Food composting; what’s the best way to do it?

Northfield food compost site Northfield food compost site Northfield food compost site Northfield food compost site
As I noted in a blog post last month, the City of Northfield compost site is now accepting food scraps and non-recyclable paper. I took the above photos last wee. The site’s webpage says:

Collect food and non-recyclable paper from your kitchen and place them into biodegradable bags and bring them out to the Compost Site during regular hours.

All food products can be recycled including fruit, vegetables, bread, cereal, dairy, meat (including bones), coffee grounds, filters and tea bags. Non-recyclable paper includes paper towels, plates, napkins, and pizza boxes.

Items NOT acceptable are plastic bags, styrofoam, glass, metal, diapers and pet waste.

 natural waxed paper bags food compost bucket food compost basket biodegradable plastic bags
combi-open-air-newWe purchased a box of natural waxed paper bags at Just Food Coop and put them in small bucket on our kitchen counter. (The bucket has a lid.) When bucket gets full, we place the paper bags in a biodegradable plastic bag inside a wastebasket in our garage. When that gets full, we’ll take that to the compost site.

I’m not sure if this is the best way to do it. The food sure gets stinky quickly.

Should we buy something like the BioBags Max Air buckets instead, even though we don’t do backyard composting?


  1. Anne Sawyer said:

    Hey Griff,

    The bottom line is that if you don’t want stinky compost at your house, DO NOT include meat and dairy. They’re the major culprits for stink (and pathogens and attracting critters!).

    Depending on the regularity with which you go to the compost site, you may want to consider and outdoor ‘waystation’ for compost – maybe a large tub or bucket with a loose-fitting lid (letting it breathe will also cut down on the funk factor). You could use a five-gallon pail and paint it to match your house, if you like!

    I’ve attached a couple of composting handouts I put together for a talk that Marcia Walters and I gave at the Co-op last year. It covers some of the basics about composting and why they matter, based on U of MN Extension information.

    As an aside: While industrial compost setups are able to deal with meat and dairy, the recommendation for homeowners is that meat and dairy NOT be included, due to the risks I mentioned above. Most home composters can’t get their piles hot enough to reduce the risk of pathogens from meat and dairy.

    It seems to me that the City could do a bit better with their composting PR…


    Rice County Master Gardener


    April 22, 2012
  2. Anne Sawyer said:

    PS As far as composting “equipment” goes, it can be as expensive or as thrifty as you like. We use an old (albeit ugly) rubbermaid-type container in our kitchen (you can keep ugly containers under the sink!) and truck it outside every day or two.

    My personal opinion:
    We compost, and we don’t use any bags – we just rinse the container every time we dump it. Sometimes it’s a little icky, but that’s a small price to pay relative to the resources needed to make plastic bags, even decomposable ones. Lots of water and energy and fossil fuels go into making the bags and transporting those bags to the store.

    Granted, I’m glad that composting is ‘hip’ enough to support these industries (e.g. BioBags Air Max Bucket), but you really don’t need to buy anything special to successfully compost. If you want to keep your compost on the counter, then definitely get something that you like to look at! Just don’t feel like you have to spend lots of money to successfully compost.

    April 22, 2012
  3. Alicia Reuter said:

    My family just uses a dumpster similar to the standard ones for curbside garbage pickup. If you use one that can be sealed and easily cleaned, it should work fine to just toss the food straight in it.

    April 22, 2012
  4. Robbie Wigley said:

    Griff… the bags in the garage that we put the stuff from the kitchen in are the compostable ones from Just Foods, that is what they use I was told.

    April 24, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Ahh, you’re right, Sweetie. I’ve added a photo of the biodegradable plastic bags to the blog post above and edited the text slightly.

    April 26, 2012

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