How to Make Compost Bins out of Trash Cans

While composting provides an excellent free source of organic amendments for your garden, making room for a large compost pile isn't always possible. Compost bins provide a means to control the size of the pile, and homemade bins are much less expensive than purchased ones. Creating a compost bin from a new or old 55-gallon dustbin allows you to confine your composting efforts to a smaller space. The compost bin can be set outside, or you can move your composting efforts indoors to a garage or shed if necessary.

Turn the dustbin upside down. Drill 8 to 10 1/4-inch holes in the bottom of the can, spacing them equally apart.

Measure 4 inches up the side of the can from the bottom edge. Drill a row of 1/4-inch holes around the can at this point, spacing the holes 4 inches apart. Measure 4 inches up from the first row of holes and drill a second row. Repeat until the last row of holes is 4 inches beneath the rim of the can.

Place two landscaping bricks on the ground, leaving a space between them. Set the compost can on top the bricks. The bricks lift the can above the ground, allowing free drainage of excess moisture from the bottom of the composter.

Fill the bottom of the can with a 2- to 3-inch layer of straw. The straw provides further drainage during composting.

Place your compost materials -- leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps -- into the can along with one or two shovelfuls of garden soil. Place the lid on top the can to keep pests and rain out of the composting materials.


Set the can on top of a hot water heater tray if you are storing it in a garage. The tray catches any liquid that drains out and prevents a mess. It takes approximately three to six months for materials in the can to compost. Turn the compost once a week to help speed up the process.


Don't compost meat, dairy or oily items. These take longer to break down and may attract pests.

Things You'll Need

  • Drill
  • Measuring tape
  • Landscaping bricks
  • Straw
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About the Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.