How to Make a Compost Bin From a Garbage Can


Composting saves money by recycling waste material. You can use a variety of containers as compost bins, including garbage cans. Your only cost is the garbage can itself, unless you have a spare can around the house. With your container, get ready to make all the free garden compost you can use. Your black gold should be ready to feed your garden in about two to four months.

Step 1

Turn the garbage can upside down, In the bottom of the can, drill 10 to 12 holes with the half-inch drill bit. Flip the can over and drill four rows of half-inch holes encircling the cant. Space the holes about 4 to 6 inches apart. These holes will provide for drainage of your developing compost and will allow air to circulate in the can.

Step 2

Set the compost garbage can on top of open soil, if possible, to allow earthworms to access to the bin. An unshaded spot will allow necessary heat to build within the can.

Step 3

Fill the bottom 2 to 3 inches of the garbage can with materials that will soak up excess moisture and aid drainage, such as wood chips, straw, leaves, twigs, sawdust and grass clippings. Yard and garden refuse that hasn't been treated with chemicals is ideal.

Step 4

Cover the can tightly with the lid. Secure it with bungee cords to prevent rats, opossums, skunks, raccoons, stray cats or dogs from getting into your compost.

Step 5

Add compost material, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, tea bags and coffee grounds with filters, hair and fur, nut hulls and shells, lint from your dryer and vacuum cleaner, shredded paper, natural fiber cloth scraps, herbivore manure, and almost any yard or garden vegetative matter. Slightly dampen any dry material with water so it's uniformly moist, but not dripping. Cover the bin when you're finished.

Step 6

Turn the covered compost bin on its side and roll it around on the ground once a week to mix and aerate the compost.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't use any material from black walnut trees, which can release substances harmful to other plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Garbage can with tight-fitting lid
  • Drill
  • 1/2-inch drill bit
  • Wood chips
  • Straw
  • Leaves
  • Twigs
  • Sawdust
  • Grass clippings
  • Household refuse
  • Bungee cords (optional)


  • University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • The Organic Gardener

Who Can Help

  • Composting Common Sense Q&A
  • SuperMomNoCape: Garbage Can Bin With Big Holes
  • How to Build a Rotating Compost Bin
Keywords: compost, compost bin, garbage can

About this Author

Axl J. Amistaadt began as a part-time amateur freelance writer in 1985, turned professional in 2005, and became a full-time writer in 2007. Amistaadt’s major focus is publishing material for GardenGuides. Areas of expertise include home gardening, horticulture, alternative and home remedies, pets, wildlife, handcrafts, cooking, and juvenile science experiments.