How to Create a Composter


Whether you have a 3-acre garden, several small flowerbeds or even just a single potted plant, you can easily add nutrients to your plant soil with compost you make yourself. Compost units vary in design, from simple wire enclosures to elaborate multibin rotary tumblers. A plastic trash can composter is an inexpensive, attractive, stationary composter-container option. In fact, if you recycle one of your own old trash cans, you can easily create this composter for free. According to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, holding units like this trash can composter typically take at least six months to produce finished compost, but you can hasten the process by mixing the compost once or twice per week.

Step 1

Find a plastic trash can that is an appropriate size for the amount of organic waste that you plan to put in it. Many first-time composters choose a smaller size, such as a 30-gallon container, and then just create additional compost bins as they get used to the composting process. If you recycle a plastic trash can, verify that it has never contained chemicals or other potentially toxic products that might leach into your compost from the contaminated plastic.

Step 2

Remove the lid of the trash can and flip the can upside down on the ground. Cut out the entire base of the trash can using a jigsaw with a general-purpose blade. Move the blade slowly, making sure you don't force it as it cuts through the thick plastic material of the trash can. Dispose of the cut-out trash can base.

Step 3

Poke 10 to 15 holes in the sides of your trash can using a drill with a 3/8-inch drill bit. Space the holes at regular intervals across the top two-thirds of your trash can sides.

Step 4

Select a convenient, out-of-the-way location for your compost bin. If you compost a lot of kitchen scraps, consider locating it close to your house so you don't have to go on a lengthy hike to dispose of a few banana peels. Make sure the compost area drains well and has several hours of sun each day, as well.

Step 5

Dig a hole in the ground with a shovel to mark your chosen composting location. The hole's diameter should be large enough to fit the base of the trash can; it should be deep enough to fit the bottom third of your trash can's height.

Step 6

Insert the trash can bottom into the hole, pushing it down until it's solidly positioned. Fill the trash can three-quarters full with nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich organic waste, moistening it with a light spray of water from your garden hose. Try to include equal amounts of high-nitrogen and high-carbon materials.

Step 7

Place the lid firmly on your trash can composter. If you have a problem with rodents or pests, such as raccoons, in your area, consider fastening the lid in place with an elastic bungee cord.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic trash can with lid
  • Jigsaw with general-purpose blade
  • Drill with 3/8-inch bit
  • Shovel
  • Nitrogen-rich organic waste
  • Carbon-rich organic waste
  • Garden hose
  • Elastic bungee cord (optional)


  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: Composting Methods
Keywords: composting, compost bins, making a composter

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.