A number of my clients now collect compostable materials, either for their own outdoor composting, or for city curbside collection bins. While a home recycling station might include a compost collection section, that's far from the only way to go.
If you're designing a kitchen, you may want to consider having something like the BLANCO SOLON compost system built into the countertop. Shannon Del Vecchio, an interior designer, LEED AP, says that "this useful feature is well on its way to becoming standard issue for new kitchens and renovations in the [San Francisco] Bay Area."
But there are also interesting designs for end-users who don't have the built-in option. The OXO compost bin follows the common approach of not being airtight, to avoid anaerobic conditions and the resultant odors. The lid detaches for easy emptying when the bin is taken outdoors. This bin is designed to be used without a liner; all parts are dishwasher-safe.
One way to control the odor (and the flies) is to freeze the compostable scraps. Scrap Happy from Full Circle, made of flexible silicone, has a wire rim to attach to a drawer, so end users can easily push scraps into the bin. It then goes into the freezer until it's time to use it again—or empty it, by pushing on the bottom. Again, this is a dishwasher-safe product.
However, if the compost collector is not going into the freezer, how do you design a bin that allows for air flow and still keeps fruit flies out? This Sure-Close kitchen container addresses the issue by using a tight-fitting lid with tiny perforations. More nice features: There are multiple grips designed to make it easy to carry and empty. And the lid has positive stops, so it can stay open at a 90-degree angle rather than just flopping all the way back.
The Full Circle Fresh Air compost collector takes air flow one step further, with a "wind flume system" that allows air flow all around the container. However, this design requires the end user to use compostable bags; going bag-less is not an option. Because the bags will start degrading when they come in contact with food waste, they will usually need to be replaced every three to five days.
The Kitchen Cone is designed to be used with newspaper as the liner. With this approach, end users who still get a newspaper don't need to buy any additional liners; that will appeal to green sensibilities, and will also save money. It's also an odor-reducing technique. Designer Ross Cowie explains that liquids absorb into the paper and then evaporate, leaving behind dry food—which doesn't smell.
The Kitchen Cone is dishwasher-safe, and comes with a hanger and screws for cabinet door mounting. (Note that door mounting can sometimes be problematic, because of the weight of compost materials; it may be less of an issue if liquids have evaporated.)
Another way odor can be controlled is with the use of a simple filter; the Chef'n EcoCrock Compost Bin uses an easy-to-replace charcoal filter. This is a ceramic bin with an inner plastic bucket—the plastic being easier to empty (as it's less heavy) and to clean.
For end-users who want to hide the compost collector on the back of a cabinet door, the Kitchen Compost Caddy (warning: auto-play video) has some nice design features. For those who prefer to use compostable liner bags rather than going liner-less, there's an optional storage shelf to hold those bags. The caddy itself is supported both on the top and the bottom, minimizing the problem of hanging a bin that can get a bit heavy. Because cabinet door sizes vary, the mounting brackets come in 11 different sizes; the bracket is intended to attach to the thick outer frame of the cabinet door. The bucket itself has a ventilated lid with a carbon filter.
The Green Cycler is a compost bin with a shredder, to help jump-start the composting process. This is a manual shredder with a crank arm, and the blades aren't sharp—it seems like something kids would enjoy using. There are four suction cups to keep the Green Cycler firmly in place.
On the odor-control front, the Green Cycler uses filters made from volcanic rock, which the company says are 1,500 times more absorbent than activated charcoal; the filters can also be recharged by leaving them in the sun for eight hours. The drawer where scraps accumulate has grooves in the bottom, to help keep liquids separate from the solid scraps, avoiding a "molding mess."