The most frequent question we get by far, is ... won't this attract bears?
The short answer is maybe, but there are several steps you can take to minimize that chance. Our natural resources are dwindling, methane gases are continuously released from landfills, and bears or no bears, better management of organic waste is CRITICAL to our future on this planet.
Before we get into the steps that you can take to minimize wildlife issues, let's get one thing out of the way. Very few things are bear-proof. If a bear wants inside your compost bin, your car, or even your house, bad enough, they will find a way. Within our first 3 days in Bailey, a bear pushed in our garage door in search of a trash bag left behind by the previous owner. (There is some disagreement at home about whether it was a bear OR Sasquatch, but due to lack of evidence, we're going with bear ... for now ; )
So what can you do to be conscious of our local wildlife while still composting your food scraps?
Keep the following OUT of your compost bin: NO Meat, bones, dairy, oils, pastas, and breads. These items will increase the odor significantly and the animals will come running! Stick to vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds & filters, tea leaves and tea bags, paper towels and tubes, etc.. Feel free to reach out if you're unsure. We're here to help!
Ensure you have enough carbon-rich "brown" materials such as paper towels, cardboard toilet paper and paper towel tubes, newspaper, shredded cardboard, dry leaves, pine needles, etc... Without these, your pile will have too much nitrogen-rich "green" materials, slowing the process, producing slimy contents, and increasing odors. For cardboard, ensure it's shredded into small pieces or it will break down slowly and may block airflow within your compost bin. Crumple newspaper into balls, which will create air pockets for the microbes.
Keep your compost bin far away from your trash containers, as trash cans are usually what draw in the bears. Some even go so far as to freeze their meat scraps, fats, bones, etc.. in order to minimize trash can odors prior to collection day.
Get an enclosed compost bin. While there are several ways to build a compost bin inexpensively using free (or nearly free) materials, the insulated and enclosed bins sold commercially provide an extra layer of defense against wildlife. We've had great results with Aerobins because they are fully enclosed from the lid to the base. The base even captures the liquid from your compost bin, allowing you to drain it away regularly to use as a liquid fertilizer (dillute 10:1, water:compost tea). Draining the liquid also serves to minimize odors.
Ensure the bin you select is insulated. This is crucial if you want to keep your compost cooking during the cold winter months. It also helps to speed up the composting process, which helps to drown the smell of fresh food scraps. Once your bin is established and cooking, the earthy smell of compost will overpower the odor from last nights salad. That doesn't happen so quickly if the same food scraps are tossed on top of an open-air compost pile.
Place your bin near your home. Not only does this make it much more likely that your food scraps will get tossed inside because of the convenience factor, it also makes it less likely that wildlife will come in to investigate, especially if the rest of the steps are followed.
A committed bear is going to do just about whatever they please. However, by following the steps above, your composter will be less attractive than your trash can, and is less likely to destroyed. Bears will always be a concern in this area, just as the need for composting and sustainable waste management will always be a concern. We can't skip composting because of our local challenges. We continue to install home compost bins at households around the foothills, and we are grateful to the families that recognize that the need for sustainable living outweighs the threat of an animal encounter. There are no guarantees in life. We can't promise you that a bear won't make a mess of your compost pile some day. We can promise you that we'll all be in a much bigger mess if steps aren't taken to better manage our waste, preserve our natural resources, and promote sustainable living across the board.
If home composting isn't a good fit for you, please consider one of our many self-service Purple Bucket Exchange Stations as a way to compost your food scraps without the risk of a wildlife issue. With several locations between Bailey, Conifer, Evergreen, Marshdale, and Kittredge, there's a convenient location near you for only $15/month.
More info here: https://www.purplebucketcompost.com/plans-pricing
Thank you and Happy Composting!