Sunday, May 23, 2010

Make a Compost Bin Out of a Plastic Storage Tub

My HOA lawn service killed the compost bin I made from a garbage can with a lawn mower last summer.

A moment of silence please.

During the winter I researched and pseudo-shopped for a replacement. A Bokashi Bin looked interesting but higher maintenance than my old college boyfriend. A worm bin would freeze in my garage. I didn’t want to be known as a Stewart of the Earth and Mass Worm Murderer. A tumbling compost would work best for us, and if it was smaller than the garbage can model that would be perfect.

I had my heart set on a NatureMill Automatic Compost Bin because I liked that it did all of the mixing and tumbling for me and you got a batch of compost every few weeks instead of my year long wait till it rots method. But before I make the spendy investment I vowed that if I can get the green to brown ratio right, don’t have slime mold or maggots, and get at least one batch of compost out of a new homemade compost bin then I will consider buying the NatureMill compost bin of my dreams. Don’t judge me Internet. I know I’m a little more than pathetic because I dream of compost bins instead something important like world peace.



I found my compost bin to be at Odd Lots. They had locking Rubbermaid tubs marked down to $5.00 a piece. I think the square size will be easier to turn with a shovel than my old tapered garbage can compost bin. However I prefer the locking the lid and kicking the bin on its side and rolling in around the yard method because I don’t have to stick my hands in the bin and get them all ookie.

My plan is to make two compost bins. When one is full I’ll let that sit and cook while I fill up the other bin. Sneaky eh?

How to Make a Compost Bin out of a Plastic Tub


You will need:

The dog as Project Manager is extra. You know how Blitzkrieg likes to pose for photos.

  • 1 plastic storage tub with a lid. Try to get a locking one. You'll thank me later.
  • An electric drill and the largest drill bit you have. I used a 1 ½ inch drill bit I had to buy for a past project and haven’t used since.
  • Safety glasses
  • Marker (optional)
  • 4 bricks or flat stones
Make it:

1. Use the marker to mark the areas with a little “x” where you plan to drill the drainage and aeration holes in the top, bottom and sides of the tub. Marking the holes before you drill ensures you have an even number of drainage and aeration holes throughout your compost bin to be. This is an optional step but highly recommended!

2. Put on the safety glasses and drill drainage holes in the bottom of the tub so your compost won’t develop dog vomit slime mold or maggots (true story.)

I chose to use my single speed drill for this project instead of Mommy’s Little Helper - my multispeed, mega torque cordless drill. Sure, I could have used a lower setting on Mommy’s Little Helper but I wanted to show my very first Single Girl Power Tool some love because it doesn’t see daylight very often these days.

3. Turn the plastic tub on its side and drill a series of aeration holes in the side of the tub. Drill slow/low power so you don’t crack the tub.

Lisa didn’t listen to me about drilling slowly and that’s why some of her holes are a little wonky. I had to manage this project by watching her through the patio door from inside the house while Lisa worked on the patio because I refuse to wear Doggles. She’s all about that safety thing.

4. Put the lid on the tub to stabilize it and drill a series of aeration holes in the lid.
Tip: By the way, did you know that if you drill a bazillion holes in a Rubbermaid tub you void the warranty on the tub? Me neither. I had no idea Rubbermaid tubs even had warranties until they rejected this project for their blog because it voids the warranty.
Wearing this t-shirt working on this project is completely optional but, in my case, truthful. 

5. Set the completed compost bin outside on 4 bricks or stones so air can circulate around the compost bin and to encourage excess water from collecting in your bin after a heavy rain. I can’t emphasize that enough. You’re just asking for trouble with constantly soggy compost, trust me on that!


Why yes! Those ARE leftover bricks from my reclaimed brick garden border project!


I got into trouble the first go around because I had less brown or carbon material in the form of grass clippings, leaves, paper, sawdust, or wood shavings/pellets than green material (kitchen scraps) in my compost bin. My bad.

Fortunately paper and cardboard also work nicely as brown material. I’m shredding paper, cereal boxes, toilet paper tubes, and telephone books in my paper shredder so it composts faster. I'm adding shredded paper to my compost bin for every layer of food scraps I put in.

The final cost? $12.00 for two compost bins and 2 packages of hamster bedding/wood shavings to use as backup carbons for my bin. Not a bad deal, don’t you think?

Do you compost? What are your secrets to getting nice, rich non slimy non maggoty compost?


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Disclosure: Naturemill, Odd Lots, and Rubbermaid didn't pay me to mention paid me to put them in this post. I don't think they want me to anyway because apparently I void warranties with out even knowing it.