Constructing a Garbage Can Compost Bin

Constructing a Garbage Can Compost Bin
A compost bin can be built easily and inexpensively using either a metal garbage-can or 55-gallon
barrel. These bins can be used for food or garden wastes, but the materials will need to be turned.
Turning the materials can be easily accomplished by securing the lid on the bin, turning it on its side,
and rolling it around the yard. This will allow for mixing and aeration of the materials. The compost
will generally be ready for use within two to four months after the bin is filled. The major drawback
with this type of structure is the volume of waste that can be handled.
a plastic or metal garbage can with
coarse sawdust, straw, or wood chips
a 55-gallon plastic or metal barrel
with lid (Be sure that the barrel
has not been previously used for
toxic chemicals.)
(Note: a hinge and latch may be
used to secure the lid on the barrel)
work gloves
Figure 1 - Garbage Can Composter
Building a Compost Bin Using a Garbage Can
1. Drill three rows of holes 4 to 6 inches apart all around the sides of the garbage can. The drill
several holes in the base of the garbage can. The holes allow air movement and the drainage of
excess moisture.
2. Place 2 to 3 inches of dry sawdust, straw or wood chips in the bottom of the can to absorb excess
moisture and let the compost drain.
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.
Building a Compost Bin Using a 55-gallon
1. Drill six to nine rows of 1/2-inch holes around
the barrel.
Composting Basics
1. Be sure that your compost pile receives a
balanced diet. You will need to include materials
that are high in carbon as well as materials that are
high in nitrogen. High carbon materials include
paper, sawdust, wood chips, straw and leaves.
High nitrogen materials include food scraps, grass
clippings, and manure. Nitrogen fertilizer may
also be added if necessary.
2. Maintain proper particle size. Items like leaves,
limbs and newspaper work best if shredded or
chopped into 1/4 inch pieces. Food scraps should
also be cut into small-sized particles.
3. Make sure that your compost receives a proper
amount of air. Turning or mixing every week or so
will help insure proper air flow.
Figure 2 - 55-gallon Barrel Composter
Adapted with permission from Composting to
Reduce the Waste Stream, published by NRAES,
Cooperative Extension, 152 Riley-Robb Hall,
Ithaca, New York 14853-5701. (607)255-7654.
Adapted for use in Kentucky by Kim Henken and
Jenny Cocanougher, Extension Associates for
Environmental and Natural Resource Issues with
the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension
4. Check the moisture level in the compost.
Performing the "squeeze test" will tell you if the
moisture level is correct. Compost should be damp
to touch, but drops should not come out when you
squeeze it. Add dry straw or sawdust if too damp
and add water if too dry.
5. Monitor the temperature of the compost.
Temperatures between 90° and 140°F are ideal.
Compost bins at 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet is size
maintain temperature better.