Friday, September 28, 2007

Compost Quandrary

I received an email from a flat-dwelling reader with a compost problem:

I had started composting all my fruit and veg scraps but hubby has put a stop to this as I had left the bin a bit too long before taking it to compost on the lottie and I got a few midgey flies round it so now he says it's filthy, unhygenic etc so I can only really take things from time to time (like make a big veg peeling session and then run down the lottie with a bagful). But I would like to continue in this vein - should I change the way I store it? I would empty the bin once or twice a week so really it needs to be airtight. Can you suggest anything??
It's a tough one. Flies in your house are gross I agree, and I sympathise with your husband's reaction. I do have a few suggestions, though.

  1. You could get a wormery. I don't have one myself but lots of people swear by them. Basically the whole composting unit lives in the kitchen, with the worms and everything. Make sure you get a junior or indoor wormery, as the normal ones are for outdoor use and are too big for a typical flat. They're made of opaque plastic so you don't get to see the little wigglers unless you take the lid off and go poking around inside. You put the scraps on top and the wormies turn it into compost. You also get to collect the worm pee which is fabulous plant food. There's no flies, no smell, and no need to trudge down to the allotment. Although if your husband isn't keen on flies he might freak out at the thought of worms in the kitchen. The worms shouldn't escape under normal circumstances, though.
  2. There's a product called a Kitchen Caddy for collecting compostable scraps which has an airtight lid to keep out flies, and a chacoal filter to eliminate smells. Again, I haven't tested it myself but it sounds good, doesn't it? It's available at

  3. You could store your scraps in the freezer instead of in a bin. Then once a week (or whatever) carry the solid lump down to your lottie and chuck it on. It will melt and compost down soon enough, but whilst it's in your home there will be no flies. Just make sure you label the container well, and don't mistake it for frozen dinner leftovers!
I hope one of these solves your problem. Maybe Bean Sprouts readers can think of some other solutions.


GreenStyleMom said...

I'm so happy to read that I am not the only one who doesn't make it out to the compost pile as frequently as I should! I have a countertop compost keeper, but I still seem to attract the fruit flies.
The best thing I have found for getting rid of the little pests is to put all the fruit in the fridge, pour a little apple cider vinegar in a tall glass, and place a paper rolled into a funnel in the glass. The flies will fly into the apple cider but won't be able to get out.

Anonymous said...

You could try a Bokashi Compost Bin. They are largely odorless, create a rich bioactive compost in half the time as ordinary methods, and they help produce a really powerful--all natural--fertilizer, much like a worm composter. Better yet, they fit under the sink in the cabinet.

Look for them here:

You only buy the composter once and then top it up with the relatively inexpensive Bokashi bran. If you're into DIY then you can learn to make the bokashi bran yourself.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I was going to say Bokashi, but podchef beat me to it.

The cheap way of deterring flies is to keep the compost covered - perhaps under the kitchen sink, and not let it get too wet, so add torn up toilet paper holders, shredded bank statements or bits of egg box.

Wormeries also can attract flies if they are too wet, so covering with a moisture mat, old worn out clothes (beyond repair, but they must be natural material, spandex simply will not do!) or using the paper tips given above also works well. I also sometim top ine up with perennial weeds, but only if they have had a chance to dessicate in the sun for at least a week, then the worms will break the plant down - even the tap root.

Although I have a wormery in the garden, I still do not always take my scraps out as often as I should, so I am going to try GSM's tip with the vineager. Will cheaper vinegar work as well? The cider vinegar that I have at the moment is way too good for the fruit flies!

Unknown said...

I live in sub tropical Australia and keep my cotainer of scraps in the fridge and once it's full take it outside for the worms and compost bin.

You could keep a bag of scraps in the fridge, add to it and then take to the allotment each time you go :)

Anonymous said...

I have a big plastic compost bin in my front garden, but even so I find I'll only empty the kitchen caddy I use twice a week or so. I rip up used toilet roll tubes and shred paper into the caddy, to stop the fruit & veggies getting too wet. That way, I've never had flies round the caddy in the kitchen.
I LOVE the idea of keeping the bits in the freezer, a large empty ice-cream tub should be enough for fruit & veg scraps & peelings. Continue to put dry stuff like onion skins, eggboxes, orange peel, in the kitchen caddy as they're least likely to attract flies anyway.

Unknown said...

A tight-fitting lid works for me - and DON'T leave it open. Ever. Freezing and fridging uses energy, of course, so you'll have to decide if doing that is worth it. Another option is to scatter a thin layer of sawdust on the top of the bin every few days, which isn't as daft as it sounds because it'll help counteract the "green" value of the kitchen stuff when it goes to compost.

Frankie said...

I bought a kitchen caddy from C.A.T. this spring and it is brilliant - no flies or smell when the lid is on.

Unknown said...

I tend to wrap all my waste in old newspapers and any old paper or even biodegradable old clothes. My tightly sealed caddy sits outside the flat in the summer months and inside the kitchen during the cold months. No fly problems since it went out this summer, lol!

I'd love to try one of the smaller wormeries or even the bokashi composter too...

Oh, and ditto HW on the energy use when you use the fridge/freezer.

Like your blog, Mel!

AMCSviatko said...

I have a (black) nappy bucket with a tight fitting lid sitting on the kitchen floor next to my bin and my recycling caddy. It works fantastically as it's out of the way, has a handle to carry it to the kitchen bench when I need to put scraps in it (and to the compost bin once a week or so) and the lid keeps it from smelling out the place when I forget to take it out and it gets all green and furry inside!

Once I've emptied it I simply hose it out and leave it upside down outside the back door until it's dry and ready to come inside again.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic ideas here. I live in a pokey flat but have just acquired an allotment so am desperate to start collecting green waste for my compost bin. I too have the fruit fly problem and my freezer is only fit for ice cube trays but I think I could start keeping the caddy in the fridge if I were to sacrifice a few cans of beer each week.

antipodesgirl said...

I am the compost bin culprit (lol)- thank you to everyone for your suggestions, I haven't got room in my freezer or fridge really, I quite like the sawdust suggestion, seems sensible, although in general I try to wrap the scraps in a sheet of newspaper before binning. A nappy bin - like that too, except that in France using washable nappies is akin to riding naked through the streets on a white mare, so I might have trouble finding one. Then again, compost is also an idea they find pretty weird (hence my hubby's aversion). When I find an answer I will post again to share my thoughts! Thanks Mel.

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