Cheap Compost Bins
- Published on
- By Jennifer Magid
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. Two other related reasons for using an outdoor compost bin are airflow and retention of heat and moisture, all vital ingredients in the decomposition process.
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.
Compost Bin Reviews
Here's the thing about cheap indoor compost bins: They're way stations between food prep and table and the great outdoors. Some higher-priced models have the capacity to get the aeration process going or deliver a finished product, but those in the Cheapism zone are modest in their functional capabilities.
Reviews indicate that frugal, environmentally conscious consumers don't want to be bothered with daily hauls to the primary compost heap outside but will stay on track if the bins are readily within reach, odor free, and attractive enough to sit on the kitchen counter.
These reasons explain why consumers favor our top picks. Reviews on the Container Store and Bed Bath & Beyond websites commend the practicality of the Oxo Good Grips Compost Bin (starting at $20). Users like the three-quart size, which is unobtrusive atop the counter and, for smaller households at least, needs emptying every couple of days. They also appreciate the one-handed flip-up lid and large opening, and the tight seal that prevents odor seepage despite the absence of an odor-reducing filter. Reviewers say the white polypropylene and plastic bin cleans up quickly inside and out. One user lines it with a plastic grocery bag, but others say that precaution isn't necessary.
The pricier Chef'n EcoCrock (starting at $40) features a replaceable carbon filter to absorb odors. Reviews posted on Amazon say the filter works admirably and the tight-fitting lid defends against fruit flies. The bin also wins points for easy cleanup thanks to an interior plastic bucket that can be quickly rinsed. The contemporary style is good-looking enough to sit out in the open.
The Gaiam Compost Bucket (starting at $18/regular and $20/tall), by contrast, features an activated-carbon filter to absorb odors. Reviews posted on Amazon say the filter performs admirably although occasionally pops out of place. We did read some grumbling about the lid on the smaller version not sealing properly and requiring two hands to manage, but otherwise users are quite satisfied with the product. About the larger version, one indoor compost bins review reports it takes a week to fill up while another quips it's too bulky for the counter and too short for the floor, prompting the suggestion to add a foot pedal. Some consumers line the bucket with biodegradable plastic bags that go out along with the scraps (paper bags work, too), although it wins points for easy cleanup, regardless. The dark green color is neutral enough to sit out in the open but some users prefer to hide it under the sink.
The Mr. Eco Mini Compost Bin (starting at $40) veers away from the simple receptacle-with-a-lid design by incorporating a handle-driven, rotating tumbler. We found only a few indoor compost bins reviews for this product, and opinion is mixed. At Amazon, for example, one parent reports the handle is easy enough for a child to turn but says the churning process releases odors and flies. Others report the tumbler gets clogged and doesn't function properly when lined with biodegradable bags. We also read more upbeat reviews asserting that the bags don't cause any problems, odors are well contained, and the 2.7-gallon capacity is certainly convenient.
Outdoor Compost Bins
Outdoor compost bins are the final destination for all those scraps collected in the small kitchen compost bin. Of course, you could dump the waste onto a pile out back along with organic matter from the yard, but an enclosed bin is neater and speedier (weeks versus months to produce the finished product). Online reviews confirm that consumers value a product that's sturdy and well-ventilated, affords easy access for manual turning and emptying, wards off roving critters, and stands tall against the weather.
The Redmon Compost Bin (starting at $47) wins over consumers with its 65-gallon capacity, four ventilated sides with doors, and solid build. Outdoor compost bins reviews at Wayfair, for example, say the large holes are good for aeration, assembly is a breeze, and the size suits most yards. Users also report the lid snaps on tight, although one post at Hayneedle expresses a wish for a lid that flips open and requires just one hand to maneuver rather than two. The small doors at the bottom of each slightly slanted side afford easy access to the compost -- for humans as well as raccoons, reports one reviewer, who suggests cinder blocks as an effective stopper. Users also say the unit comes together quickly and holds its ground against wind and rain.
The Fiskars Eco Bin Composter (starting at $40), a nylon mesh cylinder with an open bottom and top lid, comes with pluses and minuses. A majority of reviews posted on Amazon extol the design (it looks a lot like a laundry basket) for allowing plenty of air to circulate and moisture to seep in. Users like the clean aesthetic, the collapsible structure, and the light weight, which lets them move the composter anywhere in the yard. Critics, however, contend that so much air cools and dries the organic material, inhibiting the decomposition process, and the openness invites wildlife to chew through the mesh to feast on kitchen scraps. Some also caution that the thin mesh may tear when turning the compost, a dilemma that one user resolves by lifting the bin off the pile, churning it, and then forking it back in.
Composting consumers have less confidence in the 124-gallon Keter E-Composter (starting at $49). The build quality is poor, they assert in reviews on Amazon, citing problems such as brittle plastic that squirrels can gnaw through, door hinges that break off, snap-together sides that warp and pop apart well before the bin is full, and a design that makes turning the mass a challenge. Still, some users appreciate the low price and say minor adjustments, such as securing the lid with a brick, improve functionality.
If your idea of composting is confined to grass clippings, leaves, and small branches, the Presto Products GKL0951-6 Geobin Composting System (starting at $35) might do the trick. This plastic, open-top hoop bin holds up to 14 bushels of yard waste and stands 36 inches tall and 36 inches across -- just right for easy filling and turning, according to reviews on Amazon. Users note that the product comes tightly coiled but is otherwise a simple setup, with good fasteners and a sturdy feel. Exposure to water, sun, and air keeps the composting process moving along at a rapid clip, reviews note. Because this bin has no lid, adding kitchen scraps to the heap is not advised.