Climate Solutions: Can I convert a garbage can into a compost bin?

Yes, it is a great solution when a compost pile is just not feasible because of small yards or sensitive neighbors.  Here’s a cheap and easy way to convert one of your garbage cans into a compost bin.


– 30+ gallon plastic garbage can, with locking lid (optional: bungee cords to hold the lid on)

– Drill with 1/2″ to 1″ drill bits for drilling holes

– Bricks or something to rest the bin on top of

Begin by drilling holes into the body of the trash can, about 4-6 inches apart, around the circumference and vertically. Drill a few holes in the lid and the bottom of the bin to allow for air circulation and fluid drainage.

If the bin is going to be placed on soil, use the shovel to dig a hole the same diameter of the bin. Dig the hole about 6 inches deep, or deeper if you like. Place the bin in the hole and back-fill any remaining space to secure the bin in place. To encourage earthworms, you can experiment by drilling more holes in the bottom and sides of your bin that are below ground.

Begin filling your bin. Some suggest filling the bottom couple of inches with loose carbon materials such as wood chips or dry straw to help with air circulation and moisture retention.

Finally, affix and secure the lid and leave in place.

If you selected a circular bin, and it’s freestanding, you have the option of rolling the bin (with the lid on!) to turn and aerate the contents. If you can’t roll your bin, that’s not a worry. You can turn the contents using a compost turner or aerator, or just leave the contents alone.