How to Design a Compost Bin

Overview

Designing a compost bin can take any number of avenues. Compost bin design options are virtually endless, from pre-made bins and compost tumblers to simple wire mesh bins or deluxe three-bin systems. Take in factors unique to your property and patterns of handling household organic waste to come up with your own custom design.

Select Location

Step 1

Survey the yard or property to determine where best to locate the compost bin. Look for locations close to the garden or where the finished compost will be used.

Step 2

Measure the distance of potential locations from the kitchen. Siting the bin within a relatively short walk from the kitchen--no more than 100 feet--makes it easier to take scraps to the compost bin and will encourage more regular use of the bin.

Step 3

Record amount of sun for various potential sites--shaded sites are best--and sight lines to neighbors to avoid an unpleasant or distracting view of the bin.

Designing Bin

Step 1

Select the correct size of a bin for your composting needs. Gradual accumulation of kitchen scraps and weekly grass clippings can fill a bin 4 cubic feet in size in a month or two. Larger properties with more yard waste may do better with a multi-bin system, which can be 9 feet in length or more if built in a straight line.

Step 2

Measure the area designated for the compost bin's location to determine the maximum possible size of the bin.

Step 3

Gather unused materials on your property for potential salvage. Look for rolls of hardware wire mesh or chicken wire, wooden pallets, cinder blocks, bricks or lengths of treated lumber. This can help determine the easiest and most inexpensive bin to build.

Step 4

Select a style. Options include a round wire-mesh bin, cinder-block cell, re-purposed garbage can, multi-bin unit or rotating tumbler. Additionally, many university agricultural extension offices offer free blueprints for a variety of compost bin styles, which can help inform your decision.

Step 5

Estimate potential costs for new materials, if any are required. A single square-shaped wooden bin that measures 3 feet wide and high, including fasteners, should cost no more than $100, whereas a three-bin unit can cost around $400, including recycled materials. Bins may also be free, if the design you settle on consists of drilling holes into an unused plastic garbage can.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Paper

References

  • North Carolina State University: Composting--A Guide to Managing Organic Yard Wastes
  • Iowa State University: Constructing a Compost Bin [3-Bin System]
  • Cornell University: Outdoor Composting
  • Texas A&M: Composting Structures
  • University of Wisconsin: Bin Construction Plans

Who Can Help

  • North Carolina State University: Community Backyard Composting Programs
  • Spokane Regional Solid Waste System: Compost Bins
Keywords: design compost bin, compost bin ideas, designing compost bins

About this Author

Michelle Z. Donahue lives in Washington, D.C., and has worked there as a journalist since 2001, when she graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in English. She first covered politics as a reporter for the weekly Fairfax Times newspaper, then for the daily newswire Canadian Economic Press, where she reported from the U.S. Treasury. Donahue is currently a freelance writer.