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When it comes to the individual actions we can do to reduce our impact on the environment, few things are as easy and accessible as composting. This simple activity is a key way to cut back on the amount of food that Americans waste. This is just one of many reasons composting is good for the environment; Along with the fact that it reduces our reliance on consuming plastic-packaged fertilizers and soil amendments that may be filled with undesirable components. Whether you're an experienced waste recycler or have just developed an interest in reusing your plant scraps, it's important to get up-to-date with which are the best compost bins among the various options out there.
If you're not used to the process yet, composting can seem tricky. And, even if you've already got a cursory knowledge of the practice, moving into the next levels can still seem like a tall task. But as the conclusion of summer approaches, there is no better time to put your garden ends to good use. Composting can help turn both your kitchen scraps and the plants that produced them into rich additives that will better your garden in future seasons. Before you start shopping for bins, it's important to know the four main types and what each one has to offer the individual composter.
An easy way to guide your home composting, and thus your bin purchase, is to first decide what type of composting you'll be doing. Are you simply interested in collecting kitchen scraps to recycle with an organization or a community garden? In that case, a kitchen bin might be the one for you. These containers differ from ordinary trash bags or Tupperware containers -- they feature lids that are tight-fitting and studded with holes that provide aeration to the food scraps within. Often, kitchen bins will be lined with a layer of activated charcoal filters, which mitigates odors. These bins should be small enough to store in a cabinet, freezer, or on your countertop. Made in a range of materials from high-density plastic to stainless steel or ceramic, you'll want to look for a bin that is lightweight, easy to empty, and simple to wash. If you're making your own compost, you'll also want to pair your kitchen bin with an outdoor unit. (Unless you're going with bokashi compost -- but more on that in a moment.)
When it comes to outdoor composting, there are three main types of bins to choose between. The first is a tumbler, and its function is in the name. Tumblers may be stationary, sit on a mobile concave base, or even be found in ball shapes that roll across the ground. The primary attribute of tumblers is that they offer aerobic composting, meaning that as you turn them, oxygen is quickly added to the microorganisms breaking down your waste. Dual chamber tumblers offer the best results as they allow you to have two separate batches brewing at once.
As opposed to tumblers, stationary bins require a bit more work. These bins often have larger capacities and so are best for large lawns and gardens. Stationary bins can require a lot less maintenance but also a lot less speed in compost breakdown. The airflow is optimized, but the mobility of these units is not.
The last primary form of outdoor composting bins are worm huts which house red wiggler earthworms that perform a process called vermicomposting. Although they require special conditions in terms of light and temperature, these worm houses offer perhaps some of the richest compost you'll find. Worm leave behind droppings called casts, which is a nutrient-dense superfood for your gardens.
As mentioned, bokashi is the final form of home composting you're likely to come across. Bokashi relies on fermentation, which is derived by spreading bokashi bran onto your food scrap. The bran is full of microorganisms that feast on your leftovers. Bokashi can reduce, reuse, and repurpose foods that we should be recycling that normally can't be composted (bones, dairy, and citrus, for instance). It requires a moderate amount of attention yet minimal odor.
Now that you know what to look for, here are our selections for the best compost bins.
1. Best for Countertop Composting
EPICA Stainless Steel Compost Bin 1.3 Gallon - Capacity - Amazon, $29.95
The Epica stainless steel bin is a simple unit for small families and single people who don't produce a lot of food waste, and also for anyone limited on space in their kitchen. The unit's welded design is rust-free and leak-proof, easy to wipe-clean, and even lighter to carry from kitchen to compost pile. Its simple utility has been featured heavily in popular roundups from Bon Appetite and Forbes, and we've chosen to include it thanks to the replaceable charcoal filters that keep things entirely odorless.
2. Best for Any Kitchen
OXO Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin 1.75 - Gallon - Amazon, $32.95
If there is one area in which the Epica steel bin isn't a standout, it's the freezer. A lot of kitchen composters prefer to keep their food scraps frozen as it reduces the active breakdown of waste in your inside space. This OXO unit is an ideal shape for freezer composting, complete with a lockable lid that will prevent any accidental spills within your icebox. A swift pull separates the interior bin from the body of the unit; simple emptying, simple cleaning, whether you choose composting bags or not.
3. Best for Big Families
Exaco Eco Kitchen Compost Collector, 2.4 Gallon - Home Depot, $25.48
The Eco Kitchen Compost Collector is the bin for those who need a larger volume. The Exaco company, as a family-owned distributor from Austin, Texas, understands the need for an in-home unit with a capacity large enough to take a family's worth of food scraps. Still, this waste box is small enough to fit underneath a countertop or sink. The flip-top lid offers increased aeration and is fitted with a carbon filter for maximum scent reduction. Made from high-density Polyethylene, this unit has extended durability, and at 1.4-pounds, it's light enough to give the kids a new chore.
4. Best for Outdoor Tumbling
FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter, 37 Gallon - Home Depot, $86.95
The FCMP Outdoor tumbling unit offers maximum aeration and a dual chamber design that lets you cook two different batches of compost at once. The body is made from black plastic material that soaks up the maximum amount of heat (crucial for the composting process) but is also BPA-free and UV-resistant. Ergonomic hand holds make the unit incredibly easy to rotate, and although the 30-pound unit weight is not exactly light, it can be moved around the yard to capture the best sunlight of each season. 37 gallons is a respectable capacity capable of producing quality compost in just a few weeks.
5. Best for Worm Composting
VermiHut PlusWorm Compost Bin - 5lb Capacity - Amazon, $99.95
Few companies are as synonymous with composting as Vermitek, the makers of the VermiHut PlusWorm compost bins. This unit is outfitted with five trays with which to layer your food scraps, however, it has room for additional trays as well. The design has been upgraded with a lower level "M tray," which reduces debris and worms from dropping into the compost tea (a liquid that drips to the bottom).
VermiHut has also thought to keep the unwanted critters out by dressing this worm house with a pair of shoes that prevent ants from entering the system. A coconut fiber tray has also been added to the top to eliminate even the faintest of scents. Worm composting may be the most involved, but a VermiHut is the easiest way to enter this world of food recycling.
6. Best for Large Volume Composting
Exaco Aerobin Composter, 113 Gallon Capacity - Home Depot, $434.68
Hoping to turn your entire garden into compost after the harvest? Exaco's Aerobin is the unit for you. A 73-pound unit weight means it lacks the mobility of other outdoor garden units, but other features separate it as the best stationary bin on the market. With the Aerobin, a heavy-duty lid locks down your organic material and traps in heat, while a specially-designed aerating core increases the flow of oxygen and entirely eliminates any need for you to stir or agitate the cooking compost.
Two trap doors on the side make it easy for you to remove fresh black gold from the unit. A base-set leachate tank captures all that delicious liquid fertilizer your compost is creating. The Aerobin's heavy-duty construction makes it durable for outdoor use all year round, but it is also easy to deconstruct should you need to move it somewhere new. And, the whole unit can be assembled in under 20 minutes.
Compost where you prefer.
7. Best for Indoor Compost Making
All Seasons Indoor Composter Starter Kit 5-gallon capacity - Amazon, $69.95
If you are in-between collecting kitchen scraps and starting an outdoor composting program, we recommend trying bokashi. The All Seasons starter kit from SCD Probiotics is truly a great unit to initiate yourself. The unit can fit within your kitchen or a corner of the garage without demanding too much space. The kit comes with a beginner's bag of bokashi bran, which is as easy to use as just spreading it over layers of your kitchen scraps. Reviewers attest to the success of making home compost with this non-toxic probiotic mix. The only question we could find from researching this product is, "what are we waiting for?" It's time to start composting.
READ MORE: How to Compost at Home: A Beginner's Guide