How Indoor Automatic Composting Systems Work

Home Composting Basics

To understand how indoor automatic composting systems came to be, it's important to first get a sense of some outdoor home composting system basics. There are several large-scale approaches to outdoor composting, such as field, sheet and trench methods, but these are typically used in local communities or on a county or state level as an alternative to landfills.

When composting at home, you should begin by selecting a dry spot outdoors, ideally near a source of water. The size of the spot depends on how large of a pile you want to create or how big of a bin you want to use. Regardless, once the location is determined, the basic ingredients needed are the same:

  • Brown materials (such as broken branches and dry leaves) provide carbon
  • Green materials (such as vegetable and fruit scraps, grass, coffee grounds) provide nitrogen
  • Water helps the materials break down

[source: EPA: Compost]

One method is to mix the brown and green materials simultaneously while making sure to moisten anything that's dry, then covering it up with a tarp once complete. Another approach is to layer the ingredients starting with a 6-inch heap of the brown materials, followed by 3-inch layers of green then brown, and mix the pile around about once a week.

It can be anywhere from a month or to as long as a year or two before the compost is ready to be used. The time depends on a few factors, including:

  • Size of pile or bin at onset
  • How often new ingredients are added to the mix
  • Frequency of turns (usually done with a pitchfork or shovel), which helps the microorganisms break down the material

Once you have the basics of manual home composting down, it may be easy to understand why the automated method was created. Read on to find out what's involved in these systems.