The best type of compost bin for you.
Every household produces enough waste to create tons of compost, but to be able to make all of this ‘Black Gold’ we need to choose a compost bin or system that suits our needs.
There are several considerations that we might have:
- What space do you have available to compost? Do you have acres of land or live in an apartment with no garden? Fear not, there are solutions for everyone
- How much waste materials do you have to compost?
- What is your budget? Maybe you can use the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) to save money and the environment.
- How much effort can you put into producing your compost? Some solutions require some effort, and some require very little effort. But it’s the micro-organisms and little creatures that enjoy doing most the work!
TOP TIP: It's always worth checking on your UK council's website. They will often have deals with composter suppliers that are heavily discounted for their residents.
So which type of composter should you choose? This is the exciting bit!
Plastic Compost Bins
This is the UK’s most popular kind of composter. They are usually green or black and some are sometimes called ‘Daleks’, due to their resemblance to the popular Dr Who characters. They can however come in a whole selection of moulded plastic shaped.
One thing to consider: shop around to find one made of recycled plastic. There are plenty around.
Plastic compost bins are most popular as they are often pre-made, or need a little bit of basic assembly. Our Green Johanna compost bin took about 15 minutes to put together - if you’ve ever assembled anything from Ikea, then this would be a cinch. That said, they have a whole host of other benefits:
- They come in a range of shapes and sizes from around 220 litres to 500 litres or bigger.
- The plastic material is excellent at moisture retention, which is needed for successful composting. But beware - they might need extra moisture added at times as they will not get added by rain like with other systems. You could try soaking material like cardboard before adding to the pile if it seems dry.
- Some plastic bins have a ‘hatch’ at the bottom to make it easier to get the compost out.
- Heat is needed to decompose any compost and plastic bins can make it easy to keep warmth in compared to some other methods - especially the cone-shaped bins.
However, there are a few downsides to a plastic compost bin:
- It can be tricky to allow for aeration as the compost can become quite compacted if not managed well. Oxygen is needed to compost the waste aerobically. If no oxygen is present then the decomposition is performed in anaerobic conditions, working more slowly and producing methane, which contributes to climate change.
- It can be trickier to turn or mix the materials in a bin, which takes more time and effort.
Flat-Pack Wooden Compost Bins
Like some plastic bins, wooden bins are provided ‘flat-pack’ and require some simple assembly. They are usually a series of slatted wood planks. Most are free-standing and do not need you to dig holes for posts. Some people prefer the more natural aesthetic of wooden bins. Let’s look at the benefits:
- Wooden compost bins can accommodate a much larger amount of waste materials and compost
- They take the form of a modular design - If space allows you can add more and more bays to the bin. The easy access allows for much easier turning of the materials from bay-to-bay. Simply leave one bay empty at all times, and shift the mix to the empty bay in intervals.
- It is very simple to remove the compost from slatted bins as they have easy access and larger openings.
- Well made wooden compost bins allow for a small amount of air movement, which can help with a well-aerated mix.
There are a few negative considerations:
- You get what you pay for. While they can be cheap, the wood may not be treated well and may not last as long as a plastic bin.
- The wood may need maintenance to preserve its quality and appearance.
- The wooden slats may make it possible for vermin to chew through easier.
'Tumbler' is such a fun name, and they are also the most fun to use - mostly as they are the easiest for most people and you can get the kids involved more ofter too. Tumblers are usually made of plastic on a steel frame or plastic moulded base, allowing the bin to be rotated to mix the materials.
They make it simple to turn the mix through the rotation process. However, as the bins are completely sealed they are not open to the elements and may need ‘activators’ to get the composting process going. Let’s talk about the benefits:
- Sizes range between 200 litres to 700 litres, so can suit a range of needs.
- They have excellent water retention due to the sealed bin.
- The easiest way to turn and aerate the contents. Even the kids can help under supervision. It’s fun too.
In contrast, here are the negatives:
- You need to leave airspace inside the bin. This is to allow for space to ‘tumble’ the contents. This means it will never be at full capacity and there can be heat loss due to the excess airspace.
- Can be heavy to turn when full.
- Can be more costly to purchase.
The DIY options - Recycle and Reuse what you have.
This is the eco-fans favourite. A truly sustainable way to start composting - use what you have, or reclaim things to repurpose into a compost bin. No other way will give you as much satisfaction as making your own composter. Here are some ideas:
- A wooden bin made out of pallets or any other suitable wood. We successfully made a multi-bay composter from an old picket fence once.
- A stack of old car tyres. That’s right, if you have them, reuse them. The benefit of this is that the composter can be made bigger by adding another tyre.
- Wire fences. Drive 4 stakes into the ground and use chicken wire or similar as the partition.
Bokashi composting - ideal for apartments and flats.
No garden, no bother! In Bokashi composting, kitchen scraps of all kinds, including meat and dairy products can be utilised in the mix. This is not possible in aerobic systems.
Originating in Japan, Bokashi Bins are usually small enough to keep in a kitchen cupboard. You simply place the kitchen waste into the bin and place a special sort of Bokashi Bran into the mix. This activates the process. Once full, seal the system for a few weeks and let the bran do its work. Every few days you can drain off the fluid from the bottom, which is a great nutritious ‘tea’ that can be used on your plants, particularly house plants!
Any questions? Add them in the comments!