Composting Trash Can Tutorial

My brother-in-law gave us the idea for this simple DIY compost bin in a trash can. Since we had just put our house on the market, and since the compost pile out back was less than desirable, this contained option seemed like a good solution.

The trash can keeps the compost contained and “neighbor friendly”.  The black color of the can attracts heat and aeration is simple since we are able to turn the trash can on it’s side and give it a couple rolls.

You will need:

  • Black trash can with locking lid
  • Drill with 1″ bit
  • 5 year old boy and chalk (both optional)

Mark delegated the responsibility for making the composting trash can to Colby (5), who did a fabulous job.

We used chalk to draw circles so Colby would know where the holes should go. We were  random with the hole placement.

The holes provide ventilation that allows air flow and facilitates the decomposition process in addition to providing a space for  “juices” to flow out.

Drill holes.

There were helping hands available as needed,

but Colby soon got the hang of it.

and felt like a big man using a power tool and tackling a project “all by himself”.

Don’t forget to drill holes in the bottom of the can.

Slightly elevate your new composting trash can so that air can circulate underneath and it can drain. You may use whatever you have handy, we used rocks. We have tons of rocks in our yard.

How to use a composting trash can

To use the composting trash can, simply use the ratio of 4:1 brown (dead leaves, coffee filters, coffee/tea grounds, shredded paper, etc.) to green (fruit, veggies, grass clippings, etc.).

We keep a pile of leaves near the bin and add a handful of leaves whenever we add kitchen scraps.

Compost ingredients:

  • coffee grounds and tea leaves, filters and bags
  • egg shells
  • uncooked waste from fruits and veggies  or overripe fruits and veggies
  • grass clippings
  • leaves
  • shredded newspaper
  • ashes
  • weeds
  • sourdough starter waste/overflow

Do not add dairy or meat products to your compost. They may introduce unwanted bacteria and cause a stench.

Continue adding to your compost bin, agitating, by turning the can onto it’s side and rolling (be sure that the lid is on a locked) about once a week.

Once your trash/compost can is full, continue a weekly agitation. Your compost will be ready to use sometime between several weeks to several months. The time it takes will depend upon your compost’s composition and the weather conditions.Finished compost should look like nice black dirt.

At this point, you may wish strain the compost through a wire screen to eliminate particles that have not finished composting. These particles may be added to your next batch of compost.

We’ve found that it’s useful to have two composting bins to use in rotation. This gives us a place to put new compost while waiting for the first bin to finish composting.

Do you compost? What tips do you have to share?

Linked to Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.

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14 Responses to Composting Trash Can Tutorial
  1. Anna@The DIY Mom
    April 2, 2012 | 9:22 am

    I love the little helper. The pictures are too cute!


  2. Jama
    April 2, 2012 | 9:40 am

    Good job Colby! I know some other little (and not so little) guys that would like to tackle this project. Thanks for the tutorial. I’m filing this away for our next house. 🙂


  3. Mama Mirage
    April 2, 2012 | 12:32 pm

    I’m curious how long it takes to turn scraps into compost dirt? How full do you fill the trashcan before you move on to your other trashcan?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    From the post:

    Once your trash/compost can is full, continue a weekly agitation. Your compost will be ready to use sometime between several weeks to several months. The time it takes will depend upon your compost’s composition and the weather conditions.Finished compost should look like nice black dirt.

    We just fill the can until we think it’s full. It’s not critical to have an exact amount as it shouldn’t affect the end product. 🙂


  4. Amy
    April 2, 2012 | 1:26 pm

    We have a big, ugly compost pile in our yard, and I’m going to talk to my husband about making one just like yours. Our six year old son would love this! Have you ever tried worms in the compost?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    We have tons of worms in our yard and in our compost pile before we moved it to the trash can. I’m sure that adding some to the can would be great, as long as they wouldn’t get squished when you role the can. 🙂


  5. Lori
    April 2, 2012 | 4:34 pm

    This is AWESOME!! So much cheaper than getting one of those composters!! I have a question, what is a sourdough starter?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    It’s what you use to make sourdough bread. I explain how to start one here.

    Sourdough starter is great for compost because it has all those wild yeasts that will work hard breaking down the trash into compost.


  6. Nicki
    April 2, 2012 | 5:44 pm

    I have been arguing with the Lord over homeschooling for 4 years now and now our 3rd grade daughter expressed to me that she would like to be homeschooled next year, but i am scared. Our kids are 9,6,5,2 1/2 and 5 mos and I’m scared that I will go nuts! How would I ever keep them all busy? how will I keep up on my house? Will I lose my mind? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and you are such an inspiration. Thank you.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Nicki,

    If God has called you to homeschool, He will equip you to homeschool.

    I’m pretty certain that there will be times that you feel like you are going crazy. 🙂 I’ve certainly been there, but knowing that I’m doing what God has called me to do helps me to keep going. He will give us all we need to accomplish what He has given us to accomplish. It will be hard and there will be times when you don’t think it’s possible, but all things are possible through Christ.

    As you probably already know, I’ve posted a lot about homeschooling and the questions you asked (keeping kids busy, keeping up with housework. You may re-read those posts on my homeschooling page or in the homeschooling archives or you may wish to use the search bar at the upper right of the blog.

    May God bless you as you embark on this new journey!


  7. Annie
    April 4, 2012 | 3:50 pm

    We are relatively new to composting! We have a tumbler and over the winter our bin turned to a soggy, marshy mess! There are now multitudes of bugs flying around and I don’t know what to do!? I understand the ratio of 4:1, but maybe we don’t have access to enough of the dry browns. Anyone have suggestions?
    Thanks! I’d really like this to work!


    Karen Reply:

    Try torn up newspaper or any shredded paper.


  8. Joquena
    April 5, 2012 | 3:20 pm

    I am so going to get hubby to make me this! Our compost bin is a wooden box without a lid and it’s a fruit fly/ squirrel nightmare… this seems so much “cleaner”. Can you call compost clean? haha!


  9. Branden
    December 27, 2012 | 1:12 pm

    Just a suggestion for this type of composter. get 2 pieces of threaded pipe, it should look like a bolt, and not a hollow pipe. Take two of the m and screw them onto the inside, through the outside with nuts and washers. This will drastically increase the mixing of the compost and reduce the amount of time it takes to compost the material.


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