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Trash cans for composting?

Posted by schmidt z6 KY (My Page) on
Mon, Mar 2, 09 at 10:15

I seem to remember reading some posts about using trash bins for composting. I have a 32 gallon Rubbermaid "Brute" trash can that I no longer use for trash. It's in great shape, so I'm hoping I can retask it.

Would it work well as a composter? Would I need to punch holes in it? If so, where? Along the bottom, sides, top?

If I use this for composting, it seems like my best bet would be to dump it out once a week on the ground, remix the ingredients, and then fork them back in. Does that sound right?

As always, thanks for the help!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Trash cans for composting?

Yes there are many posts here about using them and how to do it.

Would you need holes? Definitely - compost needs air. Where? All over the can sides and top if you are going to use the top for some reason but it isn't needed and a few in the bottom to drain. And they can't just be "punched" holes but need to be good sized. Try drilling at least 1/2" holes all over. Insufficient air gets you an anerobic mess that you can't use.

How to mix? Dumping and putting it back in is about the only way to do it far as I know. Hard on the back but it works. :)


RE: Trash cans for composting?

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 2, 09 at 11:06

If you want to try a little experiment...

Drill a couple of holes directly on the bottom for drainage, these can be fairly small. Drill some 3/8 - 1/2 inch holes on the side but close to the bottom, within 4 inches or so of the bottom. If you can put the can on some bricks/stones or something, just use bottom holes, a dozen or so ought to do it.

If you are going to leave the lid on, drill some holes close to the top (more than you have lower down). Put your "stuff" in there just like a normal composter and leave exposed to the sun. Solar heat should create a natural chimney effect and thus aerate your bin with solar power. How cool would that be. Depending on the volume of the can, some microbial heat might even be generated.

Certainly dump, mix and moisten as necessary.

I think I might just try it myself to see if it would work. By putting the holes on the bottom it might pull more air through the material rather than just along the side. More holes could always be added later.



P.S. I have not tried this method so I do not know that it would work, it is merely musing for now.


  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 2, 09 at 11:11

I guess I should have looked at what these things were first.

Are these the things of which you speak?

Rubbermaid Brute

They're pretty big.


RE: Trash cans for composting?

Mine is the older, smaller size (32 gallons).

I forgot to mention earlier: I've got a nice metal wood rack I no longer use (burning wood in the fireplace was bothering my son's allergies), so using this should get my trash can about 6 inches off the ground.

RE: Trash cans for composting?

If you have any space out in the yard on the ground, I definitely recommend doing a nice big on the ground bin. They are so much easier to keep at the right moisture level and easier to keep from stinking and easier to get to heat up and just in general easier.

The trash can will make a perfect storage container for cover material like leaves and stuff.

RE: Trash cans for composting?

I agree with tclynx. If you have the room for a conventional pile, it's much easier to manage.

RE: Trash cans for composting?

I have a garbage can about that size, holes drilled in the bottom and sides. I'd toss kitchen scraps in it,a shoveful of leaves, a lil water and then lay it on it side and give a a good spin daily. Made compost in about 4 weeks.

RE: Trash cans for composting?

I live in the city, and I've been using 32-gallon trash cans for composting. They work quite well, and when you're limited on space, or otherwise can't commit one area for a conventional pile, I think they make a great choice.

I drill holes all over the sides and bottom (but not the lid) with a 1/2" drill bit. I turn the pile by dumping the barrel, and putting the contents back in with a pitchfork.

RE: Trash cans for composting?

I have several 32-gallon rubbermaid cans going. They have their good points and bad.

I have mine drilled all over with a ton of holes (didn't count, just kept drilling!). Bottom is drilled, as is top. I keep mine up on bricks.

The good points are that the compost is contained and looks neat, important to some of us who live in certain areas/neighborhoods.

The bad points are it is difficult to mix (I honestly don't know how anybody can roll those cans around, they get so heavy!), and I do end up with somewhat of an anaerobic mess on the bottom.

However, I just empty that bottom mess into another compost bin when I empty it, and carry on.

I'm a lazy composter - I don't really watch ratios too much, don't always turn, etc. - and one of the best batches of compost I ever made was in a rubbermaid garbage can. Still don't know exactly what I did to get it...

The grass in here is just because my teenaged son dumped it in the wrong bin, so it's not composted, but otherwise, I'm very proud of this compost, lol!


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