Types of Compost Bins

In one of my most recent posts I discussed How to Compost in Your Backyard and recommended finding a bin that works best for you. We all live on different types of properties and live different lives. In order to have a successful composting experience, we need to find what bins work best for us.

You’ll notice how I label all of these as “low maintenance” but honestly it’s all what you make of it. I personally like to toss my food scraps and forget about it, so all of these options feel low maintenance to me.

Outdoor Bins

3-Bin Wire Composter

Best for: Long term, suburban/rural land, low maintenance, warmish zones

Pros: Low-maintenance. More accessible to aerobic bacteria so there’s lower need to turn. Has 3 bins so you can continuously work on your compost. Use one bin for collecting food and yard waste, the second to allow to decompose, and the third for finished compost that can be used. Wire Composters may be cheaper and can even be made at home using chicken wire.

Cons: Does not trap as much heat–may limit length of ‘composting season’. May attract some animals (so I try to keep food scraps in the middle). May emit more smells. Takes longer to decompose. Requires a yard. Needs to be turned often if you want quicker compost.

Even though there’s plenty of cons, I love the 3-bin wire composter because it’s great for longer term composting with minimal effort. However, living in 6b, the compost ended up completely freezing for the winter months. If you can afford to be patient, this compost bin is best for you!

If the 3-bin wire composter is too big or not cost effective, you can buy a single bin or make your own out of cage wire.

Tumblers

Best for: quicker compost, trapping smells, smaller yards

Pros: The tumbling capability allows compost to mix better and add air, leading to quicker decomposition. Traps heat well. Can fit in smaller yards or kept near the house without emitting smells. Easy to add waste. Compost decomposes quicker (within 4-8 weeks). Some even have two separate bins.

Cons: Comes with a price tag that may not be attractive to new, small, or budgeted gardeners. Quality of models vary, important you research your source. Cheaper models are not as durable and are more inclined to break. Also requires some work as you have to tumble it once a week to decompose in a desirable time range. Requires a yard.

Tumblers are great composting systems for anyone who wants to invest in a good, long term composter. Unlike the wire composter, you don’t have to wait several months or a year to reap the benefits.

3 Stage Compost Bin

Best for: Outdoor spaces, can keep close to the house, continuous use, low maintenance

Pros: Vented for air. Allows you to add food scraps to the top, allow compost to decompose in the middle, and collect completed compost at the bottom. Traps heat well. Has handle for turning. Keeps out animals. Bottom tray makes compost easy to remove. Space efficient.

Cons: Expensive (considering it’s only mechanical).

If you can afford this compost bin, I think it’s the best one you can get. It’s efficient for the space it takes up, gets the job done, and allows for continuous use.

Click image below to purchase

Indoor Bins

Indoor charcoal bins

Best for: no yard, containing smells, low-maintenance, holding compost indoors until you’re able to bring it to compost pile

Pros: Charcoal and air-tight lids trap smells, making this bin apartment friendly. Often come in different sizes and can be put anywhere. Allows you to toss your compost right where it’s going to decompose. Great for someone who wants to compost a little and has no other accessible resources to compost.

Cons: Still smells when you open it and you’ll still want to clean it from time to time (which isn’t apartment friendly). Also limits the amount of food scraps you can toss– so if you cook regularly and want to compost everything you can, you still need to find another place to throw your compost. Have to replace and purchase charcoal discs separately.

These are a great idea, but as someone who composts everything that’s compostable it’s still not functional. A single gallon container only holds the amount of food waste I produce in a week or two. So what do I do after that? Again, great for people who want to compost a little and have no other accessible resources to compost. I also think it’s perfect for people who have another source to compost and want to have something easy to hold their scraps until they’re able to get to that source.

If this bin seems like a good fit for you, I also recommend purchasing these compostable bags if you want a bin liner. I typically don’t mind working without a liner, but if you do get one, you might as well invest in one that can be disposed with your compost.

“Urban” Compost Bucket

Best for: Urban spaces, lower budget

Pros: Makes “compost tea” and compost. Comes in a variety of sizes. Can be places in multiple areas of your home. Creates soil in 6 weeks. Low maintenance. For indoor composters, this is relatively inexpensive.

Cons: Have to find a place to dispose of your waste while waiting for compost to fully decompose (or buy two). Have to find a space for all that soil. Will probably still smell when you open it.

I personally think this is a great option for urban spaces because creates compost tea while you’re waiting for the compost. Compost tea isn’t “necessary” but can still benefit your plant. The tea drains out of the bottom, and you can water your plants with it to add nutrients.

My only beef with any fast-ish urban bin is that you have to find a place for your soil to go. If you are composting indoors because you don’t have a yard, you likely won’t have the space to use all of the soil. Compost does shrink a lot, but urban spaces are still quite limited. I don’t object to these composters at all, but I do think it’s an obstacle you might face.

Click image below to purchase

Multi-Tray Worm Composter

Best for: Continuous use, low-maintenance, larger indoor spaces, urban spaces

Pros: Unlike other indoor composters, allows you to continuously add food scraps but also let compost rest. The multiple trays have separate purposes. Maturing compost falls to the bottom while the worms do their work in the middle. Meanwhile, you can add food scraps directly to the top. Tight-fitting lids to control odors.

Cons: Still smells when you open it. Best for larger indoor spaces. Can be pricey. Also makes a mess when you take the pieces apart. Can be pricey. As with other indoor composters, it may be stressful if you do not have the space to utilize the soil you create.

If you have the space for it, this is personally my favorite indoor compost option. The multiple trays allow you to continuously create, mature, and harvest compost in addition to adding food scraps. It has it’s cons, but I think it’s the most useful and cost-effective indoor composter.

Click image below to purchase

Electric Indoor Composters

Best for: No yard, low maintenance, urban folks who want require soil.

Pros: Creates compost in the quickest amount of time (this one in 2 weeks).

Cons: Expensive–The composter in the link above costs roughly $400. Some cost upwards of $1,000. I’ve even heard that any within $100-200 are typically scams or horrible quality. Requires electricity. Cannot add compost while scraps are being processed. Must find a use for all soil.

A lot of people have asked me about my thoughts on this composter. Even though they are a dream come true, I don’t see how they’re functional. They’re really pricey and only make sense for people with no yard to compost. However, if you have no yard to compost, what are you going to do with all the soil produced by this composter? But I’d love to hear reviews/opinions of people who’ve actually used these things long term. Feel free to comment below if you enjoy this composter.

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Learn More About Composting

Want to learn more about composting? Check out my other posts such as:

Why Compost? The Benefits of Composting

Backyard Composting: How to Start a Compost Pile

A Simple Guide to Apartment Composting

What Can You Compost? Compostable Materials List

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Author: Stephanie

As a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, I'm on a mission to help you enjoy eating a balanced diet by cooking with #thatcertaintouch .

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