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Published Jul. 20, 2021

The beauty of composting is that the practice lets you take today’s leftovers and scraps and turn them into fertilizer for tomorrow’s fruits and veggies. With the best compost bin, anyone can transform organic waste affordably, right from the comfort of your backyard or kitchen counter. 

According to the National Resources Defense Council, composting “adds nutrients and organic matter back to the soil,” a.k.a. black gold. This “benefits agriculture, reduces our reliance on synthetic fertilizers, diverts methane-producing organic materials from landfills, and improves soil’s water retention capacity so you don’t need to water as much.” Plus, composted soil is said to produce more delicious fruits and vegetables. Despite how complicated it may sound, all you really need is the right composting bin or compost barrel and the desire to be an eco-superhero. Beyond that, according to the EPA, just find a shady, dry spot for your bin, and moisten dry materials before you add them to the heap.

Factors to consider when shopping for the best compost bin

Depending on how green (or not so green!) thumb your thumb is, ease of use should be the first consideration when choosing the best compost bin. The good news: Most models are relatively simple to operate. The right mix of materials—greens like foodstuffs and browns like newspaper and leaves—guarantee a nearly odor-free process. Beyond that, the process comes down to how much space you have and whether you’re comfortable adding insects to the mix.

Do you want an indoor compost bin or an outdoor compost bin?

The biggest variable between indoor and outdoor styles is odor. Composting—which, in essence, is accomplished by decay—can get stinky. Indoor composters tend to be smaller and more airtight, and they sometimes come with built-in filters. You could use your indoor bin as a layover for the backyard, i.e. a place to store scraps that eventually and quickly go into the bigger bin out back, assuming you don’t want what is essentially dirt and decay sitting on your countertop for weeks.

Would you prefer a nice and neat composting bin that fits on your countertop?

The upside to a countertop compost bin is that it’s small and tidy-looking, and you won’t have to schlep to the backyard every time you need to deposit a banana peel. The downside is, well, it’s small. And not just that, but without the tumbler feature of many outdoor models, you’ll either eventually have to transfer the contents of your countertop contraption to an outdoor one or do the tumbling yourself, i.e. using your hands or tools to mix the compost components together. Think of a countertop style as an add-on, not a fully functional composting system in and of itself (especially since it takes weeks for compost to fully develop).  

If you want an outdoor compost bin, how many chambers would you like?

Compost barrels and bins tend to come in two varieties: single- and multiple-chamber. The main difference is that a multiple- or dual-chamber composter allows you to compost multiple batches on a rolling basis. For example, you can keep adding waste to one chamber while the other cooks). Technically, you don’t even need a bin to compost (though it certainly makes it easier). Those with greener thumbs can create a compost pit or trench in the yard, no bins or barrels required. If ease is what you’re after, a dual-chamber tumbler—so you don’t have to manually mix the compost—is the way to go.

Are you cool with worms?

If you said, “Heck yes, I’m cool with worms!” that’s great news. The addition of worms can speed up the composting process in multiple ways. The worms eat all the food scraps you’ve put in the bin, and when they come back out again, voilà, it’s compost now! Also, their penchant for tunneling creates a naturally aerated environment for the decay to happen. If you’re down with worms, invest in a batch of red wigglers, a particularly efficient type of worm, at your local nursery or through Amazon. If you have an open-bottom composting bin in your backyard, no need to buy your own worms. The earthworms already in your yard will naturally gravitate to it. And if you’re more than just a little interested in worms, you could try creating your own wormery, a.k.a. vermicomposting. 

How do I know what’s compostable and what’s not? 

Eventually, you’ll get a natural sense for what you can and cannot compost. Until then, just defer to a trusted source, like the NRDC. As a general rule, avoid anything treated with pesticides, feces, dairy, charcoal, or fats. Do opt for leaves, shredded newspaper, coffee grounds, teabags, and fruits and veggies. 

Best pick overall: VIVOSUN Tumbling Compost Bin 

All-Purpose

This twin-chamber design is able to hold 162 liters of organic material to give you verdant soil in just 10 to 12 weeks.
VIVOSUN

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This rotating batch compost bin is easy to use and mess-free. Two chambers let you alternate dual batches of compost, while the convenient tumbler lets you mix without getting your hands dirty. Adjustable air vents provide aeration for oxygen-rich soil, and a pair of garden gloves (included) let you excavate and plant your yard safely.

Best for apartment dwellers: NEW OXO Good Grips Compost Bin

Tiny but Mighty

This compact model with a lid weighs less than 2 pounds and goes well with stainless-steel appliances. OXO

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Though it has a small footprint, this OXO style gets the job done. Oxygen flows through the soft-close lid to combat odor and insects. It can also be switched to stay-open mode, for ease when tossing in scraps. The internal bucket is removable and can be popped in the dishwasher, and its handle makes it easy to carry outside. 

Premium pick: Redmon Compost Bin 

Sturdy and Solid

This no-frills utilitarian model can plow through lots of organic material. And it composts continuously, as opposed to needing a tumble.
Redmon Since 1883

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Four access doors plus a top-lid make it easy to get scraps in and compost out. At 15 pounds empty and 26-by-26-by-30.75 inches, set it and forget it. Plus, this Redmon compost bin is made of post-consumer, UV-stabilized material that’ll stand up to all sorts of weather. 

Best for people with yards: VermiHut Plus Worm Compost Bin 

Perfect for Vermicomposting

This model has a special built-in tray made specifically for anyone who plans to add a dimension to their recycling. This option increases airflow and makes the process purer and more efficient.
VermiHut

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This 17-by-17-by-33-inch multi-tray option has additional components like an ant trap, plus multiple boards made of different materials (e.g. coconut fiber) for moisture control, fruit-fly deterrence, and odor removal.

Budget pick: EPICA Compost Bin

Light and Easy

At less than a pound empty and at an affordable price, this stainless-steel option is easy on the eyes, the back, and the wallet.
EPICA

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This rust- and leak-proof Epica composting bin option controls odor with an airtight lid and replaceable charcoal filter. Plus, it won’t leach any toxic chemicals into your compost. 

FAQs

Q:

What is the best composter for beginners? 

The great news is that all composters are beginner-friendly! The choice comes down to whether you want to store your scraps inside, throw it all in a continuous composter outside, work on multiple compost batches with a multiple-chamber model, and whether you’re interested in a tumbling option. All are easy; they just require the right ingredients, tools, time, and expectations.

Q:

How often should you turn your compost? 

Answers vary: Some sources say every four to five weeks. Others say two or three times a week. Others still say every seven to 14 days. Talk to the people at your local gardening center to get an answer. The key is not to over-turn. Too much tumbling will wreak havoc on your compost. It’ll disperse the heat inside the chamber, which is needed for the compost to cook.

Q:

How do I choose a compost bin? 

Think about the space you have (a giant backyard or no outdoor real estate?), how much you want to spend, whether you want a compact style you can place on the countertop, whether you want the option to tumble, and if you want to cook more than one batch of compost at a time. You can always start with an affordable, small countertop version. If you find yourself loving the compost life, upgrade to a bigger, hardier backyard style. 

A final word on choosing the best compost bin for you

A composter is a can’t-lose proposition! Just deciding to give composting a go means you’re on your way to living more sustainably and potentially growing more delicious food for your family. Composting reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and lowers your carbon footprint. Which particular bin, barrel, or tumbler you choose comes down to your comfort level, personal taste, and aesthetic. Just pick the one that speaks to you, and you’ll be on your way to eco-hero status in no time. 

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