Wasting food is worse than nails on a chalk board..almost. I shed a small piece of my heart each time I throw food into the garbage. I still have my entire heart because I refuse to waste, I will save even the smallest morsel of a meal to incorporate into the next. So what do I waste then? Scraps of food that I deem inedible: think watermelon rinds, lemon peels, garlic skin, wilted leafy produce. Rather than throw these away, why not compost them!
Compost bins these days can be expensive, and take up a lot of space. There are plenty of DIY projects all over the internet, from digging holes in the ground to getting an old garbage can and filling it with left over food. I know someone who recently made a compost bin out of milk crates. It’s worked out well for left over scraps!
DIY Compost Bin
You wont need much, just some milk crates (3 of them for a good rotation system), weed blocker, paper bags, and a hot glue gun.
These are the crates that were used. There are three, but I started with two to get the compost going. You won’t need the third one for a bit.
Oh surprise, I used a TJ’s bag. You’ll need a sturdy paper bag to lay on the bottom of the bin. Eventually this will compost into your soil, but it will take time and lets the food break down first.
You will take the weed block fabric of your choice, and hot glue it to the four side walls of the bin. Do not put a layer on the bottom, the bottom is only for the paper bag. You don’t want weeds growing into your compost, they taste like intruders.
Glue glue glue. This part is dangerous, I couldn’t risk burning my clumsy sausage fingers.
Voila, repeat these steps on the other two crates and you are almost ready to start spoiling food for fresh soil.
Add a little bit of soil to get the bin started.
The lid helps to keep the soil dark and moist, but you will need to let the bins have sun and water occasionally.
Now for the rotation process: To make this easier to understand we will call the crates A, B, and C (eventually you will need three crates.) The top crate is A, middle crate is B, and bottom crate is C. Once crate A is 3/4 full you will swap it out with crate B. Crate B then comes to the top. Once crate B is 3/4 full, you will take whatever is left in crate A (which should be partially broken down by now) and POUR that into crate C. You will then put crate A back on top, and crate B back into the middle. This will begin your cycle. Crate C is there basically to collect the leftover waste that needs more time breaking down.
This compost bin is strictly veg friendly. No meats or animal products will find their way into the bin. With meat you have to worry about other breakdown methods. If you want a meat friendly bin, this is the wrong blog for you.
Q: Do you waste a lot of food? Ever thought about saving scraps like this? Someday this will be soil to fuel my garden!
85 thoughts on “DIY: Compost Bin”
An Unrefined Vegan
Brilliant! It kills me to toss produce scraps, too, which proves a touch embarrassing when in other people’s homes ;-).
Ooh awesome! My parents have always composted, and when I first moved out on my own it killed me how much kitchen scraps I had to throw away!
Growing Up in the Garden
Love this idea! So simple. Now, to find some milk crates.
Just A Smidgen
I love this idea, you make it look so simple.. and I just happen to have three “man-friends” lounging about today, lol! xo Smidge
Boise Runner (@RunInBoise)
Using milk crates have to be one of the best ideas! Thanks for sharing.
Yay for compost! Grab some worms at your local fishing store and toss them in with some damp leaves [they LOVE leaves], they’ll have a rave, glow sticks and all, leaving your compost to party on with the plants!
RAWRRR worm party!
Alex @ therunwithin
This is awesome, way to go on this! I know it is tough to motivate myself to really take care of the environment when you are on your own. Such a great idea.
This is awesome! We compost at my house, but we have a huge eyesore of a bin. When I move back into my own place, I’m doing this!
my old city used to pick up our scraps for a city compost and i loved it! now the scraps go in the bin … but there’s very little scrap left since i eat all parts of the vegetables… and i mean all! 🙂
I hate wasting food. Partially because I’m Jewish and if I’m spending money I like to get my worth aahahhaha, but mainly because I love food and I don’t want to waste a single bite of it. Plus people don’t realize that even if a food has bruises or stuff on it that doesn’t mean that it isn’t edible. I love this idea though!! I’m gonna have to suggest doing this with my roommate.
Very cool idea missy, look at you being all earth-loving-like 😉 I do also hate to waste food, and was guilty of it as a kid. Not as much anymore, but there improvement to be had!
Life After Swimming
You are so resourceful and I love it! 🙂
Love it! You KNOW I love this 🙂
Go manfriend,,,, adventurer, wise plant-guy and NOW home DIY greenie helper 🙂
I don’t want to sound like a completely redonkulous ditz, but is our manfriend your boyfriend Brittany? If not, feel free to telepathically konk me on the head :P. Anyhoo, this is a fabulous idea! I love trying to figure out ways to be more eco-friendly and get creative with it. I have never put much thought into starting a compost because I feared the smell, but this is awesome!
And lol, “If you want a meat friendly bin, this is the wrong blog for you.” YOU are hilarious.
Yes yes yes that is my boyfriend for sureee! I just like the name manfriend. Baha.
This is such a great idea! I HATE wasting food, especially when it’s down to it going off because I’ve taken too long to eat it so this looks like a DIY project that I need to try :)! Just outta curiosity, is your manfriend vegan too?
Yess he and I are both eating vegan. He went vegetarian (ALL on his own I swear) after getting sick off of some meat last December. Then we took the vegan plunge together to see how we liked it. We loved it!
My daddy is an herbalist, so he is ALL about composting!! Ive helped him with it one too many times!! It does make great soil, but beware, it can seriously STINK towards the end! lol
Health Freak College Girl
This is awesome! I would totally love to make a bin sometime 🙂
Once again, I think you and manfriend need to start a bed and breakfast. And you could have a huge compost bin for the leftovers and teach others on how to be more careful with garbage and waste and protecting the giant earth of a planet. I like the flower in his hair, it is very fitting. When you two get married, you both should wear a matching wreath of them upon your heads. It will be very regal. And non-wasteful. And glorious.
Sarah @ Feeeding the Brain and Body
This is so great, I love DIY projects! The city I live in has a green bin program where all of our food scraps are thrown out separate from every thing else so they can be composted 🙂
Kristen @ Swanky Dietitian
This is great!! I have always wanted to make a compost bin,but assumed I would have to buy one for some reason. Thanks for this post!
Nicole Marie Story
Your compost pile is absolutely gorgeous!!! I normally eat EVERYTHING (my entire daily stock), so I don’t have the opportunity to compost (the monkey eats the leftover veggies that I can’t dip into reduced sugar ketchup and happily devour). 😀 – BUT, when I did juice for a few days, I gave all of my juicing scraps to EDmund’s mother who has a nice compost pile. I can’t wait for you and manfriend to get married. I simply want to buy you a gift from the registry, like right now!, because you’re so cute! 😀 Mwah!
What a clever idea. We have to compost inside with an enclosed unit up where we live but I’ll remember that for when we move south again.
Rach @ This Italian Family
Brilliant! I always think that I need to start composting, but I just haven’t done it yet. Mostly because I think that I’m afraid it will be really difficult. You make it look so easy! Thanks for this, girl!
Veggie V! @ Veggie V's Vegan Adventure
Love this idea! But, ours would fill up soooo fast!
Simply Life (@SimplyLifeBlog)
I love this idea! i also HATE throwing away food! We were able to compost in our last apt and I LOOOOVED it!!
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I’d love to try this, but I am a little confused. Could you clarify a couple things? Do you only put the paper on the bottommost crate? Would you fill the bottom one up first and then add the second? Do you still need to turn this compost once in a while?
Yes repeat the steps with each bin, so that means lining the sides with the weed blocker and lining the bottom with the paper bags. This prevents anything that may fall through the top bins to get out. If you have a lot of waste, you may want to use three crates, I started with two, but had three for whenever they started to fill up.
To make this easier to understand we will call the crates A, B, and C. The top crate is A, middle crate is B, and bottom crate is C. Once crate A is 3/4 full you will swap it out with crate B. Crate B then comes to the top. Once crate B is 3/4 full, you will take whatever is left in crate A (which should be partially broken down by now) and POUR that into crate C. You will then put crate A back on top, and crate B back into the middle. This will begin your cycle. Crate C is there basically to collect the leftover waste that needs more time breaking down. Moving the crates around like this should hopefully be enough turning, but feel free to stir things around and add more dirt if you think it’s needed!
I hope this helps! Let me know if you have anymore questions!
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I love this idea and have started building my own.
How is it holding up 3-4 years later?
Also, can you use weed cloth on the bottom too, or is there a specific reason you use weed cloth on the sides and paper on the bottom?
Thanks so much for your idea and help implementing it! 😊
Hi Kayla! Thanks for the comment, and I’m so excited you’re going to give this a try. SADLY this bin went with the person I made it with and we don’t speak anymore so I cannot attest to how it’s held up after all these years, but the good news is it’s cheap to make!
The paper on the bottom was to help the compost fall through once it was broken down, and I don’t think the weed wall paper would break down enough to let the compost cycle though. The bottom we want open, but not the sides. I hope that helps! I’d love to know how it goes!
Any advice on moving this indoors during the winter months maybe in a garage?
I think moving it into a garage would be successful. Depending on what you put in yours it may have a strong odor, but may not. Trial and error, but I would put something under it like a garbage bag or something moveable to catch anything that may fall.
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Angeline Duran / Dusty House
I love this a lot. Thanks for posting. I think I’m going to try it. My hesitation is the scavenger coyotes that roam my neighborhood. I wonder if the plywood with a rock on it will keep them out of the yummies. Hopefully out rainy season will have them full of squirrels and the neighborhood cats and make them less desperate for my California Avocado rinds. Yum! Where’s my refrigerator and salt shaker?
Those darn coyotes! You’d know better than I would what might keep them out. This was surely a fun project, I no longer have it. Perhaps I should make another!
Angeline Duran / Dusty House
BTWs I love your profile picture! You look like a very good friend of mine and seem to have her enthusiasm. Therefore I shall follow your blog. Cheers!
Aww, thank you! She sounds like good people. 🤗
Awesome! I have been looking for ways to start a compost pile 🙂 Great info!
It was so fun!
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What is a weedblocker? Where I live we don’t have that. Is there anything else I can use? Thanks for any help
The weed blocker was a type of tarp almost. Maybe you could use tarp, or a garbage bag. Something to try to keep weeds out of the bins!
Rene Robinson Willis
What is the purpose of lining the sides of the crates? Couldn’t you just leave it open for the compost to aerate and the small particles to fall to the next bin? Or are the compostibles falling out the sides? Would lining it with cardboard or paper work as well?
The lining is to prevent weeds from growing within the compost as you rotate the bins over time. Cardboard might not offer breathability and paper would breakdown quickly. Ultimately though it’s all an experiment and you can definitely try something else to make it your own!
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this looks awesome, can’t wait to try, which bin do you actually take the finished compost out of to be use? thanks
Any of them! They’re all good compost, just use the oldest one first.
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Followed each step as you did except I doubled and cut to size the weed barrier then glued it to the milk crate. Is it ok to keep it on my wood deck? Or gravel area or is it Best on the ground where the weeds may grow
I would keep on gravel or ground, in case anything leaks out of the bottom. That way you don’t soil or ruin your deck. Have fun!
Is there a recommended depth for the dry leaf/ brown layer and the kitchen scrap layer? How often do you have to water it and air it? You said this is not for me or animal products, but our egg shells okay? Thanks for this, as this is our first small attempt at composting
Hi Terry, I think egg shells should be fine. I didn’t use a specific depth, but just enough to cover the bottom without leaving any holes. I rotated as each section got full.
Honestly it was an experimental, so I don’t have detailed logistics, but see what works best for you! Either way it will be easy and an exciting first step!
Theresa [Hey, Traveler]
Nice! Luckily I live in Austin where the city supports composting so I just have to put my scraps in a bin and they pick it up weekly. But this is an awesome idea to implement if I ever need to.
That IS nice!! I would love to live in a city like this. Seattle does it I believe, but I live across the water! (well, I did. I live in Germany now where they compost and recycle everything!)
This is a really great post and I’m so glad to see you still respond to it! I’m new to composting and I have a question about green and brown distribution (green being food scraps and brown the dry sticks, dirt, and leaves). You mentioned swapping crates when B or A is 3/4 full of scraps (green)- is the remaining 1/4 for the browns? Do you at any point while filling a crate turn the material? I’ve read that using browns usually helps with odor. What do you think? Thanks again!
Hi Gina! I’m so excited you want to give this a try. Essentially you can wait until the first crate is completely full before you start to rotate, but yes you could also add some browns to help with odor. I didn’t personally turn the material, but it couldn’t hurt if you wanted to! Ideally by the time you fill up the third crate, the first one you filled will have broken down a good amount. Hope that helps!
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We’ve been using our veggie and fruit scraps to feed the bunnies, squirrels, voles and the rest. It keeps them out of our vegetable garden. But i am definitely considering building my own bin after reading this post, thanks!
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Umm, watermelon rinds and lemon (or any citrus) peels make fantastic snacks, pickled or candied! 😉 Compost the egg shells and other inedibles!
Do you put week blocker and the paper bag on all 3 crates? I’m a bit confused.
Hi! Yes, on all three!
You are so awesome! I do not believe I have read through anything like that before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this topic. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that is required on the internet, someone with a little originality!
Hi, do you have to use weed block fabric and hot glue? I don’t want to buy a hot glue gun and glue just for this project. Can I use sheets of cardboard instead? Thank you.
Give it a try!
I have started putting my scraps with a bit of water through my food processor to expediate the breakdown process. Do you think this will help? Thanks!
Yea, I think that could help. It’s all about experimenting. Have fun.
I love this so much! I’ve been thinking to start a compost bin for forever and I’ve been actively looking for a solution I like. Nothing! Until I found this one – solution to all my problems. Thank you so much!
What a wonderful, simple idea.
Thank you for this super easy idea. I have been putting scraps in my green bin for the community compost program that they pick up weekly with garbage and recycling, however, I feel like I’m throwing away valuable stuff!! I did just dig deep holes in my garden and throw in the food scraps but then we had a problem with mice. This idea looks like it will prevent mice from reaching food scraps.
I read the comments, but I still have a question. Essentially all I am doing is throwing in a layer of soil and my food scraps on top?
Can I add in grass clippings as well?
The compost should break down the paper bags at the bottom of A and B so that it just falls through to the bottom into crate C and I just take the compost out of there and replace the paper bags as I go along?
Hi! Yes, a layer of soil and food goes on top. I’d say go for it with the grass clippings so long as it doesn’t take up too much space. The crates I used were not that big, and it took some time for them to break down.
The idea is to rotate the bins as they get full, so I didn’t have much falling through, but it depends I suppose on how much and how long you have in each crate. It’s sort of an experiment! No right or wrong way to try it. Once you’re happy with the compost material you can reuse it if you’d like or dispose of somewhere into the earth when there isn’t much left of it.
Hope that helps! I no longer have these crates, but it was a fun start.
This is great. The idea of buying something made of plastic and other man made materials with a carbon footprint defeats the purpose of composting, returning natural products to the earth and made me cringe. I knew there was a simpler way! Thanks Britt!
I literally cannot tell if this entire comment is facetious. 🤣
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