Hands sift through compost ready for use

Composting Bins

A holding bin is a composting bin used to hold compostable materials in place while they decompose.The type of structure or method you choose to make compost is really a matter of personal preference.

If you are the do-it-yourself type, you may want to build your own structure using materials like wood, welded wire, concrete blocks, or wooden pallets. Pre-fabricated, ready-built bins, and drum-turning units are also available. The general types of composting bins are summarized below, as well as options to compost without a bin. Click any item below to learn more (show all items).

Mobile holding bin

Description

A holding bin is a composting bin used to hold compostable materials in place while they decompose.Turning the compost inside a holding bin is often difficult (multi-bin systems and tumbling bins are designed for ease of turning the compost). However, by using a movable bin, you can pick up the bin leaving the compost, and then pitchfork the compost into the bin's new location, which turns the compost.

Materials

Wood, wire, plastic, or other.

Cost

$5–$100, depending on type, and whether home-made or manufactured.

Effort Required

No ongoing effort is required, but plan on minimal-to-medium effort to turn the compost, depending on your desire for speedy decomposition.

Notes

Compost is simply held in a bin, which can be moved. Some types are easier to turn than others. Some types offer lids and/or fine wire mesh to help exclude pest animals.


Instructions for building a mobile holding bin

Stationary bin

Description

You can turn the compost by emptying out the bin and then putting the material back in the bin. You can also use aerating probes, like rebar, to allow oxygen to infiltrate the pile.

Materials

Wood, Wire, Plastic, Concrete Block, or other.

Cost

$20–$150, depending on type, and whether home-made or manufactured.

Effort Required

No ongoing effort is required, but plan on minimal-to-medium effort to turn the compost, depending on your desire for speedy decomposition.

Notes:

With some systems, you can add a second bin next to the first to transform the single holding bin into a multi-bin system to make turning easier. Some types offer lids and/or fine wire mesh to help exclude pest animals.


      Instructions for building a stationary bin

Multi-bin turning system

Description

Multiple bins are used for ease of turning the compost. You build your pile in the first bin and later, when the compost is ready to turn, you move it into the second bin and start building a new pile in the first. Then you turn from the second into the third bin, and the first into the second. Eventually, you get all your compost into one bin at the end, and material in the top part of this bin cures while you harvest finished compost from the bottom of the bin.

Materials

Wood, wood & wire, concrete block, or other.

Cost

$100–$250 depending on type of materials used.

Effort Required

Low-to-high maintenance, depending on desired rate of decomposition.

Note

If you get tired of turning the compost, you can use it as a holding bin. Heat and activity of process usually excludes pests.


Instructions for building a multi-bin turning system

Tumblers and drums

Description

These units are typically a horizontally mounted barrel shaped structure. Compostable materials are placed in a drum or tumbler which is designed fore easy turning. With these units the bin does the turning. This kind of system is easy to turn and will keep the materials well aerated.

Materials

Plastic and/or metal

Cost

$100–$400 depending on type and whether home made or manufactured.

Effort Required

Low for a quality system, where a crank makes turning easy.

Notes

Home-made systems may lack features such as mixing baffles, which speed the process in manufactured units. Excludes pests.

Sheet composting (no bin)

Description

Spread yard trimmings as mulch on the soil surface in areas throughout the yard.

Materials

None.

Cost

None

Effort Required

Initially, to spread material; then, no effort required.

Notes

Composting is slow, which is a benefit for a mulched bed. Using a variety of materials spread on the soil surface may not be attractive. Materials might need to be shredded for composting. For more information, see the "Cold/Slow" section on the "Composting Methods" page.

Heap or pile composting (no bin)

Description

Pile compostable materials in a heap 3-5 feet wide and 3 feet high.

Materials

None

Cost

None

Effort Required

Initially, to build a pile and add as needed. No ongoing effort is required, unless turned to speed up the compost process.

Notes

A heap or pile may not be attractive to some people; the material tends to spread; and pests have free access. For more information, see the "Cold/Slow" section on the "Composting Methods" page.

Many thanks to the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service/Auburn University for this information.