Can you compost on a balcony? I've always wanted to. In my garden in London there's a compost heap, and when we're there kitchen waste, as well as plant waste from the garden, is rigorously recycled. But on a balcony?
Some websites, like this one from the City of Toronto, say yes. But I've always had my doubts. Is there enough room? Wouldn't the smell be too bad? Even if I could cope with a compost heap outside my bedroom window, I'm far too scared of the neighbours to risk it. (And if you think that's wimpy, you've never met my neighbours).
I've thought of a wormery, but they'd roast in the summer. The temperature on the balcony can go up to 50°C in full sun. So every night there's nothing to do but throw away the vegetable peelings. The hamster does her best, but how much can a three inch long creature be expected to consume?
Then the other day, when browsing Amazon's Home and Garden section, I came across this kitchen waste composter. It seemed the answer. Small - the exact size isn't stated, but it's supposed to "fit under the sink" so fine for the balcony - and promises of "no smells". It went straight to the top of my Christmas wish list.
But I decided to browse a bit further and found that it's sold by a company called Just Green - and they deliver anywhere.
How does it work? It uses a product called bokashi, a bran based mix containing micro-organisms which break down the waste, producing both compost and liquid fertiliser. And it's only supposed to take a few weeks.
It's not cheap. Apart from the initial outlay it will mean constantly buying the bokashi to keep it working. But gradually it should start to pay for itself, as I no longer have to buy either soil for the containers or fertilisers.
But it's the ecological advantages which are most important :
- reduced waste to be transported and disposed of - so a saving in energy
- no more agonising over the ecological soundness of packaged soil - which has already clocked up goodness knows how many transport miles, which - here at least - inevitably contains either peat or coir, and which comes in plastic bags which then have to be thrown away.
- no more chemical fertilisers to contaminate the soil - which even if it is originally in containers eventually gets thrown away, so that any chemical contents leach into the ground.