How to Build Compost Containers


Plastic compost bins are available commercially or you can make your own. There are several possible designs for homemade compost containers, including the closed-air composter recommended by the Alameda County (California) Waste Management Authority. According to ACWMA, you should consider the materials you will compost, where you want to place the compost container, and your building skills before choosing a homemade composter project. The closed-air composter is suitable for most skill levels.

Build a Closed Air Composter

Step 1

Using the utility knife, cut out the bottom of the plastic trash can. Leave a 1 inch rim.

Step 2

With the tin snips cut the hardware cloth the same size and shape as the bottom of the can.

Step 3

Attach the hardware cloth to the bottom of the outside of the can with the screws spaced 4 inches apart, with the hand screwdriver, Poke the holes with the nail and hammer first, then put in the screws. No pre-drilling is necessary if you are using a power drill. Be sure the screen fits tightly so there are no holes larger than 1/4 inch.

Step 4

Install the bin by digging a 12 to 18 inch hole in the ground. Place the bin in the hole. It will be partially under ground and partially above ground.

Step 5

Add layers of materials to be composted.Alternate green layers of grass clippings, plants and kitchen scraps with brown layers of dried leaves, and the like. Keep the bin moist but not wringing wet. Place the garbage can lid on the top to begin the heating-up process necessary for composting.

Tips and Warnings

  • Squirrels or other small animals may be attracted to the decaying compost material if it is too wet. Add dry leaves, straw or shredded paper keep the pile in the correct balance of moisture versus air. Compost piles decay best when the internal temperature is between 14 and 160 degrees F.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 plastic garbage can 32 gallons or larger
  • 2-by-2 foot piece of 1/4 mesh hardware cloth
  • 16- 20 ½ inch galvanized Phillips--head wood screws
  • Tin snips
  • Utility knife
  • Power drill or Phillips screwdriver, hammer and medium-size nail


  • Alameda County Waste Management Authority: Build Your Own Bin

Who Can Help

  • Los Angeles County Smart Gardening Program: Backyard Composting
Keywords: Make compost bin, homemade compost container, how to compost

About this Author

Joan Norton, M.A., is a licensed psychotherapist and professional writer in the field of women's spirituality. She blogs and has two published books on the subject of Mary Magdalene; "14 Steps To Awaken The Sacred Feminine:Women in the Circle of Mary Magdalene," and "The Mary Magdalene Within."