How to Compost in Paris

If you thought the real estate market in Paris was competitive, you haven't seen the community compost waitlists. Soho House is less exclusive. There's too much demand, not enough help, and not enough to go around- which is why we see community composts in the capital shut down (usually because they've exploded with citrus peels) from time to time. You can't be zero waste without composting, but Paris doesn't have citywide programs like Neuilly or other suburbs (free composters or vermicomposters from the mairie, free pickup). Not everyone has the luxury of having a yard, balcony, or garden. I didn't have any of those things when I first moved, and I was so worried about composting, my stress reached a level not experienced since the time I showed up late to a Bethenny Frankel signing of Skinny Girl Margaritas at my local Giant Eagle. So what's an apartment dweller to do?

  • If you're lucky enough to get in with a community compost, save scraps in any old container, in the freezer, or cold compost with a blender. Freezing scraps means no smell, and freezing / dethawing or blending scraps helps them decompose faster. I couldn't sign up for a community compost, so I looked into gardens in the area and asked if I could contribute to the compost bin. Since they needed help with turning and maintenance, they said yes. I used an old glass jar for storage and transport and dumped my scraps on my daily commute. Some prefer transporting compost in a sealed bucket, stainless steel tiffin, or even reusing a plastic bag. Community composts can't normally handle meat or dairy, and worms don't like citrus, so eat vegan and candy your citrus peels, is my advice :) The City of Paris will institute additional composts if you petition your neighbors and secure a location along with the landlord's permission, then submit the paperwork to your local mairie.
  • Vermicompost. This is the best and most thorough how-to for vermicomposting. Cats will eat worms unless you have a lockable bin, though. Worms sometimes escape, especially if the compost is too wet, there are too many bleached materials, or too much acid in the mix. They don't like light or too many vibrations, and if you overfeed them lettuce or tomatoes, they get restless. Cutting scraps into small pieces helps. This also reduces the risk of attracting flies or ants.
  • Bokashi / anaerobic composting. Here, here, and here are excellent posts on anaerobic composting, which I think is best for small apartments. It doesn't attract pests and isn't as easy to mess up as a lombricompost; use something heavy to weigh down and press the layers together, eliminating air. The resulting mixture isn't finished, so if you don't have plants or a small garden, get a big pot to layer the composter contents with soil. Keep it in the cave or courtyard if you have to, then Freecycle the soil or give it to a friend with a yard. Try donating the contents to nearby gardens or parks- it's enriching, although local authorities might not see it that way. I know many love Nature Mill or All Seasons composters, and don't run into the problems listed in unfavorable reviews as long as there aren't too many meat scraps and bones. To help bones break down, layer lots of citrus peels directly on top.
  • Balcony composting. The easiest method, not so good for worms because ants can eat them. I compost citrus peels, my hair, and cat fur and it's fine- in fact, citrus peels deter pests. I never have enough browns though. As long as you turn it and keep a good ratio, it won't smell. Don't put too much wood in there, or anything with too much lignin, such as biodegradable disposables. They take forever to break down, though when they do, the lignin makes for some really rich soil. Bananas do well in this type of compost.

If composting just isn't an option, reduce your food scraps. Regrow foods or reuse and make something from them. I once went through a phase where I wasn't buying butternut squash (only acorns, and I ate the peel) because I didn't know what to do with the shell, which takes awhile to decompose. You don't have to be that extreme, but there are certain beans I buy because I can fry and eat the skins (fava) and fruits I always eat whole, like strawberries with their leaves, or apple cores and stems.

Paris to Go


  1. Hi Ariana,

    Thank you for the time you put into this blog. It's an excellent guide. A bit unrelated to this post, but would love if you did a post about how you sell your items when you are culling. Donating and recycling is easier to find out, but selling is a bit more challenging.


    1. Hi, thank you so much! I'll start on that post now because that's a question I get a lot. Great idea!

  2. Hi Ariana, what type of container do you use for your compost?

    1. Hi Tamara just an old trash can with some holes for drainage. Before I used some wire (to keep animals out) and scrap wood. Some people just use buckets! The balcony compost is really simple and doesn't require much.