Which compost bin is best?
Food waste is a major problem in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that each day, people throw out an average of 30%-40% of the food they buy. But a compost bin can help you make lemonade out of slightly overripe lemons. These simple containers take organic material that would otherwise rot uselessly in a landfill and turn it into rich, organic soil.
The Miracle Gro Dual Chamber Compost Tumbler is a great outdoor bin from a trusted name in garden tools. It’s easy to use and produces plenty of compost.
What to know before you buy a compost bin
Indoor vs. outdoor
Garden composters and indoor compost bins each perform essentially the same function on different scales. Indoor bins sit on the counter and are great for smaller quantities of food waste, while outdoor garden composters can handle not only food but also yard waste and other organic brown or green material.
Tumbler vs. bin
If you choose an outdoor compost bin, the next decision to make is whether you want a tumbler or a bin.
- Tumbler: A composting tumbler is a container that sits in a frame. This container is easily spun around with each addition. On the positive side, this quickly mixes organic matter for optimal processing. On the other hand, these are smaller, holding just 30-60 gallons of material. They also cost more than a simple bin.
- Bin: The bin is the simplest type of composter you can find. It’s essentially a square that sits directly on the ground. Organic material is added to the top. The system requires that you manually turn the compost, which makes it harder for some gardeners. However, if you are on a budget and need a bigger capacity — up to 250 gallons of material — this is a great choice.
Compost bin materials
Compost bins for the countertop are made of metal, ceramic or plastic. Outside, look for composters in plastic, metal or wood.
What to look for in a quality compost bin
If you choose a tumbler, look for a handle that turns easily and smoothly. Most people choose this type of composter to avoid heavy physical labor, so it should be easy to use.
Countertop compost bins need to have odor-blocking filters. These may use charcoal, or they may be doubled up for the best protection.
Tightly fitted lids
When combined with a filter, tightly fitted lids ensure that no odors seep out. This also prevents any accidental spills.
Because compost needs to reach a certain temperature to kill off harmful bacteria and weed seeds, a temperature gauge can be helpful. Look for composters with integrated temperature readings.
- Whichever compost bin you choose should have adequate ventilation. This helps speed up decomposition.
- Chopping up food waste or shredding leaves and grass clippings also helps speed up composting.
- Aim for an equal ratio of brown matter — leaves, twigs and dead branches — to green matter — food scraps, grass clippings and coffee grounds.
- Water compost judiciously. If your bin begins to smell, there is too much water. Add dry material to compensate.
- Tumble or manually turn your composter every couple of days.
How much you can expect to spend on a compost bin
Price will vary depending on whether you choose a countertop compost bin or full-size outdoor garden composter. Expect to spend $20-$200.
Compost bin FAQ
How do composters work?
A. The process of turning food scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil is simple.
- Organic material of all kinds contains microbes that break down plants and food waste. This creates carbon dioxide and builds to temperatures of up to 140 degrees.
- At high temperatures, other bacteria join the party and break the matter down even further.
- Worms and slugs also help. They eat and digest material in your composter and create waste that further speeds the process.
- When the compost is ready, it looks just like garden soil — dark brown and crumbly, with no smell other than clean dirt.
How long does composting take?
A. It depends entirely on how much material you have, and whether it is in good balance between brown and green matter, air and water. Generally speaking, completely composted material that has become soil takes three months or more.
Is there anything that should not go in a compost bin?
A. Yes. Avoid adding any of the following to your composter:
- Animal protein (e.g., meat or fish)
- Dairy products
- Oils of any kind
- Plants with pesticides
- Treated wood
- Plants with disease
- Weeds with seeds
- Cat or dog waste
What’s the best compost bin to buy?
Top compost bin
What you need to know: With two chambers going at the same time, you’ll always have rich organic soil when you need it.
What you’ll love: Internal mixing bars keep material moving for compost in less than six weeks. The tumbler design is easy to operate. It holds up to 37 gallons of material and comes with a two-year warranty.
What you should consider: It is small and may not be adequate if you are incorporating yard waste.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top compost bin for the money
What you need to know: This speedy model produces compost in as little as two weeks.
What you’ll love: It holds 37 gallons of material. It is made of recycled polypropylene, free of potentially harmful bisphenol A, and treated to inhibit the sun’s ultraviolet rays and not degrade in direct sunlight. The tumbler handle is easy to turn.
What you should consider: Some users report leaking. Make sure to incorporate dry ingredients as needed.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This sleek indoor bin has a large capacity and looks great on the counter.
What you’ll love: It holds 1.5 gallons of waste and comes with two charcoal filters for better odor control. It’s dishwasher-safe and has a relatively small footprint — just 9.5 inches wide and 10 inches tall.
What you should consider: It is expensive and also requires expensive filters.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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