How to Build a Plastic Compost Barrel


Composting is a centuries-old practice of reusing kitchen and yard scrap to create a sweet-smelling, dark and crumbly material known as compost, which is sprinkled over ground or container soil to improve its quality. This nutrient-packed material is readily available in markets, but by making your own you can recycle decomposable waste, reducing the amount of household trash that fills landfills. Depending on individual taste, composting is done in a pile, a plastic, wood or wire bin or even a worm box.

Step 1

Purchase a heavyweight 10- to 55-gallon plastic barrel from your local home department store. Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid. Ask your local restaurant or food distributor to give you one if they have any spares, at a nominal price.

Step 2

Select a suitable place in your backyard or garden to place your barrel. It should be shady, dry and have good drainage. Allowing the base of the barrel to stand in a pool of water will cause a pungent odor.

Step 3

Drill holes on the body of the barrel, including the base and lid, to help ventilate the inside. These holes should be no smaller than 1/8 inch, and no bigger than ½ inch. Any smaller and worms and mini-beasts imperative for the process of decomposition will not be able to enter, and larger holes will cause the contents to dry sooner and cause any odor to drift.

Step 4

Fill the barrel with alternating 3-inch layers of kitchen and yard scrap while wearing your gloves. Make sure the scraps are green and brown, so that your barrel has an equal ratio of nitrogen- and carbon-rich waste. Greens include grass clippings, manure and leftover food scrap or peels from the kitchen, while brown waste includes coffee filters, sawdust, chopped twigs or dried branches and cardboard.

Step 5

Wet the contents of the barrel evenly with a garden hose. Do not douse the inside with water, but just wet it enough so each piece drains out several drops of water when squeezed. Replace the lid so it fits in tightly.

Step 6

Decide how you want to mix the contents of the barrel. You can lay the barrel flat in its designated spot and roll it around the yard twice a week, or let it stand on its base and turn the contents with a shovel or stick. Whichever way you choose, mix at least twice a week.

Tips and Warnings

  • If the neighbors or your local homeowners association disapprove of the compost barrel being placed in a certain spot in your backyard, place it in a corner of your garage where it is safe from direct sunlight and strong winds.

Things You'll Need

  • Large plastic barrel
  • Drill
  • Earplugs
  • Gloves
  • Yard and kitchen scrap
  • Garden hose
  • Shovel


  • Compost Information
  • Homemade Compost Barrel
Keywords: plastic compost barrel, compost barrel, diy compost barrel

About this Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written hundreds of thousands of words for various online and print sources. She has an MBA in Marketing but her passion lies in giving her words wings.