How to Compost in Garbage Cans


Composting kitchen and yard waste is not only good for the environment, it saves money on fertilizer and helps retain moisture and improve soil condition. While there are several commercial bins and contraptions built for composting, they are not necessary for small applications. A trash can is big enough for most household composting, and is easy and inexpensive to build and maintain. A round trash can also makes it possible to turn the compost mixture easily.

Step 1

Mark holes around the sides and on the bottom of the bin that are spaced about four to six inches apart.

Step 2

Drill the holes you marked in Step 1, using a 1/2 inch drill bit.

Step 3

Place a layer of compost starter or "brown" composting material in the bottom of the trash can. The layer should be at least four inches deep. Starter or "brown" materials include old compost, wood chips, dried leaves, dried grass clippings, twigs, dead leaves and shredded newspaper. You can use any one item, or a combination of several.

Step 4

Add a layer of "green" compost items as you accumulate them. "Green" items include vegetable scraps, fresh grass clippings, organic kitchen waste or any fresh organic material.

Step 5

Cover the "green" layer with a layer of "brown" items when it gets two inches thick or more.

Step 6

Roll the trash can around the yard on its side to mix the compost ingredients. Do this regularly, about once a week to keep the proper heat and bacteria in the compost pile.

Step 7

Remove the compost and use it in your garden when it becomes rich and black, similar to potting soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't store the trash can in direct sunlight. It can heat up too much, and the compost could catch fire if it is too dry.

Things You'll Need

  • Garbage can with lid
  • Marker
  • Drill
  • 1/2-inch drill bit
  • Compost starter, such as old compost, wood chips, shredded newspaper or dried leaves


  • University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension: Comstructing a Garbage Can Compost Bin
  • Go Organic: Build A Trash Can Compost Bin
Keywords: compost in garbage cans, composting in a homemade garbage can bin, how to make compost using a trash can

About this Author

Carlye Jones is a journalist, freelance writer, photographer and novelist, with more than 15 years of experience. She enjoys sharing her expertise on home improvements, interior decorating, photography, gardening and traveling. Her work has appeared both in print and on numerous websites, such as Matador Travel. Carlye received her training at Northern Arizona University.