Cheap Compost Bins
Composting is a means of conservation -- a way to turn kitchen and yard waste into fertilizer -- so it stands to reason that compost bins should be cheap. Placing waste in free-form piles outdoors is certainly the thriftiest way to make a nutrient-rich enhancement for the garden, but eco-minded consumers often prefer dedicated compost bins: one for indoors to hold food scraps while awaiting transfer outside to a second, larger bin where the composting takes place. The former can be had for as little as $18 and the latter for no more than $50.
Cheap Compost Bins Buying Guide
Why bother with a compost bin, even if it is a bargain? For one, there's no unsightly pile sitting on the kitchen counter or in the yard or on the terrace. Also, most cheap compost bins, and virtually all the indoor products, are closed containers that keep odors in and critters and insects out.
We identified two cheap indoor compost bins that merit consideration. The 0.75-gallon Oxo Good Grips Compost Bin (starting at $20) holds the top spot for its odor-free seal and clean good looks. Our second choice, the 0.75-gallon Chef'n EcoCrock (starting at $40), provides a tight seal as well as a carbon filter that absorbs odors. The significantly larger Mr. Eco Mini Compost Bin (starting at $40) holds 2.7 gallons and features a handle for turning the waste, but some users find the process messy and susceptible to flies and odors.
Our list of cheap outdoor compost bins begins with the Redmon Compost Bin (starting at $47), a 65-gallon structure with ventilated sides, lid, and four doors that enable easy access to the fresh compost. The Fiskars Eco Bin Composter (starting at $40), a cylinder-like covered bin with mesh sides wins points for good air flow, light weight, and collapsible design. The Keter E-Composter (starting at $49) doesn't make the grade; among other issues, users gripe that the bin pops apart and can't withstand the weight of the 124 gallons it claims to hold.
The transition from kitchen and yard waste to useful organic matter is a biological process that relies on oxygen and moisture, the proper mix of "brown" waste (leaves, branches) and "green" waste (food scraps, grass clippings), and human or mechanical intervention in the form of periodic churning. If not tended carefully or built up in the proper proportions, decomposing matter can emit foul odors, attract pests, and take forever to become the light, fluffy, nutrient-rich compost that conditions the soil and keeps plants happy.
High-end composters, whether of the indoor or outdoor variety, cost in the low- to mid-triple digit range but do much of the work for you. Some pricey models boast automatic mixing arms; others require a few spins of a drum-like container; and still others let worms take charge. Indoor models that produce compost typically contain a carbon filter, an additional fortification against unpleasant smells. Composting proceeds relatively quickly in these closed systems, sometimes needing just a couple of weeks from start to finish.
The budget end of the compost bins market is another story. Here, indoor and outdoor models serve unique functions. Cheap indoor compost bins are meant to be convenient dumping grounds for kitchen waste until the consumer is ready to carry the contents to the outdoor compost pile (or bin). They have lids that close tight and some sport a carbon filter for additional odor control. Most are made of plastic, a material that consumers often prefer over metal (prone to rust) and ceramic (prone to breakage). Cheap backyard compost bins are larger and do the real work of composting with a design that lets in air and moisture, traps heat, and keeps wildlife at bay. Manual effort, usually facilitated by a pitchfork, is required to periodically churn the mass. Most cheap outdoor compost bins are made of plastic, which generally fares well against the elements.
Some of the best-known names in the compost bins business are Gaiam, Presto Products, Redmon, Keter, Exaco, and Worm Factory. Compost bins are also a DIY opportunity, and numerous sites offer tips for building your own. And don't forget the Environmental Protection Agency, a fertile ground for guidance and information about composting.