How to Compost in a Trash Can


Urban composters quickly discover that compost containing food scraps is best contained in pest-proof containers. A trashcan with a lid may be transformed into a compost bin that will keep rodents and other critters out. And it is the ideal size for small yards or for those with limited yard waste. Composting in a trashcan provides a convenient and economical way to reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill, while providing the gardener with a rich organic soil amendment.

Step 1

Drill six rows of ½-inch holes about 4 to 6 inches apart all around the side of the trashcan. Drill about ten holes in the bottom of the trashcan as well.

Step 2

Place your newly-constructed compost bin on the bricks in a shady location. Put 2 to 3 inches of brown material such as dried leaves, straw, wood chips or sawdust on the bottom of the bin. Add food scraps as they accumulate.

Step 3

Sprinkle each layer of kitchen waste with no more than a ¼ inch of soil. Cover the soil with a 2-inch layer of dried leaves or straw.

Step 4

Every time you add a layer of kitchen scraps to the bin, put a layer of soil and leaves on top. Remember to cover the bin after each addition.

Step 5

Turn or mix the contents about once per week. If the lid if the trashcan fits securely, you can simply turn the can on its side and roll it around to mix the contents.

Step 6

Continue adding layers of food scraps, soil, and leaves or straw until the trashcan is full. Continue mixing the contents weekly as well.

Step 7

Remove the finished compost, which is dark brown with rich earthy smell, from the trashcan after it has reduced to about half of its original amount, with no discernible food scraps remaining. This should take two to four months.

Things You'll Need

  • Aluminum trashcan with lid
  • Drill and ½ inch drill bit
  • 6-8 bricks
  • Dried leaves or straw
  • Food scraps (limit to fruit and vegetable waste)
  • Spade


  • University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension: Constructing a Garbage Can Compost Bin
  • Penn State Cooperative Extension: How to Make Compost
  • North Carolina State University: Composting for Home Gardens
  • Oklahoma Cooperative Extension: Backyard Composting
Keywords: trashcan compost, homemade compost, compost in trashcan

About this Author

Ann Wolters, who has been a freelance writer, consultant, and writing coach for the past year and a half, has had her writing published in "The Saint Paul Almanac," and in magazines such as "Inventing Tomorrow" and "Frontiers." She earned a master’s degree in English as a second language from the University of Minnesota and taught English as a foreign language for nearly seven years.