Composting turns your kitchen scraps into a nutritious soil additive to help your garden thrive, and it is also a simple way for you to reduce landfill waste. “By harnessing the nutritional value of food scraps and discarded kitchen waste, then re-introducing them to the earth, you’re creating safe, effective, and free fertilizers,” says Mary Phillips, Head of the Garden for Wildlife™ habitat program at the National Wildlife Federation.
There are several types of composting, so we researched the best containers for each type and considered factors such as ease of use, required maintenance, and effectiveness. Ahead, you’ll find the best compost bins to promote healthy garden beds and landscapes in your yard.
Greenes Fence Co. Cedar Wood Composter
Easy to assemble
Naturally insect- and rot-resistant
Can connect additional bins
Not best for small yards
The Greenes Fence Co. Company Cedar Wood Composter is designed for outdoor use and has an open top that makes turning the soil easy. We're not only big fans of this bin's attractive design, but we also appreciate that the untreated cedar wood is naturally bug and rot-resistant. Cedar does not absorb water, which prevents mold and fungus from growing inside this compost bin's beams. This bin is also easy to assemble thanks to a simple dovetail design that allows you to slide the boards and spaces into the four grounded posts.
You can easily turn the soil with a pitchfork or shovel to help speed up the breakdown process thanks to the open-top design. This kit only comes with enough pieces to assemble one bin, but you can purchase additional kits to create up to a 3-bin system, which will allow you to cycle your compost based on its breakdown state.
As much as we love this design, we do have a few reservations about it. Most obviously, this compost bin is expensive, so we recognize that it may not be the right fit for beginner gardeners or anyone looking to purchase a composter for under $100. Additionally, this compost bin is rather large measuring 36 inches square, so if you don't have a large yard or are looking for a portable option, this bin may not serve your needs. However, despite these concerns, we still think this composter is a great option for avid gardeners who are looking for a durable and naturally-made compost bin.
Price at time of publish: $197
Dimensions: 36 x 36 x 31 inches︱Capacity: Approx. 174 gallons︱Material: Cedar wood︱Chambers: 1
FCMP Outdoor Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter
Adjustable air vents
Promotes faster breakdown
Resistant to pests
The FCMP Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter impressed us with its easy-to-use and durable design when we tested it in one of our backyards. It features two chambers designed for quick curing and has multiple aeration holes to speed up the decomposition process. The tumbling chamber is made of recycled BPA-free, UV-inhibited black plastic, which absorbs heat, promoting even faster material breakdown. It's also easy to turn thanks to multiple cutouts on the side of the barrel. Aside from its efficiency, we appreciated this composter's elevated and sealed design, which keeps pests and bugs out of the chambers.
We did find assembly to be a bit of a challenge, especially because several extra parts and screws were included. However, the manufacturer does provide a step-by-step tutorial with pictures along with a Troubleshooting Guide, which has answers to questions about the initial setup and also provides helpful information about the process of composting. Once we managed to assemble this composter, we appreciated its unobtrusive, although utilitarian design. Some homeowners might consider it an eyesore, especially if they have a smaller backyard and prefer to entertain, but we think this composter is still compact enough to be tucked into a corner out of sight.
Keep in mind that this composter only holds up to 37 gallons of compost, which might be small if your family goes through a lot of vegetable scraps, plus lawn clippings must be added every time you introduce new food scraps. Overall, we think this tumbling composter is a great option given its efficiency at breaking down materials and its durable construction.
Price at time of publish: $100
Dimensions: 28 x 30 x 36 inches | Capacity: 37 gallons | Material: Plastic/galvanized steel | Chambers: 2
Best Large Capacity
GEOBIN 246 Gal. Compost Bin
Easy to set up
Can buy additional lining to expand pile size
Open to elements and pests
If you’re looking for a composter with a large capacity, the GEOBIN Compost Bin can hold 216 gallons. This composter is fast and easy to set up, and the best part is that you can adjust and expand the size as your compost pile grows. The closure keys make it easy to secure to whatever size you need. It’s made from recycled plastic, making it a durable option against the elements, but you can reinforce it with garden stakes if you experience frequent winds or heavy rain. The ventilation holes also enhance airflow to speed up decomposition.
We recommend having a second person nearby for setup to help you hold the frame while clipping it in place. When the compost is ready, the quick closure keys also allow you to easily access your compost, if you can't be bothered with scooping it out. You can also purchase additional plastic linings to expand the size of your bin as your compost pile grows. Although we think this design is wonderful for its ease of use and sheer capacity, we are slightly concerned about its durability against pests and bugs. We recommend keeping a close watch on this compost bin to ensure that family pets don't get into it. You may notice bugs accumulating as your compost breaks down, which is normal, but not always pleasant. We recommend being strategic when initially setting up this bin so it doesn't disturb any backyard entertaining areas.
Price at time of publish: $35
Dimensions: 48 x 48 x 36 inches︱Capacity: 216 gallons︱Material: Recycled plastic︱Chambers: 1
Best for Cold Climates
Exaco Aerobin 113 gal. Composter
Requires no tilling
Removable drain tray
We like the Exaco Aerobin 400 Composter because it is designed with cold climates in mind and doesn't require any maintenance: You simply drop in the food waste and forget about it until you have to remove the finished compost. The insulated walls and lid keep the waste sheltered and don't affect the decomposition process inside the bin. Plus, an aeration core ensures a quick breakdown process. Whether you experience extreme cold or heat, this composting bin is built to withstand heavy rain and snow, as well as hot sunlight.
We also like that it has a self-draining floor, with a removable tray, so you can easily access the liquid fertilizer. This composter only has one chamber, but its design allows you to access the decomposed matter from the lower side door, so you don't have to worry about tilling the material from the top. This composter is rather expensive at over $400, so we recognize it may not be a realistic pick for everyone. However, if you're an avid gardener who's looking to care for winter vegetables and promote a healthy garden year-round, we think this bin is well worth the higher price tag.
Price at time of publish: $464
Dimensions: 47 x 29 x 29 inches | Capacity: 113 gallons | Material: Plastic | Chambers: 1
Best for Worms
The Squirm Firm Worm Factory 360 Worm Composting Bin
Helpful set-up instructions
Not best for colder climates
Although vermicomposters (compost bins that use worms) may not be appealing to every gardener, they are an efficient and low-maintenance composter type. The Squirm Firm Worm Factory 360 Worm Composting Bin comes with all of the materials you need to start a compost pile with worms. This compost bin is designed in a tower format composed of several stackable trays, rather than one large bin, making it a compact option. Starter bedding, mineral rock dust, four stacking trays, a thermometer, a hand rake and scraper, a worm ladder, the bin base with a spigot, and a comprehensive instruction manual are all included in this kit, which justifies the more expensive upfront cost in our book. Squirm Firm also promises this kit is odor free, when properly maintained.
While red wiggler worms are not included with the kit, they can be purchased at most pet stores or you can even purchase them online. The first tray takes about 3 months to become fully composted by the worms, according to the manufacturer, and every subsequent tray can take as little as a month to break down. Managing the Worm Factory is also very low maintenance and requires just 15 minutes a week to gently rake the materials. For those not as familiar with this type of composting, it’s important to note that worms should be maintained in an environment between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so this compost bin is not best for gardeners located in colder or warmer parts of the country. If you do live in a region with extreme winters or summers, but would still like to purchase this kit, we recommend keeping it in a well-ventilated, temperature-controlled location.
Price at time of publish: $135
Dimensions: 18 x 18 x 24 inches︱Capacity: 3 cubic feet︱Material: Plastic︱Chambers: 4
Best for Kitchens
Simple Human Compost Caddy
Compatible with Simple Human trashcans
Comes with compostable liners
The Simple Human Compost Caddy is a great option for anyone looking to minimize their kitchen scrap waste without having to walk outside to a larger compost bin. Although this kitchen compost bin is more expensive than other options on the market, there are several design elements that we think make it stand out against the competition. This bin is compatible with several of Simple Human's trashcan designs, so it easily magnetizes to the side of a trashcan, rather than taking up counter top space. However, it can also easily detach from your trash can to limit trips between your counter and trash.
The soft-close lid can also stand up to make dumping scraps easy. If you don't own a Simple Human trashcan, you can also purchase an optional wall mount, which can be installed in a kitchen cabinet and out of sight. Whether you use choose to purchase the compatible, compostable liners or dump scraps directly into the plastic liner bin, this compost caddy is easy to carry outside to a larger compost pile or empty at your local composting facility.
Price at time of publish: $60
Dimensions: 5.7 x 9.6 x 8.5 inches | Capacity: 1 gallon (4 liters) | Material: Steel | Chambers: 1
Best Bokashi Kit
SCD Probiotics All Seasons 5 Gallon Black Compost Bin Starting Kit with Bokashi Bran
Easy to start composting
Produces "compost tea" for plants
Resulting material must be re-composted
Bokashi—Japanese for "fermented organic matter"—composting refers to adding an inoculant to food scraps to accelerate composting. With this kit from SCD Probiotics, you just empty your table scraps into the 5-gallon bin, sprinkle some of the included Bokashi starter material on top, and close the lid tight. "This method is excellent for those with limited outdoor space, as it is often done in a small container indoors," says Mary Phillips, Head of the Garden for Wildlife™ habitat program at the National Wildlife Federation. "With this unique system, you can compost meat, fish, and pretty much any food, which is not recommended in other composting systems."
SCD Probiotic's Bokashi kit includes a 5-gallon bin with a perforated bottom, that allows the "compost tea" (the liquid that results from the composting process, which can also be used to fertilize houseplants) to fall into a tray and then be emptied through the built-in spigot. It's also fitted with a tight lid to keep smells in and insects out.
While this product is recommended for indoor use, we think it's best placed in a well-ventilated and temperature-controlled area. The Bokashi process is anaerobic (using no oxygen), which can promote greater incidence of odor. Also, we have noted that it can take a large amount of the starter material to completely break down some foods such as meat and fish.
Price at time of publish: $75
Dimensions: 12 x 12 x 18 inches | Capacity: 5 gallons | Material: Recycled plastic | Chambers: 1
You can’t go wrong with the Greenes Fence Co. Company Cedar Wood Composter, which is designed with wide access and large capacity, and boasts an attractive design. If you live in a cold-weather area and would like to compost throughout the winter, we recommend the Exaco Aerobin 113 Plastic Stationary Bin Composter. Its insulated design keeps your compost material protected from extreme cold and heat.
What to Look For in a Composter
When buying a composter, the main thing to consider is the method of composting. Composting methods can be broken into two categories—conventional or worm composting—and then further divided into two bin styles: stationary or tumbling.
Conventional composting is often seen in the form of kitchen-sized containers, or direct-to-soil containers and piles. This style of composting allows the mix to break down on its own without the help of aeration or worms. These bins are stationary in design, as they do not move or agitate the compost mix. The occasional raking with a pitch fork will help speed up the process, if desired. Several of our picks in this roundup are both conventional and stationary including our best large capacity pick, the GEOBIN Compost Bin, which can be adjusted to accommodate a larger pile and has air vents to promote faster decomposition.
Worm composting or vermicomposters, rely partially on live worms to process scraps, and they are great for anyone looking for an efficient composting option, as the worms can easily compost scraps in just a few weeks.
Tumbling compost bins are meant to be rotated regularly to mix up the materials, allowing them to decompose faster. Our best tumbler pick, the FCMP Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter, is smaller in capacity but delivers many innovative features such as built-in air vents, several tumbling handles, and two chambers for efficiency.
The size of your compost bin affects the amount of material you can store, so you should also consider how often you will be composting material before purchasing a compost bin. If you have a small yard and a mulching lawn mower, you might not need a large composter. However, if you plan on mixing food scraps with lawn clippings and weeds, then you may want a larger compost bin to hold all of your waste.
You also don't want to purchase an overly large compost bin, as you may not be able to maintain it for the correct breakdown process. "Maintaining compost can be challenging due to the need for moisture, aeration, and temperature control to create the ideal environment for microorganisms to break down organic matter," says Mary Phillips, Head of the Garden for Wildlife™ habitat program at the National Wildlife Federation. "Additionally, it can be difficult to consistently add the right amount of kitchen scraps and garden waste over time to ensure proper nutrient balance." If the thought of properly maintaining a compost is daunting, we recommend researching whether your community has composting services or drop-off locations.
Plastic composters are affordable and are now often designed to be weather resistant, but over time, the material can become brittle from sun damage and could crack. Our best for colder climates pick, the Exaco Aerobin 400 Composter, is made from a durable plastic that's also resistant to wear from sun damage and uses the warmth from the sun in its composting process. This model is insulated as well, making it ideal for colder climates. Composters can also be made of metal, and you'll usually find such models in a smaller size for indoor use, like our best for kitchens pick, the Simple Human Compost Caddy.
You may also find compost bins made of recycled or all-natural materials, which help to lessen the concern over waste once they no longer function properly. If you're especially concerned about your carbon footprint, consider searching for a compost bin that's recyclable or can decompose on its own.
You can find both indoor and outdoor compost bins with airtight lids that keep smells at bay. Some outdoor compost bins will include air holes, which allow ventilation and speed up the decomposition process. Odors aren't as much of an issue with outdoor models, as the fresh air keeps smells at a minimum. However, the smells can still attract pests or bugs, so it's best to consider your priorities before purchasing an outdoor open-top compost bin. If you're planning to keep your compost bin inside, we recommend a bin with an airtight lid so any smells don't disrupt your household.
How do you use a composter?
While many compost bins require only the occasional agitation for ventilation and breakdown purposes, it's important to understand the entire composting process, so you know what to expect. "Beginner gardeners should understand the types of materials and rules for composting, the ideal composting environment, and how to maintain the compost pile," says Phillips. "Additionally, it’s helpful to have an idea of the time frame for when compost is ready to use in the garden."
When starting a compost, you can expect the process to take several months before it's initially ready to use, she adds. Most compost piles can be started with fruit scraps, leaves, grass clippings, and a small amount of soil or compost starter. While most of the work of composting is done naturally over time, you should still check on your compost to ensure its in a well-aerated, moist, and and warm environment.
What can you put in a compost bin?
You can put all kinds of food scraps into a composter, such as apple cores, banana peels, vegetable skins, coffee grounds, eggshells, and bread. However, animal products, such as meat, dairy, and bones, generally aren't recommended for composting because they can harbor pathogens and attract pests.
You also can add grass clippings, leaves, wood shavings, hay, animal manure, and other yard waste, as well as paper towels, cardboard, and shredded newspaper. "You should avoid grease and oils as they can cause the compost to become waterlogged," says Phillips. "Anything containing chemicals, such as treated wood and synthetic fertilizers, should also not be added to the compost." You should also avoid adding weeds to your pile, if your home regularly faces high temperatures, as they can regrow in your pile.
Should a compost pile be directly on the ground?
Your compost pile does not have to be directly on the ground to effectively decompose. Several of the compost bins we've included in this roundup are direct-to-soil in method, meaning they lack a bottom and lid, but they are not in any way "more effective" than closed bins. It should be noted that direct to soil composting is when you mix kitchen scraps directly into the soil in a hole in your garden beds. This results in a nutrient-rich soil blend, says Phillips. However, compost bins that are elevated off the ground are a great option, if you don't have the time to bury kitchen scraps often. If you aren't ready to purchase a compost bin, you can also make a DIY compost bin out of containers or materials you already have in your home.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Emma Phelps, updates writer for The Spruce, revised this roundup to include new products and categories. In addition, she also revisited old product selections and ensured they were still the best in each category. Phelps also reached out to Mary Phillips, Head of the Garden for Wildlife™ habitat program at the National Wildlife Federation, who specializes in education initiatives surrounding green gardening practices.
This list of best composters was originally written by Deanna McCormack, a freelance tester and product review writer for The Spruce. She specializes in home, family, and outdoor products and has been composting in her own home for many years.