DIY Trash Can Compost Bin

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been wanting to start a compost bin. It was on my list of goals to complete this year and I’m excited to announce I have finally started one!

Since we’ve been slowly getting our garden together (check out my tutorials on raised garden beds and egg carton gardens), it only made sense to start a compost bin.

We don’t really have much of a dispensable income so I had to be creative and think of something we could make with the supplies we had on hand.  Plus, it’s always fun being crafty!

I bribed my father-in-law to let me have one of his, ahem, many trash cans. He was hesitant at first but I assured him I knew what I was doing. I didn’t lie to him, I just stretched the truth a little… Lucky for me, I was able to dictate the instructions well and we created an awesome bin — although it’s a pretty fool-proof design. He kept saying that real farmers just have piles and they don’t use bins of any sort. I told him I’m the new-age, urban farmer with zero experience. Comforting right? I find I’m relying more on instinct to get me through my gardening decisions here lately.

This compost bin is ridiculously easy to make and it takes 10 minutes, tops. If you don’t have extra trash cans laying around, you can get one for pretty inexpensive at the store. You could also search Craigslist for trash cans — people will sell anything.

If you are having problems/doubts determining which things you can or cannot compost here is a fantastic (and my favorite) article to give you a little boost of confidence. It’s truly amazing how much waste we can reduce by simply re-purposing our everyday household waste.


My Experience Composting So Far

We’ve been composting for a little over a week and just recently started to notice a smell. There were more food scraps (nitrogen) than brown material like leaves, soil (carbon) so we added some dried up seaweed from the lake and it made the smell go away almost instantly. The concept is simple: If you begin to smell an odor, chances are you need a little bit more of carbon or nitrogen to the pile. Balance is everything.

I’ve also made a point to shred, chop and process as much of the food scraps that go into the bin. The reason I do this is because I’m impatient and want compost as quick as I can get it. By making the pieces as small as you can get them, it speeds up the decomposition process and gets you compost sooner than if you were just throwing scraps in without thought.

Concoction: egg shells, leek tops, avocado skin and some butternut squash skin

Since I use my food processor on a daily basis, I make it a habit to shred whatever is in our “slop” pile (although this would really chop things up more efficiently).

For our “slop” container, we use a recycled coffee container my mother-in-law got from her work and keep it under the kitchen sink. Our family uses this container so we don’t have to go outside every single time we have scraps that need to be thrown in the bin. That would get annoying, very quickly.

If you want something a little cuter than a recycled Folger’s coffee container, THIS would make a great slop bin.


DIY Trash Can Compost Bin

What You Need

  • trash can with lid
  • drill

Turn your trash can upside down and drill holes, spaced about 1-2 inches apart, alongside the bottom

On the sides of the trash can (yes, I am aware that round objects don’t have sides) drill about 15-20 holes. I, well, my FIL drilled four sets along the outside of the can. I think the more aeration the compost can get, the better.

Drill a few holes on the top of the bin as well

Voila! You’ve got your very own compost bin!  Just remember to stick a shovel in there at least once a week and move things around.

Do you have your own compost bin? What do you scrap most?

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  1. We composted all of our kitchen food scraps for a few months in the “heap” method. It really cut back on our trash and felt good not sending so much to the ‘away place’ where trash goes. The pile ended up getting crazy infested with bugs and so we stopped. I think your method of shredding and keeping an enclosed container outside is a great way to compost. You may inspire us to start up again.

    1. Oh yeah, infested with bugs would definitely hinder my desire to want to keep composting. We haven’t had any issues with bugs yet so I definitely recommend trying this out!

      1. Did this but garbage can had wheels. ADVANTAGEOUS! I filled the can up immediately with fall leaves in October and once a month dump a collection of coffee grinds on top. Afterwards I wheel the can back-n-forth(2 feet) and even tilt it almost to the ground(w/lid on tight). I only do this 2 times and the collection of grounds disappears deep within the leaves. Works wonderfully! As not to attract wildlife I have only fall leaves(92%), coffee grounds(7%) and bark(1%). I wonder if this combo will compost?!

          1. Coffee grounds are actually considered to be “green” when it comes to compost, as they are high in nitrogen. 😉

    2. We would have bugs in our pile as well but we let our chickens farage there. They keep the bug population under control and they break up and turn the pile over for us. plus they get to eat bugs so they are ecstatic about it.

    3. Get some Beneficial nematodes. They kill all types of ground based insects and keep them out of your compost, yard, and garden without harming your pets. They will even take out ants 😉

  2. When it gets full, tape the lid shut. Turn it on its side and roll it to mix your compost. The more often you mix it, the faster it will break down. The black is great! It keeps it nice and hot in there!. Moving your bin will prevent ants from moving in.

  3. I am wondering, what about you somehow securing the top and turning the can on it’s side and rolling it around a bit” My idea has always been to have some sort of rollers to put the can on and just roll, I mean the rollers are side by side made stable somehow and lay the can on it and just roll back and forth. At this stage in my life, I am 77, I would just turn it over on it’s side and just push it back and forth with my foot.

  4. A good way to keep ants out would be to place a fine line of Vaseline around the bottom of the can. That way, the ants cannot crawl up the sides! Works for dogs bowls also

    1. Great tip! So far we haven’t had any bug issues but I will keep that in mind if we ever do. Thank you Linda.

  5. We got our composter here : it has two chambers and sets up VERY easily. It was lots cheaper than elsewhere for the same thing, I saw it on another site for $150~~ too much! I like it because I have a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis, and it is easy for me to manipulate. We still don’t have the first side filled because it keeps breaking down so fast that it never fills up!! We did have a little too much water in it so had to add some old newspaper. A good article about what can be composed can be found here: and a funnier list is here :

  6. My one question that comes to mind – what happens if you compost and its winter – how do you handle this – I live in Ohio and jan/feb is the coldest (or use to be) always changing..
    Do you put worms in the compost to help things along –

    1. Hi Jennifer!
      I live in Canada & I’m wondering the same thing, I did do a compost all summer somewhat the same pattern as Loriel & it work wonders as I spread it about 2 weeks ago. I’m adding another bin same as Loriel but my concern is how to have the worm 🐛 inside since it’s really cold out.

  7. Remember not all bugs are bad. I always thought dirt was just that…dirt. Composting was a radical thought, but somehow I thought material broke down into, well, just dirt. (I am naive by nature.) I read a book that turned my understanding of soil on its ear. “Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web” by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis. Food web on big animal scale we all learn in school. Affectively the same thinking can be reduced. And amazingly, just like people there are good bugs and bad bugs and smaller stuff for healthy soil. While infestation is bad, the presence of bugs does not to me sound inherently bad but possibly good.

    Worms can help but they need to be kept warm. In Ohio at -21F, this could prove problematic so my friends compost in 5 gallon buckets in their basement. Another friend wraps their barrel with heating wire? coil? to maintain a safe environment. Personally I just live with the fact that the scraps are not composting as fast in the winter as they are in the summer. Thank you for letting me share. Signed: Bored and snowed in.

    1. Thank YOU for sharing! I am always looking to learn more and I appreciate your feedback! Stay warm!

  8. I’ve been wanting to compost but I live in an urban area and even the back of the back yard is only 50 feet from my home (gonna cram a garden in there anyway). The contained compost bin will keep out the local stray animals as well as a raging and persistent gang of raccoons we have. (haha) Also, will help me avoid complaints from neighbors. It’s weird – they would think a compost pile is unsanitary but don’t think twice about the garbage they eagerly pump into their bodies with the food selection in our neighborhood stores.

    1. LOL yes, it will definitely keep the gang of raccoons away! Or at least, it will be contained and they won’t be able to get in there. They still may smell it because of the holes in the bin. People are just scared of things that are not familiar to them!

  9. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
    Very helpful info specially the last part 🙂 I care for such information much.
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    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?

    1. Unfortunately, I do not have control over that. The only way to do so is by moderating all my comments throughout the entire blog, not just this specific post.

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  12. This is a neat DIY project but I’d encourage people to look up the basic info on how to compost to really get good compost out of it. You can get a basic good understanding in ten minutes on a basic site like Mother Earth News. You want to seek out a ratio of about equal parts “green” stuff (fresh fruit and veggie scraps, grass clippings, pulled weeds, etc.) to “brown” stuff (dried leaves, shredded paper, etc.) and you want to add in some of your garden soil to inoculate it with lots of good organisms to help break it down. As someone mentioned, the bugs are helpful, but if you have a lot then it’s a sign you don’t have a good ratio of brown to green and you’re not turning it enough. A good compost pile creates enough heat that bugs can’t just set up shop in there (even in winter, it often steams in the cold if you’re still turning and adding!).

    Our family of 7 creates so much compost that we keep a 5 gallon pail in the kitchen. We cook with a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, so we fill it up every few days and keep composting in winter here in Minnesota. We just dump it in a pile in one of the raised beds in the garden and periodically cover it with another layer of straw to keep it from getting stinky or ugly looking. Now that it’s warming up I’m adding in soil, letting the piles cook for a bit and then I’ll start turning them and amending them with lots of fall leaves to get them ready for summer planting (I’ll do spring planting in other beds and garden spots to give those piles time to cook).

    I also have a compost ball, one of those giant plastic orbs with a lid and air holes that you are supposed to fill and roll around the yard to turn. It works fairly well but it gets so heavy that it’s really hard to roll and it leaks stinky compost tea out the holes on me when I do, which is another downside! And we create so much compost that I need multiple piles going at once since it takes a few months to work.

    I’m still learning lots too, but I thought I’d toss that out there in case it helped others. I love composting and how great it makes our soil (plus how much it helps the earth in other ways too!). 🙂

    1. I am new to gardening and inherited a large hoop house and outside garden. I have no clue how to compost, but like you 7-8 people in our home and we make so much compost! I started by getting the pile outside of the garden as we had so much animal activity. I have just been throwing it in a pile and turning it. The animals are still present, just not as much in the garden and they tend to pick through it. Can you direct me to some information on how to deal with large amounts and animals? Thanks

  13. I just drilled holes in an old black trash can today to start composting!
    I chopped up the veggie and fruit craps from earlier this week for the compost.
    Thanks for the great info and links.
    It seems the lid fits on the the handles snap up against the lid so rolling it would be a great way to mix it.

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  16. Hi! How big is the bin in the pics? Do you get the compost to heat up?

    I´ve recently started a 5 gal bin compost (2 weeks-turned twice/aeration and drain holes/kitchen scraps and garden material) hoping it would be “hot” compost (faster and “healthier”) and not cold.

    However, I haven´t noticed any heat so I I´ve been doing some more research I discovered it needs a lot more volume to actually heat up (around 3 cubic feet or 1 cubic meter). I will continue with the experimental stage and surely get a bigger bin later or try vermicompost.

    Any comments, suggestions, similar stories … but more importantly, any success stories (hot compost)?

  17. I stumbled across your website! I am glad I DID, You have a great idea there and the comments are great too, Vaseline around the bottom to keep ants out? I didn’t know that.

  18. How long will it take for the waste to decompose in the compost bin? I really need important information because we’re planning to do that one. Your prompt response would be highly appreciated. Thanks!

  19. Does an aluminum trash can work as well as a plastic can. I’d like not to use a petroleum based can if possible. Thanks, Dave.

  20. I am trying out the trash can compost bin today!!! I am a teacher leading a garden club during the pandemic because it is easy to meet outside in a socially distanced fashion with students. In January, I plan to have them begin their own garbage can compost bin. Then, eventually, we will remodel our open bin in the school garden. I will let you know how it is going. I really don’t want to use my food processor every day with my scraps, so I hope they can decompose on their own. I have 3 rabbits. So, now instead of throwing their valuable pellets in the trash, they will go into the compost! I just hope recycled newspaper pellets are also OK to decompose for compost because the rabbit pellets usually are mixed up in those which we use in their litter boxes.

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