How to Build a Trash Can Compost Bin


Compost bins are useful for recycling household and yard wastes. They use nature's decomposing process to turn these items into rich organic materials suitable for enriching garden soil. The compost bin itself can be created out several different types of materials. A metal garbage can, available at most hardware or home improvement stores, is perfect for the job.

Step 1

Buy a new metal garbage can with a tight fitting lid. It is important to have a container that is not contaminated with chemicals that will kill plants. You can use a stiff plastic trash can instead of a metal one.

Step 2

Drill three holes down the side of the trash can. Make more holes around the trash can 4 to 6 inches apart. This allows for good air circulation.

Step 3

Drill 12 holes through the bottom of the trash can. The holes in the bottom will drain off any excess moisture created by the compost so it does not pool at the bottom. Pooling water will create a compost pile that stinks.

Step 4

Layer 2 to 3 inches of dry sawdust, straw or wood chips on the bottom of the trash can. This will improve drainage and absorb excess moisture created by the compost.

Step 5

Tie a bungee cord to the middle handle on the lid. Make sure the knot is in the center of the bungee cord. Hook the ends of the bungee cord over the handles on the trash can. Place your compost bin in an out-of-the-way place and fill with food scraps (fruits, coffee grinds, egg shells, etc. - no meat, fats or oils) and yard waste.

Tips and Warnings

  • The problem with a trash can compost bin is that it is limited to its size. It can only hold so much waste materials. Other styles of compost bin can usually be expanded.

Things You'll Need

  • Metal garbage can with lid
  • Drill
  • Sawdust
  • Bungee cord


  • County of Santa Barbara Public Works Department: The Answer is Backyard Composting and Yard Waste Reduction
Keywords: compost bin, trash can compost, composting

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.