Can you use a regular trash can for composting?
Or should you buy a compost trash can instead?
What’s the best way to make compost in a trash can?
In this article, we’ll give you a quick rundown of the steps you can take to make a composter out of a trash can. Although this type of DIY project may not be as classy or sophisticated as a store-bought composter, it can work just as well with a little effort.
If you’re looking for a way to compost affordably without having to buy a specialized machine or tumbler for the job, this project may be just what you need. It only takes about an hour to complete, and it’s easy to maintain as well, so it’s great for beginners!
Read on to learn more about converting a trash can into a composting bin.
JUMP TO A SECTION:
This list of materials can help you get started making your compost bin. Although there is some flexibility with these materials, they can give you a solid framework idea of where to begin.
- Plastic trash can with a lid that secures tightly
- Several bricks or cinder blocks
- Drill and ½-inch bit
- Bungee cord
- Brown and green materials for composting
Step by Step Instructions
In this section, we’ll show you a list of steps you can take to make your own composter out of a trash can. This offer won’t take long for you to complete this task, and you can even get the kids involved in some of the steps (as long as an adult manages the drill)!
1. Turn the trash can over and drill several holes on the bottom to allow air to get inside. These holes houldn’t be too big, so the pieces of the compost can’t fall through. They should just be big enough to allow air to circulate inside and make it easier for the compost pile to stay alive and thriving.
2. Add a few extra holes on the sides of the trash can. You don’t necessarily have to put holes all the way up the sides of the trash can. If you prefer, you can focus on the bottom half of the can and add holes in this area instead. Stick to the same rules from step one and make sure the holes aren’t too large in this area, either.
3. Add a layer of brown materials into the bottom of the trash can. Dry, dead leaves or twigs are a great start for brown materials, and many lawns are often full of them. These materials are one half of the crucial setup for your compost pile, and they’re an integral part of the decomposition process as well.
4. Top with an even layer of green materials. Green materials may be lawn trimmings, healthy plant cuttings (not weeds), coffee grounds, or fruit and vegetable peels and leftovers. Whichever materials you choose to use for your green layer, make sure you keep this as even as possible with the brown layer. You are looking for a 50/50 ratio, which you should stick to throughout the life of your compost.
5. Sprinkle with water just until the materials are slightly moist, but not wet. Too much water will kill off the compost before it ever has a chance to get started. Not enough water will keep the compost from breaking down at all. This choice can take a little effort to get the right amount of water on your compost pile.
6. Attach the lid. The lid should snap on into place secure so predators and unwanted insects can’t get into the compost. However, not all garbage cans have a secure, snapping lid that can prevent a determined raccoon (or even the family dog) from finding its way into the trash.
7. Use the bungee cords to keep the lid on even more tightly. This step will make it that much more difficult for unwanted pests to get into your garbage bin. This is also an important method of preventing the lid from coming off when you turn your compost. Bungee cords are the best solution, but you are welcome to use any type of rope or other securing material for this step.
8. Roll the trash can to combine the materials inside. Rolling the trash can around the yard may feel a little silly, but it is the easiest and most convenient way to mix your garbage can compost without having to take the lid off and stir it.
- Of course, you can stir it instead if you prefer. Use a shovel to turn the compost if you don’t want to roll it around, but take care not to knock the can over and spill the contents as you do so.
9. Set the can on top of the bricks or cinder blocks to allow airflow beneath the can. Airflow is crucial and keeps the healthy bacteria alive and strong within the compost pile. When you don’t have enough air, only bad bacteria will grow, and your compost will fail (and smell terribly, too).
10. Once or twice a week, roll the trash can to mix the compost, and double-check to be sure it doesn’t need to be watered again. This is the maintenance part of the composting process, and it’s important no matter what type of bin you end up using. Rolling your trash can around weekly may seem like a hassle, but it will keep your compost thriving.
11. Once the compost begins to break down, you can start adding more materials regularly. Add them from your family’s household waste, and stick to fruit and vegetable waste at first to ensure you have a healthy and functional compost pile. From there, you can add more complicated waste, like cardboard, paper towels, and eggshells.
So what do you think? Are you ready to get started on this project? Or are you still unsure as to whether or not it’s right for you?
Here are a few reasons why you might want to convert a trash can instead of using a different type of composter:
- This option is a lot more affordable than buying an expensive setup, especially if you’re new to composting.
- It doesn’t cost much to replace any broken or damaged pieces of a DIY trash can composter like this.
- This type of compost solution doesn’t take up a lot of space in your backyard.
And here are a few reasons why this option may not always work for everyone:
- Some households need larger options with more functions in order to process the amount of waste they have. On the other hand, some households only need countertop or indoor compost solutions.
- Some individuals may not physically be able to roll around a garbage can in order to mix their compost.
- Sometimes, HOAs and other local ordinances may rule that you cannot have a compost bin made out of a trash can. This shouldn’t be an issue as long as the trash can is not obtrusive and doesn’t smell too badly, but some places are stricter than others about this.
The choice is up to you. When you want to get started composting, no solution is the wrong solution!