Compost is like a multivitamin for your soil. Made of thoroughly decayed organic material used as a fertilizer, it encourages healthy plant growth, strong roots, and bountiful blooms and fruit. Creating compost is not just good for your garden, it’s also great for the planet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste make up more than 28 percent of what ends up in landfills. The DIY approach also beats buying bags of compost at a garden center, which can cost from $5 to $20 per bag, depending on the size.
The secret to transforming everyday organic material into garden gold is a compost bin. You could always start an open compost pile in a corner of your yard, but it’s bound to become a smelly, unsightly invitation to insects and animal foragers. Enclosed compost bins offer a neat, easy solution that creates compost faster than traditional piles by regulating the temperature, moisture, oxygen, and bacteria in the organic materials to help them break down faster.
Compost bins come in a variety of shapes and sizes; the best one for you depends on how much organic waste you produce, the amount of space you have, and how you plan to use the finished product.
To help you better assess all the compost bins out there, we tested some of the top-rated products for both indoors and out. Keep reading to understand how to zero in on your ideal compost bin—and find out why the following made our list of the best compost bins.
- BEST OVERALL: Utopia Kitchen Compost Bin for Kitchen Countertop
- MOST DURABLE: FCMP Outdoor IM4000 Tumbling Composter
- BEST FOR KITCHEN SCRAPS: NEW OXO Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin
- BEST FOR SMALL KITCHENS: Chef’n 401-420-120 EcoCrock Counter Compost Bin
- BEST FOR INDOOR USE: SCD Probiotics All Seasons Indoor Composter
- BEST FOR URBAN GARDENERS: Worm Factory 360 US Made Composting System
- MOST ECO FRIENDLY: Bamboozle Food Compost Bin
Conventional vs. Worm Composting
Before you choose a compost bin, you’ll need to decide if you want to use the conventional composting method or vermicomposting (worm composting). Both methods will produce rich compost for your garden, but the method you choose depends on your available space and lifestyle.
- Conventional composting involves mixing organic waste in an optimum ratio of 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen in the presence of moisture and air. High carbon ingredients, or “browns,” include shredded newspaper, coffee grounds, and dead leaves. Vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and weeds fall into the high nitrogen “greens” category. In a warm, moist, aerated mixture of browns and greens, microbes like bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, and others decompose the mixture into a finished soil amendment.
- Worm composting employs red wiggler worms to consume organic waste and produce compost in the form of “castings” (worm manure). This produces a super-rich, fertile compost loaded with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and many micronutrients. The worms keep the compost aerated and tumbled, so there’s no work required other than feeding them kitchen scraps and providing paper bedding. The most common worm composting systems are small bins that fit in a corner of the kitchen or in the garage (don’t worry, it won’t smell if tended to properly), but larger bins are available if you’re looking to produce a lot of compost. Worm composting bins need to be kept between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (worms don’t like it too cold or hot), so keep the bin in a sheltered area.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to compost bins. In general, small bins run from 1 to 10 gallons, medium bins hold 11 to 30 gallons, and large bins are at 31 gallons or more. A small bin probably won’t be enough to maintain a large amount of yard debris. Compost needs to be turned—for aeration and distribution of materials—and that can be more challenging in a larger bin. Plus, the larger the bin, the longer the pile has to keep “cooking” to turn into compost.
Stationary vs. Tumbling
There are two main types of compost bins: stationary and tumbling.
- Stationary bins have a larger capacity than tumblers and are a good choice for those who have a lot of yard waste such as weeds, leaves, and grass clippings. To keep the compost pile cooking, you will need to manually turn it with a pitchfork every once in a while.
- Tumbling composters are sealed containers that can be rotated to mix the composting materials. They are elevated on a stand and typically have a handle, which makes turning the contents a quick and effortless job. Though smaller than stationary bins, tumbling bins are popular for their efficient design, which helps decomposition occur very quickly.
The type of bin you choose will depend on how much work you want to do, how much organic material you have, and how fast you want to create compost. If you have a lot of yard debris and you don’t mind manually turning the compost pile every once in a while, then a stationary bin will work. If you need compost fast and don’t want to bother with a pitchfork, a compost tumbler is probably your better bet.
Most compost bins are made out of plastic, wood, or metal, and most commercially available composters are manufactured from dark-colored recycled plastic. Dark plastic bins are ideal for absorbing heat from the sun and preventing moisture loss. DIY compost bins are commonly made of wood, metal, or stone. Keep in mind that bins used outdoors should be made from weather-resistant materials that will fit aesthetically with your landscape.
Compost bins are cylindrical, rectangular, square, or pyramid-shaped. In most cases, bin shape will be determined by the style of composter you intend to purchase and what fits best in your yard. If you’re tight on space, square/rectangular bins fit snugly into corners.
A properly mixed compost pile will have very little odor. Maintaining a balance of high-carbon brown and high-nitrogen green materials, aeration, moisture, and temperature will prevent the compost from producing odor. A properly made compost bin should have air vents or holes on selected parts of the bin for proper ventilation. Some bins have charcoal filters to help mitigate odor.
Stationary outdoor compost bins can go either in the shade or sun, depending on how fast you want the composting process to go. The sun helps increase the temperature, so the bacteria and fungi work faster. Tumblers or smaller bins can be moved to any part of your yard or home as needed.
Our Top Picks
The following compost bins are our top picks for specific home and garden uses, based on design, cost, and customer satisfaction.
The attractive1.3-gallon Utopia Kitchen Compost Bin technically doesn’t make compost; it simply holds kitchen waste until you take it to an outdoor compost tumbler or worm bin. For optimal longevity and durability, it’s made of high-quality grade 201 stainless steel that won’t scratch, crack, or chip. The bin also comes with charcoal filters that trap odors so food scraps can build up during the week without attracting pests or releasing bad smells into your home.
During testing, this compost bin was easy to open and empty, easy to clean, and surprisingly lightweight, even when filled with compost. It’s attractive enough to display on the kitchen counter but can also be hidden under a cabinet. The bin comes with a replacement filter so you can swap out your old one when it’s time. We tested the bin both with a liner and without, and it worked great both ways, although using liners (compost bags) helped minimize mess and the need for cleaning.
- Material: Stainless steel
- Capacity: 1.3 gallons
- Difficulty level: Beginner
- Versatile size
- Design looks great with a variety of decor
- Can be used with or without liner
- Comes with an extra carbon filter
- May be too small for some composters
- Removing lid to add waste can get cumbersome
- When bin is full, compost can stick to lid
If you need a consistent supply of fresh compost to feed your flowers and vegetable garden, then the FCMP Outdoor IM4000 Tumbling Composter will fit the bill. At 37 gallons, it holds plenty of kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and other yard and garden waste—yet despite its ample size, this tumbler is easy to turn. It also features double inner bins, which allow you to have two batches of compost in different stages of decomposition going at the same time.
Give the barrel five to six spins every 2 or 3 days to aerate the compost. As long as the mixture balance is correct, the FCMP tumbling composter will create ready-to-use compost in as little as 2 weeks.
This compost bin was difficult to assemble and came with no written instructions, so we had to rely on graphics and trial and error to assemble the bin, which took about an hour for two people. Required tools were not included with the product. Once assembled, however, the bin was easy to use and rotate, even when it was filled with compost.
Although its size can attract attention in the yard, it can also be placed conveniently by the garden so that when the time comes to deposit the compost, you don’t have far to move it. The bin comes with vents on the side, which can be closed to “cook” the compost and opened to allow ventilation.
- Material: Plastic and metal
- Capacity: 37 gallons
- Difficulty level: Intermediate/advanced
- Durable to resist damage
- Provides instructions for proper composting
- Makes it easy to rotate compost
- Large enough for bigger gardens
- Very difficult to assemble without written instructions (just graphics)
- Bulky and difficult to move when full
- Plastic material has an odor
For storing under the kitchen sink or on the countertop, the small but sturdy OXO Good Grips compost bin holds up to 1.75 gallons of compost and is designed to be used with a liner (also called compost bags). Unlike other bins, this bin has a mechanism in the back that secures the bag and helps prevent the liner from sinking down as you fill the bin with scraps.
During testing, it was obvious that this feature made this bin stand out from other indoor compost bins. Unlike other bins, the lid opens very easily and it has an oversize latch. The entire lid part is removable to make emptying the bin and cleaning it easier. The sturdy handle made moving the bin easy, even when filled with compost, and with the oversize square shape, it was easy to add scraps but not difficult to store the bin.
- Material: Plastic
- Capacity: 1.75 gallons
- Difficulty level: Beginner
- Size and shape are ample
- Easy to open and use
- Has a mechanism on the back to keep compost bags in place
- Bin is lightweight and easy to move, even when full
- Entire unit is made of plastic
- Does not control odor
- Style does not suit all decors
The ceramic and plastic Chef’n 401-420-120 counter bin is best for small kitchens because it only holds ¾ gallon of compost. However, it offers an easy-to-clean inner plastic bin, while the outside is ceramic. The result is a sophisticated appearance in a lightweight compost bucket. The bucket isn’t designed to be used with a liner and will need to be cleaned periodically. The bin has odor control from a carbon filter in the lid, which is plastic and has a cute green leaf detail as the handle.
While testing this product, the heavy ceramic outer bin was definitely cumbersome to move, but once placed, only the inner bin needed to be moved to empty compost. However, when the bin got full, the waste did occasionally get on the plastic bucket, the lid, and the ceramic outer bin, leading to the need to clean all the components. Using the bin with a liner minimized some of the mess, but the small shape meant the bucket filled up quickly.
- Material: Ceramic and plastic
- Capacity: ¾ gallon
- Difficulty level: Beginner
- Stylish and sturdy, with attractive ceramic bin and cute leaf on lid
- Easy to pull inner bucket out for emptying
- Controls odor well
- Outer ceramic bin is breakable
- Entire unit is heavy, even when empty
- Bucket has limited capacity
If you don’t have room for a full-size composter or prefer to compost indoors, the SCD Probiotics All Seasons Indoor Composter will fit right under your sink and won’t stink up the kitchen. The SCD is an anaerobic composter, meaning it uses microorganisms that do not require oxygen to break down food scraps. This bin relies on inoculated bokashi bran to “pre-ferment” food scraps (including small bones, meat, dairy, and oily foods), thereby accelerating the composting process.
The process doesn’t fully “cook” kitchen scraps into traditional compost, so you’ll need to bury or scatter the contents in an outdoor garden to finish the process. The 5-gallon airtight bucket has a handy spigot for releasing compost tea—a potent liquid fertilizer—as food scraps ferment. The compost tea is strong, so be sure to dilute it with water before fertilizing houseplants or outdoor containers.
There were many things to love about this compost bin while testing. The large size cut down on the emptying of the bin, and yet it could fit under the sink or near a trash bin. It also composted the material directly in the bin. Although the lid was cumbersome to remove and secure each time we deposited food scraps, the size of the bin made up for the inconvenience. The spigot for compost tea was also extremely handy and made it easy and efficient to water and feed indoor or outdoor plants.
- Material: Recycled plastic
- Capacity: 5 gallons
- Difficulty level: Beginner/intermediate
- Large indoor size
- Makes and dispenses useful compost tea
- Can compost meat, bones, and dairy waste
- Size may be too large to fit well in a kitchen cabinet
- Material must be added regularly to accelerate composting
- Lid cumbersome to remove each time scraps are added
Worm compost bins are perfect for city gardeners whose space is limited. A sunny windowsill or kitchen corner is the perfect spot for the Worm Factory 360. At less than 2 feet tall and wide, the composting bin won’t take up much space. The basic model features four stacking trays, but you can add more to handle additional compost materials if needed.
The kit does not supply red wiggler worms (you’ll need to purchase them separately) but will advise on how many pounds of worms to buy. It does, however, come with a few handy accessories, including mineral rock dust for nutrients, a thermometer, a hand rake, a scraper, worm ladders (which help them move up through the compost), and worm bedding. Best of all, there’s very little assembly involved—just unpack and stack.
This compost bin was extremely easy to assemble and left no questions about where to put parts. The stacking trays allowed for different stages of compost to develop at the same time and made it easy to empty the compost into the garden. The handy spigot for compost tea was an extra bonus. The size falls between a large and small composter, making it ideal for those with smaller backyards who are still serious about composting.
- Material: Plastic
- Capacity: Varies
- Difficulty level: Intermediate/advanced
- Easy to assemble
- Can hold various stages of compost
- Has tea collector tray and watering “can”
- Have to remove trays to use compost
- Made of plastic
- Does not come with necessary worms
The Bamboozle Food Composter comes with extra charcoal filters to replace the existing one in the lid for odor control. It can sit on the counter or under the sink and holds approximately 1 gallon of scraps. The square shape is unique compared to many other countertop compost bins, and its neutral colors (charcoal or natural) blend in well with a variety of decor to be discreet on a countertop.
While testing this product, we noticed the lid had a bit of weight to it that became cumbersome to keep lifting whenever we added waste to the bin. We tested the bin with and without a liner. While the liner made it easier to clean and use, the bin could just as easily be used without a liner. This bin is breakable, which makes using it with a liner preferable to minimize the need to move the bucket so often when emptying compost: Just pull out the liner bag.
- Material: Bamboo
- Capacity: 1 gallon
- Difficulty level: Beginner
- Stylish, comes in different colors
- Controls odor
- Dishwasher safe
- Unique square design
- On the smaller side
- Lid is heavy
For its design, ease of use, and price, the Utopia Kitchen Compost Bin is a versatile compost bin for both beginners and advanced composters to collect kitchen scraps before adding to an outdoor compost bin. When looking for something larger than can accommodate both discarded food and dry leaves or grass clippings, the FCMP Outdoor IM4000 Tumbling Composter was a close runner-up.
How We Tested the Best Compost Bin
Each product was tested based on how easy it was to assemble, use, and clean. Using a rubric, we tested specifically for durability, how easy it was to empty and fill each compost bin, and how well any mechanisms worked, such as vents, filters, and spigots for compost tea. We also tested for odor control as well as the value of each bin for the price.
In the end, each bin was compared against the others based on its ease of use—this included assembly as well as daily use of the product. We also evaluated the durability and eco-friendliness of the materials and the capacity of the compost bins and compared features, usability, and price to determine the best products.
Learning how to compost can take time, but with the right bin and strategy, you’ll be on your way to having fertile garden soil in no time.
Q. How often do I need to rotate my compost pile?
There is such a thing as turning your compost too often. Ideally, you should rotate your compost pile or bin every 2 weeks to accelerate the composting process.
Q. When can I start using my compost?
Compost is ready to use when there are no visible scraps in it—it should look like dark soil.
Q. What’s the best way to use compost tea?
Simply dilute the tea after it comes directly from your compost pile, and water indoor or outdoor plants with it.