Each year I get excited for spring: the warm weather, the opportunity to start planting seeds, and the beginning of compost season. Composting was a natural next step after I simplified my buying-and-recycling routine. I began to save items from takeout orders to throw in the pile, and my trash was cut in half (or less!). I’ve grown to love the process, including finding a balance of materials, watching the pile break down, and the resulting fresh soil with the cleanest, earthiest smell.
With springtime around the corner, we tested eight compost bins to see which one was best for both beginner and expert composters alike. Some bins were for indoor use, some for outdoor, and all had various features like handles, tumblers, secure closures and more so you can find the right one for your yard.
After testing, the traditional outdoor Redmon Compost Bin(available at Amazon for $57.69) is our choice for Best Overall thanks to its large capacity and ease of emptying. If you're looking for a smaller option for countertop use, the Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin (available at Amazon) is the Best Indoor Bin to keep your kitchen neat and odor-free.
Here are the best compost bins we tested, ranked in order:
Redmon Compost Bin, 65 Gallon
Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin, 1.3 Gallon
Chef'n EcoCrock Compost Bin
Miracle-Gro Single Chamber Outdoor Garden Tumbling Compost Bin, 27.7 Gallon
Squeeze Master Large Compost Tumbler Bin
SCD Probiotics Easy-Start Kitchen Compost Kit
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This trapezoid-shaped outdoor bin with sliding doors was the best overall composter we tested. Though indoor bins have a temperature advantage that kept them higher up in some scoring categories, we feel this is a great traditional option for anyone looking to start an outdoor compost practice.
The bin was easy to add to. The opening was wide, so there were days I used a shovel to add leaves or leftover garden plants.
The sides of the bin have plenty of holes for ventilation, and I really liked that the holes aren’t fully open. They provided enough air to let in moisture, cut down on the smell, and keep bugs and animals out.
I did run into an issue with mice digging under the side of the bin to get to food scraps, but I pushed the “teeth” of the bin into the ground more and placed large rocks around the edge to keep them out. If I did it again, I’d use a few pieces of wood as a frame to make the bottom secure from the start. Flat ground works best, but you could probably get away with a bit of a slant.
Because of the trapezoid shape, the bin fits up to 65 gallons, which is almost double what most bins can hold. I added to the bin every few days, and even then only filled it about halfway.
While I had plenty more room, it was also nice to have empty space in the bin so I could use a thin shovel or tool to stir the pile. Since this bin doesn’t spin, I tried to move the materials inside once a week to help break up clumps and spread the heat.
My favorite feature is the four sliding doors at the base of each side. They made it easy to check on the bottom of the pile and measure temperature and moisture levels. I also imagine it makes emptying the soil at the end of the process easy as well.
The bin is made of recycled plastic, so you can easily hose it off and let it dry fully before storing or putting it back to use.
It’s a wonderful option for people who want to compost as much as they can, especially those with plants or gardens. The bin’s roomy interior, multiple openings, and secure closures make it well worth the price.
This stainless steel bin is a durable container for all your kitchen waste. The bin holds a little more than a gallon’s worth of scraps, so it’ll probably fill up over an average of four to six days. That, of course, depends on how often you cook and if your food can go in the compost bin.
When adding to the bin, the stainless steel was a bit loud, especially when I had it placed on the floor. However, I didn’t mind the clinking sound so much because it was otherwise durable. If you have an outdoor bin, I recommend an indoor bin as well since it cuts down on how many trips you need to make outside and only takes up a small corner of your countertop.
The top of the bin has a filter so no smells leaked out, and the handle made the container easy to carry outside and dump. Stainless steel is easy to clean, and there were no stains or smells once I rinsed the bin out.
If you’re looking for an indoor bin—or you want to try composting out before investing too much money—this is the best option, and a steal at just over $20.
I’m Liv Birdsall, a plant mom and gardener living in Columbus, Ohio. I love sustainability and finding ways to reuse, recycle, and repurpose as much as possible. I began composting a few years ago when I wanted to expand my efforts to live a more sustainable and Earth-friendly lifestyle.
What was once a single-container system has grown into a multi-bin compost process that gives my kitchen scraps a second (or third!) life and provides me with nutritious soil for indoor and outdoor use.
We tested all eight bins over a period of two months. We set up the outdoor bins where they would get similar amounts of direct sunlight and equal exposure to the elements. The indoor bins were placed on the countertop and on the floor beside the garbage bin. Each week, we rotated the indoor bin locations to equalize any effect the stove or tile flooring may have had on daily readings.
We added scraps of all sorts to the bins. Materials varied: vegetable skins, fruit from kombucha flavoring, junk mail, banana peels, a lot of coffee grounds, dead leaves from plants in our garden, egg cartons, loose leaf tea, dryer lint, paper napkins from takeout food, expired veggie broth, moldy bread, grass, leaves, flowers, and more.
Every day I used a thermometer to record the bin’s interior temperature. As expected, the indoor bins were often warmer than the outdoor bins. Heat is conducive to material decomposition, so the higher the temperature, the more likely the bin would assist in breaking down the compost. This is why indoor bins scored well overall in our rankings.
What You Should Know About Compost Bins
How to Start a Compost Bin
Composting is affordable and approachable, especially to anyone who has outdoor space. Indoor composting is possible as well, it just takes a few more steps and a closer eye. To begin composting you only need a few things: a bin and both green and brown materials.
I also recommend purchasing gloves, a garden trowel, and at least one empty 5-gallon pail to make turning your pile and emptying your bin easier. To get started you’ll add green and brown materials to your bin, aiming for a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3. So for all the kitchen scraps you add, you’ll want to add double or triple the amount of yard waste, cardboard, newspaper, and other brown materials.
How to Use a Compost Bin
A compost bin is pretty easy to use once. First, decide the type of composter you need. An indoor bin will be more convenient, but will likely be smaller and slightly smelly.
An outdoor bin is open to fresh air and ventilation, but will take up space. If you have a few square feet of flat ground in sunlight, even if indirect, you’re all set.
Begin adding organic waste, aiming for a balance of “green” and “brown” materials. Green materials release nitrogen when they break down; things of this sort include food waste, flowers, soil, beer, and wine. When brown materials break down they release nitrogen. Brown items are easy to remember because they tend to be brown: paper towel and toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, cardboard, and dead leaves from plants, to name a few.
I prefer outdoor compost bins because heat is a large factor in compost breakdown. Placing a bin in direct sunlight will help speed up the breakdown process, and fresh air helps the yucky smells out so the materials can aerate.
Composting is also a bit messy, even if you’re careful. I always make a mess when I’m dumping scraps in, tumbling the bin, adding water or liquid, and emptying and cleaning bins.
The best months for compost align with the gardening season: late-March to early-October. The warmer weather and sunlight will speed up the composting process and result in nutritious soil you can use in your garden or even indoor plants.
What to Put in a Compost Bin
Before you actually put anything in your compost bin, you’ll want to do some research. You can find plenty of great resources online or from a local composting program.
Generally, the following are acceptable green materials: fruits and vegetables (as well as their skin/stalks/seeds), garden scraps, nutshells, flowers, stale bread, and wine or beer.
And these are acceptable brown materials: grass, leaves, cardboard tubes, newspaper, hair, sawdust, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg cartons, coffee filters, cooked pasta, paper napkins, dryer lint, and tissues.
However, if you are composting indoors or in your own backyard, some “acceptable” items won’t break down for you.
Steer clear of fish and meat because the smells will attract wildlife, and you typically need a more controlled compost pile for them to decompose properly (like that of your city’s composting location). I’ve noticed that eggshells and avocado pits don’t break down for me. I don’t know if it’s a matter of heat or tumbling, but I no longer include them to avoid having to pick them out of the soil down the line.
Most fruits and vegetables and their skin/seeds will compost well. The majority of what my roommate and I toss in our bins comes from our vegetarian diet, coffee grounds, leaves, dead plants, non-glossy paper, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, and yard waste.
Avoid adding weeds, grease, cleaning products, stickers (like the ones that come on produce), plastic tea bags, plastic-lined cartons or cups, and oils to your compost bin. These products will slow the rest of your materials from breaking down and plastics will never break down. Even if you leave a banana peel in the bin for months, the produce sticker you left on it will still be there long after the peel is gone.
Tip: As companies convert to more sustainable packaging and materials, you’ll likely encounter more items in your house that are compostable. While many of these things will break down, they won’t always break down in backyard bins. Some compost mailers, and even compost bin bags and liners, need high heat and larger machines to break down. Check with your local compost programs or municipal recommendations to see what option is best for you.
What is a Kitchen Compost Bin—and Do You Need One?
A kitchen compost bin is typically more of a container that serves as an in-between. The bin will typically have some sort of filter to keep the smells contained so your kitchen remains neutral, or, ideally, smelling good. I like to keep my indoor bin on my counter near my cutting board to make it easy to transfer scraps.
Once the bin is full (usually two to three days) I take it outside to my main bin and empty it. During warmer months, I spray it out with the hose and let it dry in the sun, otherwise I let it soak in the sink with some dish soap and give it a thorough rinse and dry.
Indoor bins are nice because they give you a dedicated place to keep scraps, but I’ve also heard of people using mixing bowls and storing them in the freezer to avoid bad smells.
Other Compost Bins We Tested
I really liked this indoor bin. It came in recyclable materials and no plastic. It’s light, cute, and has a handle. My roommate and I loved how it looked in our kitchen.
Even with some stinky leftover food scraps, we couldn’t smell anything. The filter worked really well, and the bin came with a replacement filter.
Though we liked the cream color (Neutral), I would suggest buying the Graphite shade instead. I noticed the inside of the bin stained easily and wasn’t as cute after continuous use.
I rinsed the bin (inside and out) after emptying it, so if you want to prevent staining I recommend not letting food sit for too long, or using a compostable “filter” made of paper towels or newspaper.
This ceramic bin is a cute option for collecting kitchen scraps. The ceramic outside was easy to clean and the inner bin could be removed to take outside and dump in a larger compost bin.
However, I’m clumsy and I was constantly nervous about knocking the bin off the counter and shattering it because the ceramic outer-bin was more fragile than other bins. Though, the ceramic material was easy to clean and “fit in” with the decor of my home.
I was slightly bothered by the lid of the bin. There is a cute plastic leaf on top that got in the way of my kitchen cabinet closing, and the lid itself didn’t fit over the ceramic lip evenly, so I could smell whatever scraps were in the bin. The filter also had some odd discoloration after a few weeks of use, but the product shipped with a replacement filter so I was able to swap them out.
Miracle-Gro Single Chamber Outdoor Garden Tumbling Compost Bin, 27.7 Gallon
This mid-size bin was the first compost bin I’ve ever used, even before this recent batch of testing. It took a bit of a learning curve to figure out the ideal ratio of materials and how often to spin the bin to help things breakdown, but I’ve enjoyed using it.
The sliding door makes it easy to add scraps of food or yard waste, and I love that the bin itself is raised off the ground. I never had to worry about animals getting inside as I did with other bins.
I could tell the inside of the bin was warmer than the weather outside, which is great for compost since heat helps materials breakdown.
The only downside to this bin is that it can be a bit difficult to empty. In the past, I’ve put a small bucket under the bin to catch soil as I hand-shovel the finished compost into a large pail, which has worked well.
Putting this bin together was a pain. It took me over an hour and a lot of frustration. But, once I put it to use, I really liked it.
The bin has two chambers, which can be a huge advantage because you can often reach a point where adding more scraps slows down the composting process. Having two chambers means you can have two sets of compost in different stages of breakdown so that you can always add more and also harvest more often.
The bin spins super smoothly. It also sits up off the ground, making it easier to access without bending down, and keeping scraps away from animals.
The doors to the bin are pretty small, so adding to the bin was a bit difficult, even with small hands. Like the other spinning bin we tested, the inside of the composting tumbler was warmer than outdoors, which is a plus.
You’ll need flat-ish ground to make sure it is stable, and I recommend spinning weekly or after rainfall to make sure the materials inside aren’t unevenly soaked.
I didn’t quite understand the purpose of this bin. It had some cool features: a drainage port for “compost tea,” included starter materials (Bokashi, which is fermented organic matter), and a compact size. I was intrigued by the idea of completing an entire compost process indoors since I’ve only ever used outdoor bins for long-term breakdown. But this bin really came up short.
The lid was a pain to open and close, and everything inside smelled awful. I aimed to keep the same green to brown material ratio as other bins, but I think the lack of fresh air in the bin caused additional mold.
Though I put leftover coffee, beer, and juice in the bin, the materials soaked the liquids up so the drainage port went unused. For the most part, everything in the bin ended up mushy and moldy—far from what I expected.
The bin did come with a lot of information on composting in general, but unless indoor composting is your only option, I would not recommend this particular bin. And even then, I’d look into other options that don’t have quite as many steps involved.
This bin had a lot of cool features that I liked, but actually using the bin turned out to be a hassle. Even though it’s only two steps, It was difficult to put the bin together on my own—because it was rolled up to ship, it wouldn’t lay flat.
Once the bin is assembled it’s essentially a large cylinder that is open at the top and bottom with holes or aeration. Since it just sits on the ground, it was hard to keep in place until there was a few pounds of compost materials inside.
The bin moved around during testing because my ground isn’t perfectly flat, and several animals dug under the edge to eat food scraps. I ended up needing to put rocks around the base to secure it and keep mice away.
Once the bin was over half full, I couldn’t really see if things were breaking down toward the bottom of the pile. The bin is open to all weather elements, so rain and snow over-saturated the materials constantly. And, since the bin is a cylinder, I don’t know how you would empty it other than lifting the bin up and having a pile of compost on the ground.
I will say, my neighbors have two of these bins and they love them, especially for garden scraps throughout the summer. I have another friend who also owns this bin but uses it as a three-sided enclosure for compost, which makes it easier to aerate the materials and empty the bin. For this bin, I think it comes down to what you’re composting. If you’re adding a lot of food scraps, it’s best to purchase something else.
Liv Birdsall is a writer and copyeditor interested in art, books, travel, yoga, and all things sustainability. She is passionate about living an Earth-friendly lifestyle, so it's only mildly surprising that she's packed over 100 plants into her small home. Outside of work, she enjoys teaching yoga, playing soccer, gardening, cooking, and reading. She lives in Columbus, OH with her plants and her fish Quezzi.
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