixture. I also gave it to my grandmother for the croft.
Yuliya Pavliuk, 36, Kyiv, researcher, data analyst, monitoring and evaluation specialist
I started sorting waste five years ago and composting three years ago. This was facilitated by people surrounding me. A lot of acquaintances work in the sphere of environmental protection. So at some point something in me “clicked” and I started looking for a good bucket for composting.
The one I liked was taken from Slovakia! It was a set of two 16-liter buckets: one for me, the other for my mother. It cost 63 euros. The set also included a glass for draining liquid and a package of bokashi (a kilogram package is enough for 3-4 months). I still use this bucket. I use a small bucket to collect leftovers every day.
We are a family of vegetarians, so we have a lot of vegetable and fruit waste. The process of their composting is very well worked out in our country. We collect the remnants of organic waste in a half-liter plastic bucket of ice cream, which stands near the sink in the kitchen. When it is filled, pour the waste into a large one. Our bucket is filled in 1.5-2 months.
You can place a compost bucket in any part of the kitchen, but not near the faucet. In winter, it is also not recommended to keep a bucket on the balcony – due to low temperatures, the process slows down. Is there an unpleasant smell from the bucket? Only when I open the lid, there is the smell of pickled vegetables. But I guess for someone it can be uncomfortable.
Earlier, we took the contents of the bucket to the cottage of our friend near Kyiv. She has dug a compost pit, the fertilizer from which she uses for the garden. But for a little over a month now we have been living in the private sector – and we have our own compost pit near the house.
Maksym Makukha, 33, Poltava, technical specialist of Ekoltava NGO
In 2007 my parents decided to start gardening. They learned that the best fertilizer for plant nutrition is compost. So in our house under the sink there was a pan with a lid in which we collected organic matter. These remains were taken out in a pile in the yard, and in a year high-quality compost was formed there.
But when I started living in an apartment, it became more difficult to maintain the family tradition of composting. I remember in 2013-2014, when my girlfriend and I lived in Lviv, we buried sorted organic matter in the park with a small shovel at night 🙂
Later I learned about home composters. I tried to start with a vermicomposter. Bought 3 boxes of 30 liters: one solid, and two with holes in the bottom and walls. I put the perforated boxes in a solid box, bought a family of worms and put them in a box on the balcony. The scheme was as follows: in one box I put the worms with the substrate and fed them organic. After digesting food, they left behind waste and rose a little in the box. When I saw that the box was being filled, I put the second one on top. There, too, added leftover food, worms gradually crawled to the top and eventually released the first box. After that, we emptied the compost and put the box on top again. And so in a circle. Vermitea was going to be in the bottom drawer.
But later I gave up this type of composting because it was difficult to take care of the worms. It was necessary to carefully follow their diet – for example, you can add only plant foods to them, but due to the large number of citrus, worms can smell, and too many products of this type can poison them at all …
Then I tried composting in an EM container. This is a less demanding method and it was convenient for me.
Now I’m back to where I started: I’ve moved into a private house and I’m using open composting – I’m dumping leftovers in the yard. Organic matter decomposes during the year and turns into fertilizer, which we scatter in the garden, under apple trees and raspberries.