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Making a Compost Bin With a Plastic Garbage Can

I was wondering how to make a compost bin out of a trash can.

By texasangel from TX


Making a Compost Bin With a Plastic Garbage Can


I made one from a garbage can and found it to be unwieldy and hard to use. I then used the 18-20 gallon storage bin containers and it was much easier to handle. I just poked several holes all around the side and bottom of the container. Then compost away. It was easy for me to turn the bin over (hard to roll a garbage can, lid kept coming off) and shift it every other day or so. It made beautiful compost, too. (10/29/2009)

By HalfWhit

Making a Compost Bin With a Plastic Garbage Can

We love both of our compost bins made from garbage cans. They work, they're cheap, and were very easy to make and use.

All we did was start with a really big garbage can; it does need to be big enough to hold enough compost to "cook". I think the critical mass is about a cubic yard, but it's worth double checking me on that. We drilled holes all around the can, including the lid, stopping a couple inches from the bottom. We didn't drill holes in the bottom, because we didn't want drainage to dry our compost out too quickly.

Then we just started adding kitchen scraps (no meat or bones), shredded junk mail, and some yard waste, keeping it balanced. There's lots of good information about what to put in your compost in what proportions, so I won't repeat that here. Do remember the odd bits of garbage from your house that are compostable, too, like the hair from cleaning your brush and your laundry lint. Keep the compost in the bin about as wet as a wrung-out sponge.

When the first can was full, we tied the lid on securely and tipped it over on its side. Then, every day when we took out the kitchen compost to the second can, we also kicked the first can gently to turn it over a time or two. This was enough to keep the cooking compost turned, and almost no work. (My teenagers even thought it was kind of fun.)


We checked the compost in the first can every month or so, and it turned into garden soil sooner or later; I don't remember exactly how long it took, but it apparently depends on the temperature outdoors anyway, so yours might take more or less time.

Our first can was a metal can, because when we bought it I still hadn't found out if plastic would work. The second is a larger black plastic can. It's huge, and I think it will work even better. The black color may help it get some extra heat from the sun when the weather's not otherwise warm enough for the compost to cook. It cost us $20 at Wal-Mart. The metal one was about the same price, but we had to go to Lowe's to get it, and it's not as big.

Another advantage we found to using the cans is that we don't have to worry about animals getting in; they close securely and are quite stable once they start filling up. This means, for example, that we've had no problem dumping cooked food scraps in the compost. We've still kept meat and bones out, but almost anything else is fair game. (There's no dairy, but that's due to a household allergy, not a compost need.) We do tear or shred paper and yard waste before adding it, though.

I hope this helps. (10/30/2009)

By sterghe

Making a Compost Bin With a Plastic Garbage Can

I just noticed something about HalfWhit's post that had a good point, and wanted to address it more clearly.

Our garbage can compost bin is easy to turn because we tied the lid on securely. To do this, we ran twine through the holes on the can and lid, and through the handles, and tied it tightly. If needed, you could even "sew" it on using the holes, although we weren't actually that tidy about it. Tying the lid on tightly makes all the difference. (10/30/2009)

By sterghe

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June 10, 20170 found this helpful

I use two bungee cords criss-crossed over the lid. Works fine.

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