Stinky Kitchen Scraps

Here is a question from Charity:

I’m starting a worm compost bin. I haven’t even added the
worms yet, and my fiance is already complaining that compost smells
and he doesn’t want me to do this. I’ve read about your kitchen scraps
and wondered if you had a way to keep them from smelling up the house
before you add them to the bin. Can I refrigerate them and then let
them sit out for a day or two before I put them in the bin with the
worms? Right now I just have the bedding and food scraps I already
collected sitting in the bin outside and they don’t smell, but he
isn’t convinced that this is a good idea. I’m trying to recycle and
teach our 3 kids to be environmentally responsible, I just don’t want
him to be mad about it.

Hi Charity,
Great question! I can assure you that you are NOT alone in terms of having a less-than-enthusiastic spouse. My wife has certainly be very supportive (especially considering the entirely new levels of “crazy” I’ve managed to take my worm composting efforts to), but we’ve still had some run-ins over the years. Invariably, it has something to do with fruit flies (and or gnats) or stinky food scrap storage. haha

There are a number of possible solutions. For starters, if you do plan to let scraps sit at room temperature, it is really important to make sure they get mixed with some “bedding” as well. I tend to laugh at these kitchen scrap holders with the fancy carbon filters etc. The way I see it – if people simply stored their scraps properly, there is a good chance they wouldn’t need filters at all (and who wants to empty a nasty bucket of slimy wastes anwway?). That being said – perhaps in your case, if you combined one of these fancy holders with my bedding recommendations you could demonstrate to your husband that he really has nothing to worry about.

Likely the most important place to put your bedding is at the bottom of the container. This “false bottom” helps to encourage air flow down at the bottom, and it soaks up excess moisture – plus it makes it nice and easy to dump everything out.

I’m not saying that regular (room temperature) storage is always going to be the perfect solution (even when done as described) – some food materials just tend to break down more quickly and/or stink more than others.
One example seems to be members of the broccoli family (cabbage, broccoli, kale etc) – once these materials start to go, no amount of bedding is going to prevent your nose from detecting it (well ok – if you absolutely buried them in peat moss it probably would do the trick – haha). I’ve cut numerous aging sessions short for exactly this reason.

Freezing is an excellent option, and it serves the double benefit of helping to start the structural breakdown of the waste materials, thus making them more microbe-friendly. If you happen to have a big freezer with lots of space, it can also be a good way to stockpile excess wastes (no use overfeeding your bin, or tossing them in the regular garbage!). Perhaps the wastes could then be thawed outside in some sort of scrap holder.
What I’ve been doing as of late is creating giant scrap holders in plastic garbage cans outside – once I have enough ‘stuff’ in there (bedding + food waste) I make a batch of “Homemade Manure“). These bins can definitely get a bit gamey during warm weather though, so you might not want to try this if your husband spends a fair amount of time outside.

The fridge is an decent option – but in my mind it would only really work if you had a second fridge. I don’t think having heaps of “garbage” in their face every time the fridge is opened will help on the spousal unrest front! I get enough heat just from leaving regular produce in the fridge for too long – I can only imagine what my wife would say if she actually saw bags of rotting food waste in there! (I currently have little tubs with worm cocoons in them – but I won’t tell if you don’t! lol).

Bottom-line, Charity – if your fiance is open-minded enough to at least allow you a trial period to demonstrate that it’s not as bad as he thinks, you should be able to win him over. This is especially true if you manage to get some worm compost produced and can show him the benefits of adding it to the garden etc.

One other quick thought – this may not apply to your particular situation, but in some cases the simplest solution can be to start up a “regular” backyard composter with composting worms. Most significant others will be able to wrap their minds around the idea of using one of these systems (“garbage, worms and critters should stay outside where they belong” according to many) – and once they see what a system like this can do, perhaps they will be more open to the idea of having a smaller indoor bin as well.

Anyway – I hope this helps some!
Good luck!

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    • Anna
    • May 22, 2010

    My husband is also not a worm fan but does tolerate them in our garage. We have an insulated cabinet that hold my bins from late fall through late spring. Then I move them outdoors in the summer. When it gets really cold in the winter, I put a small heating pad between the bins and this has been sufficient to keep the bins within acceptable temperature ranges. So far this has kept the peace in our household :).

    • LARRY D.
    • May 22, 2010

    Hey charity,maybe you can ask him to make something for you to do this.You may get him interested.Give it a try.He may surprise you.

    • John Duffy
    • May 23, 2010

    Hey Charity,
    Spousal support can be a tricky issue when venturing into the realm of vermicomposting. My wife absolutely HATES snakes #1, Worms #2 (because they remind her of snakes) Irrational to us worm heads but, in the interest of domestic harmony, we all have to make a few concessions. My wife ( to my great surprise) actually let me keep my worm tower in our front bathroom from January to March until it warmed-up enough to move my little friends to the garage. I would suggest moving your worm bin outside if temps permit and/or getting some more worms to quickly dispatch your wastes before they have a chance to stink…At any rate, welcome to the wonderful world of vermicomposting. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Bentley is a wealth of great information and his sense of humor should fit in well with any worm challenges you might face.

  1. Hi Charity,
    Letty was skeptical at first but, she is very supportive. Over the winter, I think we had 4 Bait o Matics and a 36 gallon Bait o Matic in our HOUSE! I think she was won over because she would got involved by me sharing results with her (and her plants were the envy of our street).
    It was actually her idea to move half of the herd in the house this past winter and she picked out the bins, I suspect she wanted to pick the color of the bin to match the curtains.

    • Steve K
    • May 25, 2010

    I agree with Bentley that the fancy food scrap containers are more than you need (bioplastic liners are crazy overkill). However, I also understand that my wife likes order in the house, and she voiced concerns about stinkiness, so I ordered one of these “crocs”. Like you, I am new to vermicomposting, but I follow Bentley’s rules (bedding = good), and about a month into it, everything smells like damp soil, if anything. The food scrap container doesn’t smell anyway, but I think the charcoal filter helps create a barrier in my wife’s mind, so I just go with it. Incidentally, based on others’ comments, I suggest getting a metal croc, over a stoneware one.

    If you are interested, here is a link to the one I have:

    • littychic
    • May 26, 2010


    My husband is pretty relaxed about my whole worm bin in the house thing (even with the fungus gnat infestation) — I’m the one who can’t stand having smelly kitchen scraps. Here’s the method I’ve developed to support my worm bin habit without the stink (and it cuts down on bugs).

    We have two kitchen scrap receptacles by the sink: one is a small metal compost bucket with a filter that we use to collect the kitchen waste that can’t go in the worm bin (citrus, starches, etc) — these go to the backyard compost pile once a week, and so don’t have time to get stinky. The second receptacle is a metal canister with a clear lid that latches closed — this holds the scraps headed for the worms.

    Once the worms’ scraps accumulate a bit, but are NOT yet rotting, I put them into a plastic snap-lock container and stick them in the freezer. I usually have one or two of these containers in the freezer at all times — each holds about 3 cups of scraps. When needed, I thaw a container on the counter overnight, pour off the liquid, and add the thawed scraps to the worm bin. This has eliminated that putrid smell that used to come from the scraps when I would just let them rot a bit before feeding — and freezing the scraps helps break them down for the worms. Bonus: freezing the scraps kills any insect eggs or larvae that might be hiding out.

    Big tip: label the containers you dedicate for worm bin scraps. Saves on confusion in a crowded freezer.

    • Steve K
    • May 27, 2010


    Thanks for mentioning that bit about pouring off the liquid. I am a newbie, and I have just started with freeze/thawing my scraps. This seems to be working so far, but I was a little surprised by all the liquid that came off my first batch, which included cucumber and broccoli. I poured off what I could, but I was surprised by how much water was still in there, so I also added some dry cardboard scraps to try and soak it up. Also, as BC has pointed out, the broccoli made my bin a little stinky for a couple of days (like broccoli, not like an anaerobic mess). Additional dry bedding helped a lot.

    • Steve K
    • May 27, 2010

    sorry, meant to put in your name in the thank you, littlychic

    • Chris C
    • May 27, 2010

    I’m single so can’t really give advice on that aspect. But I can give the approach that I’ve landed on.

    I’m a vegetarian and cook probably more than the average single guy so end up producing quite a bit of veggie waste. I then keep usually two different bags of scraps in old plastic grocery bags that I use over and over. One is full of “stock friendly” scraps like mushroom stems, squash peels, corn cobs, really anything with a mellow flavor that I can use to make veggie stock. Then the second bag is for stuff that doesn’t seem like it would make good stock like asparagus stems (bitter), onion peels, etc…

    Both bags live in the freezer until they get fullish. I take the frozen stock scraps and put them in a pot and cover them with water and simmer them for an hour with a little salt and some whole peppercorns or whatever strikes my fancy. Then I strain out the very nice veggie stock through some cheesecloth and let the scraps cool a bit, then add them to one of my bins (along with the cheesecloth). It tends to be a good bit of waste so if you’re not careful you will get bugs. Bit if you make sure to cover the scraps with either finished worm poo or dry soil it should help with that.

    The non scrap bag just lives in the freezer until I’m feeling motivated and I just dump them frozen into my bin. I usually try to do it during a warmish day so the scraps thaw faster. Again covering with soil or worm poo will help with bugs.

    This is what I do to get the most out of everything I use. Since the scrap bags live in the freezer they never really get gross. I’ve had the under-the-sink slop buckets before and while I’m not squeamish they get really nasty and are not fun to deal with.


  2. Hi Charity,

    I hope you can convice your fiance to support you. After all what you are doing is good and responsible recycling. returning to the earth organic matter that has come from the earth. Lets take a look at the alternative. Food waste left to rot in a bin at your place for about a week, perhaps wrapped in plastic, then collected and taken to the tip where it becomes mixed with other non organic waste to create a cocktail of posion leaching down to the water table. Now thats PUTRID.

    I have a small scrap container which sits on the bottom shelf of my fridge. I guess if you cant bare to look at the scaps then get a colored container. It has a lid on it, and is emptied to the worms about twice a week, no smells involved. If you have the right quantiy of worms they will process this in 48hrs. I just cant see the argument?

    anyway i hope you stay with it.


  3. We actually freeze any leftover scraps if we’re worried about over-feeding. For the weeks we don’t have a lot of scraps, we take out one of the frozen bags. It sits on the counter in a bowl for a day or two…whenever it’s no longer cold and we get around to it.

    In the short term, it won’t smell if you put it in a zipper bag or sealed container in the fridge.

    • pam
    • July 3, 2010

    I had some nightcrawlers left over from a recent fishing trip (I found it difficult to use live bait on my hooks), so I started up a compost bin with them. Some of them were half dead when I put them in, but did start to perk up a little, though they are still a little lethargic. Is there anything I could add to the bin that would help them recover more quickly, or should I just be patient?

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