Aesthetically Pleasing Compost Unit for Apartment/Balcony

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Julie Julie
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Aesthetically Pleasing Compost Unit for Apartment/Balcony

Anyone have any suggestions for an aesthetically pleasing compost unit for a small balcony (in the summer) and indoors (in the kitchen or by the balcony) in the winter? I'm thinking of one with worms, and I don't mean something like the little temporary ceramic bin to hold kitchen scraps, but the real composting unit. I prefer no plastic. The one on Bea's blog page about composting looks like it could be made of metal and is not bad looking, but I'm guessing it's actually made of plastic. Will any kind of metal work, if I can find an old metal bin, or should it be stainless steel, or does it matter? Ceramic would be really nice, but I wonder if it would be too heavy to move back and forth from the balcony to the apartment--unless I put it on wheels--and even then maybe it would still be too heavy for the balcony. In any case, which is more practical? Has anybody successfully used a ceramic container for composting? Or a metal container? Or have other recommendations for something aesthetically pleasing?
reed reed
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Re: Aesthetically Pleasing Compost Unit for Apartment/Balcony

Hi Julie,
I love composting with worms—once you get going it’s really easy.  The thing is, you don’t want to start off with something that can’t do the job.  Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Applehof is a great how-to guide.
   
I don’t think metal bins are generally recommended for worms (something about metal and their skin?), but I know that people do it and their worms seem to manage.  Since the bins have moist environments and can create liquid worm ‘tea,’ whatever you get should have excellent drainage.  A lot of commercial bins have spigots, and with the home-made storage tote method, one tote is nested in the other so that it can catch the draining liquid.  Metal can rust, wood can rot, and ceramic can crack, so plastic ends up being popular by default.
 
Bea’s container is made of recycled plastic (brand: Can O’ Worms).  I have 3 different kinds of worm bins and the one that functions best (for my purposes) is the Can O’ Worms.  But it’s large and heavy, so maybe not the best option for balcony to kitchen commuting.  Commuting might invite problems though.  Fruit flies can be a nuisance if food scraps aren’t buried deep enough.  It might be tempting fate to have the bin outside part-time.    

Worm bins need:
Surface area for oxygen exchange = bin should be wider than it is deep
Excellent drainage for the worm “tea” so that the bin doesn’t go anaerobic or drown the worms.
Bedding material that is moist like a damp sponge at all dimes
Ventilation
To be dark inside and made of opaque material

A good solution might be use an aesthetic screen or façade to conceal a functional bin.  Sorry it wasn’t the perfect answer, but I really hope that helps you reach success more easily :)  Of course, people do it all different kinds of ways, the worms are real troopers.  You can try different options and see what you like the most.
Best of luck!
Julie Julie
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Re: Aesthetically Pleasing Compost Unit for Apartment/Balcony

Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed reply, Reed. I think you might be right; plastic in this case may be the best. Can O' Worms is the best of the bunch, and it's available here, but if I get a plastic one, I would prefer used, and that's not one that's for sale in the classifieds at the moment (another, much uglier one is--one I'm not sure I can settle on). Camouflaging it is a good idea, though. I will have to think about how to do that. And leaving it inside is probably also a good idea, if I can figure out where. I was wondering how it would do on the balcony, but in any case it gets very hot in the summer here (inside or out--we have no air conditioning) so I wonder if they will survive, balcony or not.  We have a very small flat, but maybe once I finish simplifying, there will be more room; if I can go zero waste and eliminate the need for recycling, then I will have a space for it. We'll see. Thank you!
Deborah Deborah
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Re: Aesthetically Pleasing Compost Unit for Apartment/Balcony

Hi,
have you thought of the Bokashi system?  I started it about a  month ago, to replace a lidded bin in the kitchen which I invariably left far too long without emptying and smelt, got yucky, and attracted flies.
The Bokashi doesn't.  Faint smell of fermentation when I open the lid, even with fish heads and chicken remains in it.  The main contents are orange peel and teabags as green waste very often goes straight to the goats - no, I do NOT live in an apartment! - but kitchens are much the same whatever house is around them!
It's plastic, but so was my old compost bucket, which started out as a nappy bucket - my son is now 31...
And you do have to have place to put the contents after two weeks, preferably in someone else's composter or buried, but the food waste is no longer an attractant to wildlife, and will rot extremely quickly (within a couple of months) to a usable level.
Finally, I think disguise is a great idea - rustic woven or wooden square 'sleeve' painted to match or upside down large bin...no, that last wouldn't work, you need to be able to drop stuff in it easily. Good luck with finding solutions to suit you.