How to Make Your Own Compost Garbage Can


Many compost enthusiasts sing the praises of using garbage cans as compost bins. Regardless of what size can you opt for, they provide tidy, self-contained bins that are inexpensive or even free if you're lucky enough to be able to repurpose one of your own old. According to Abigail Gehring, author of "Back to Basics," sunken garbage can compost containers work particularly well if you have a limited composting area. Once you collect your materials, you should be able to be composting in a single afternoon.

Step 1

Locate a metal or plastic trash can that provides enough room for the amount of waste your household produces. Plan to make at least two compost cans if you want to have finished compost available for use at all times. Never use trash cans that have held chemical waste, since they could contaminate your scraps during the composting process.

Step 2

Lift the lid from your garbage can and turn the container on its side. Measure the full height of the trash container and mark the center of it with a permanent marker; if the trash container measures 50 inches tall, then you'll want to make the center mark 25 inches from the top. Draw the line around the entire circumference of the container.

Step 3

Drill 15 to 20 ventilation holes in the top half of the garbage can. Use a 3/8-inch bit and locate the holes at equal distances from one another to maintain even air flow within the compost container.

Step 4

Rotate the container so it's resting upside-down. Remove the entire bottom using a jigsaw. Opt for a general-purpose blade for plastic trash cans; stick with a metal-cutting blade if your bin is metal.

Step 5

Find a well-draining area of soil that's located near your house so it's convenient. Out of courtesy, try to find an area disguised by bushes and flowers or one that's completely out of sight of your neighbors or passersby.

Step 6

Dig a hole in the ground that exceeds the bottom measurements of your trash container by 1 inch on every side. For example, if the bottom of your square trash container measures 12 inches by 12 inches, then you'll want the hole in the ground to measure 14 by 14. Dig the hole to a depth that matches half the height of the bin; for instance, your hole should be 25 inches deep for a 50-inch bin.

Step 7

Insert the bottom half of the trash can into the hole, shifting it back and forth on its base to ensure that it's firmly seated. Fill the compost garbage can 3/4 full with organic waste. Use equal amounts of dry, brown materials (such as dead leaves and shredded newspaper) and moist, green materials (such as fresh grass clippings and food scraps). Dampen the waste with water until it's about the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.

Step 8

Toss several hands of plain topsoil into the bin to introduce additional microbes for quicker composting and place the lid firmly on the bin. Secure the lid in place with an elastic bungee cord, fitting the clasps through the garbage can handles. Leave the waste to compost for four to six months or until it's dark brown and crumbly and has an earthy scent.

Things You'll Need

  • Trash can with lid
  • Tape measure
  • Permanent marker
  • Drill with 3/8-inch bit
  • Jigsaw with general purpose/metal-cutting blade
  • Shovel
  • Organic waste scraps
  • Water
  • Plain topsoil
  • Elastic bungee cord


  • "Back to Basics"; Amanda Gehring; 2008
  • "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide"; Barbara Pleasant & Deborah Martin; 2008
Keywords: trash can composting, garbage can compost, cheap compost bins

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.