In-Home Compost Buckets: How to Make One and How to Use It
Compost, besides being one of nature's best fertilizers, can sometimes be a hassle to make. But forget buying expensive bagged compost, when one extra step can save you time and effort to make it yourself for free.
Did you know that 30 percent of all kitchen scraps are compostable? Or that the average American kitchen produces about 150 pounds of compostable kitchen scraps each year? Instead of dumping them all into the trash, use an in-home compost pail to make your composting goals into habits, and watch your yard rake in the benefits.
There are extensive articles and how-to's outlining the process of making your own compost. The basis of compost production is having an outdoor bin or pile where you add your kitchen, house, and yard scraps, and mix consistently. This mixture breaks down and decomposes over time, creating a soil-like nutrient-rich concoction, perfect for revitalizing your landscape plants, ornamentals, and even houseplants. But, summoning up the will to make multiple trips out to your compost pile every day can be annoying. When you are right in the middle of cooking and have a pile of potato peels you want to get rid of, putting on shoes and lugging it all out to your compost bin seems so much harder than just chucking it in the trashcan right next to you. Hence the beauty of the in-home compost bucket.
Also called a compost pail or compost crock, an in-home compost bucket is, simply, a bucket you keep in your kitchen where you can conveniently store your kitchen scraps. Like your trash can or recycling bin, when it gets full, you just take the whole thing out to your compost pile and dump it. Kitchen scraps that are compostable include any vegetable and fruit matter like peels, rinds, stems, etc, clean egg shells, coffee grounds and filters, and any clean paper product including newspaper.
Of course, using any old bucket won't do. As your kitchen scraps break down, a process that starts only hours after you toss them, they will become smelly and slimy, a breeding ground for bacteria and an invitation for pests like ants, and even mice.
Thankfully, there are many models of in-home compost bins designed to safeguard against these issues. Here are some features to look for when deciding on an in-home compost bucket:
One of the unavoidable complications when composting indoors is the odor. Many try and control odor problems by using buckets that have very tight-fitting lids. However, trapping the compost inside with no fresh air actually intensifies the problem and makes odors worse. Models with ventilation slits, on the other hand, help with air circulation but also offer space for pests like ants and fruit gnats to get inside. The best models are lined with carbon filters that absorb any odors and allow the compost to breath. Carbon liners should be changed monthly, and fresh ones only cost a few dollars.
There are many materials that compost buckets can be made out of, and each have their own pros and cons. Stainless steel models will cost more, but look great if you plan on keeping your compost bucket on the countertop. Plastic models work just as well though, and many are decorative and inexpensive. They also have the added ability to be washed in the dishwasher, which is very convenient. Some models are made of a painted ceramic, which looks very nice, but can be very heavy when full. Some of the best models have decorative metal or ceramic outsides and come with a plastic bucket insert that sits inside the exterior. When it is time to empty these, simply pull the plastic bucket from inside and fold out the collapsible handle for easy transport. Then, when you’re done, toss the insert in the dishwasher. Whatever material you choose, make sure your compost bucket has a sturdy handle.
When considering size, keep in mind that smaller models have the advantage of being able to fit under a sink or in a small cabinet, out of sight. But, since they will not hold many scraps, you will find yourself making frequent trips to the compost pile. The easiest way to determine what size you need is to monitor your kitchen scrap output for a week. A kitchen that produces one gallon of usable compost scraps a week should find a compost pail that can hold 1-2 gallons of compost. A kitchen that produces two gallons of compostable scraps per week should use a pail that can hold 2+ gallons, and so on. Something else to think about is the size of the opening on your compost bucket. Ideally, you want an opening that is large enough for you to be able to hold a plate over it and empty your scraps, without spilling them everywhere.
After dumping your compost, it is always a good idea to give your compost bucket a good wash. Many plastic buckets are dishwasher safe, making them very convenient. Other models are small enough that they are easy to wash by hand. Large models that are square, or taper, can be a nuisance to wash. Compostable bags are an easy and extremely convenient addition to any compost crock. Compostable bags are plastic-like bags that are designed to break down in compost heaps. So, by lining the inside of your compost bucket with a compostable bag, to empty it you simply need to carry the bag insert out to your compost pile and drop the whole thing inside. Compostable bags are made from plants, vegetable oils, and a compostable resin derived from corn. They are sturdy and strong, but are digested by the microbes present in a compost heap and break down quickly.
Making Your Own
Making your own in-home compost bucket can be much easier and definitely cheaper than buying one. All you need is an appropriate sized plastic container with a tight fitting lid (plastic coffee cans are very popular), charcoal filters (such as the ones used for enclosed kitty litter boxes), a hot glue gun (or super glue), and a drill.
Step 1 - Drill Holes
In the plastic lid of your container, drill 10 or more small holes with a ¼-inch drill bit.
Step 2 - Affix Filter
With a pair of sharp scissors, cut your charcoal filter to fit the inside of the lid. Then, with the hot glue gun, use just a few dollops of glue to affix the filter to the inside of the lid, making sure that all of the holes you drilled are well covered.
Step 3 - Assemble
Now, simply screw the lid onto your plastic container, and you're done! A brand new composting bucket for less than $10. You can even paint the outside of the container if you want it to look more decorative.