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Composting your food waste isn’t just about creating free fertilizer for your garden and houseplants. Keeping food waste out of the landfill helps reduce greenhouse gases and can seriously shrink the amount of trash you generate each week if you eat a lot of fresh food.
While composting outdoors takes some skill and practice to do well, collecting your kitchen scraps is easy, especially with the help of an indoor compost bin that allows your food waste to handle its process. Marisa DeDominicis, the cofounder and executive director of Earth Matters NY, says, “Composting is actively changing your food scraps and organic matter into something applied to tree beds or outdoor plants.”
There are lots of products available to help collect your scraps, from worm bins that break down the waste indoors to simple pails that serve to collect discards on your countertop until you’re ready to add them to your outdoor compost pile.
No matter your composting experience and style, read on to find the best compost bin for your household.
Best Overall: Utopia Kitchen Stainless Steel Compost Bin
Attractive, durable design
Charcoal filter traps odors
Lid comes off with one hand
Takes up a lot of counter space
Steel smudges easily
While you can use just about any old container to collect scraps, your bin can start to stink if you aren’t diligent about emptying it. The Utopia Kitchen Compost Bin features a charcoal filter, which needs to be soaked in warm, soapy water, rinsed, and air-dried in the sun weekly for optimal odor control and eventually replaced when worn (a spare is included). In the absence of smelly compost, there's no need to hide your bin away, making it convenient to use and more likely to become a full-time part of your kitchen routine.
In a two-person household that goes through copious amounts of fruits, vegetables, and coffee grounds, our tester found that it took about one week before the 1.3-gallon bin was full. A bigger family may need to empty once every few days, adding to a larger outdoor compost pile or allowing the contents of the pail to run their course before using the small yield for plant soil.
Material: Stainless steel | Dimensions: 14 x 8 x 9 inches | Capacity: 1.3 gallons
"Despite the fact that the bin has holes in the top for aerating your compost, it also utilizes a charcoal filter ,which traps stinky smells." — Rebekah Joan, Product Tester
Best Budget: Oxo Good Grips Compost Bin
Compact and lightweight
Easy to clean
Design is a little dated
Oxo brings its ubiquitous style to the world of compost with a modern, locking bin that comes in several colorways and is meant to hold just a few days’ worths of food scraps. The locking mechanism is the main feature here, as it’s designed to keep the odors locked in. The drawback is that there’s no aeration for the compost, but this isn’t meant for long-term storage.
Another nice design element is the smooth, rounded plastic walls, which make cleanup easier. Corners and hard edges are places for food debris to get stuck, and Oxo has eliminated those for a wipe and rinse cleanup process.
While our tester found that they could've used a little more room and perhaps a more attractive aesthetic, they found that the Oxo Good Grips Compost Bin checked all of the remaining boxes: It's affordable, user-friendly, super easy to clean, and effective at keeping odors and pests at bay. The good news is, if it's a larger capacity you're looking for, there's a 1.75-gallon version available (view at Amazon).
Material: Plastic | Dimensions: 7.5 x 8 inches | Capacity: 0.75 gallons
"After dumping a week’s collection, all I had to do was rinse it with warm water and give it a few swipes with a wet dishcloth." — Joy Merrifield, Product Tester
Best With Compost Bags: Full Circle Breeze Fresh Air Odor-Free 1.5-Gallon Kitchen Compost Collector
Can't be used without bags
Full Circle sidesteps the cleanup question with an innovative design that eliminates the need for cleaning your bin by employing compostable bags to collect the waste. Just line the 1.5-gallon bin with a bag, fill it, and then dump the entire bag into your outdoor composter.
The perforated lid and vented base allow air to flow through, which helps the composting process begin the way it’s supposed to. The large capacity means you don’t have to empty the bin as often as other, smaller kitchen compost collectors. Full Circle also considers the planet in its manufacturing, aiming to make their product repairable and parts easily replaceable.
Material: Plastic | Dimensions: 8.5 x 8.5 x 11 inches | Capacity: 1.5 gallons
Best for Small Spaces: Uncommon Goods Living Composter
Great for apartments
Worms aren’t for everyone
Limits on what you can compost
If you want to collect compost in an uncommon way, check out the Uncommon Goods Living Composter, which combines a funky design with compost-eating worms for a self-contained solution that’s small enough to sit on your countertop. It processes enough waste for one to three people.
Simply drop food scraps in the top of the unit and let the worms (not included) do the rest. This is a great solution for small households that don’t generate a ton of waste or have outdoor space for bulk-composting outside.
Material: Recycled plastic | Dimensions: 17.7 x 8.7 x 6.5 inches | Weight: 3.4 pounds
Best Design: Bamboozle 1.2-Gallon Stationary Composter
More expensive than others
Most compost bins put function first and might not be something you want to display front and center in your kitchen. Bamboozle tackles this head-on with a bin that uses a wood-grain bamboo handle and graphite-colored bamboo container that looks modern and at home on a 21st century kitchen counter—even if it’s filled with waste. And while you’re using it, you can rely on its charcoal filter to keep odors away.
Material: Bamboo | Dimensions: 9.5 x 8 x 8 inches | Capacity: 1.2 gallons
Best Food Recycler: Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50
Low energy consumption
Doesn't technically compost
Needs to be plugged in
A food recycler is another option if you’re looking for a countertop composter. Using heat and a grinder, this machine electrically processes waste into a reduced mixture that can be added to a worm bin or outdoor composter. It’s particularly useful for food scraps that are slow to decompose in traditional worm bins or compost piles or items that are prone to odors or attracting pests, like meat and dairy products.
Our product tester found this machine easy to operate and a simple thing to incorporate into their daily or weekly routine. On Instagram Stories, Eva Chen, author and director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, called it one of the "top 10 most satisfying things" she owns. Keep in mind that since the machine uses heat as part of the processing, there may be a slight odor while the unit is operating. Most people describe it as just the smell of cooked food and don’t find it particularly offensive.
Once the cycle is over, the finished product is fine enough to add to your garden as is or put into a composter for further processing. This is a pricey option compared to typical indoor compost bins, but it eliminates concerns over a compost bin that sits for an extended period of time with food scraps inside that may cause odors or attract flies and rodents.
Material: Plastic | Dimensions: 12.6 x x 11 x 14.2 inches | Capacity: 2.5 liters
"The FoodCycler reduces the smell and mess to near-zero, and that alone made me love this unit." — Justin Park, Product Tester
Best Worm: VermiHut Plus 5-Tray Worm Composter
Great for apartments
Fun for kids
Limits what you can compost
Takes up space
Worms are a beneficial way to compost at home in that they do the work of breaking down food scraps instead of the microorganisms that do it in a traditional outdoor composting scenario. One advantage of using worms is that it’s a one-step process: You throw scraps in with the worms and they do the rest.
Worms are also a great choice for apartments because they eliminate the need for an outdoor compost pile or bin. It can also be appealing for kids who are generally much more interested in worms than invisible microorganisms. The VermiHut is high-capacity, able to process up to 5 pounds a day when running at full steam.
Material: Plastic | Dimensions: 17 x 17 x 33 inches | Weight: 13 pounds
“I would suggest, for conventional apartment dwellers, a worm bin. It can fit under your bed—if you’re not queasy—or under the sink or in a closet. Make sure there is ventilation in the space you choose, and the bin should have ventilation holes as well.” — Marisa DeDominicis, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Earth Matters NY
Best Freezer: Full Circle Scrap Happy Scrap Collector & Freezer Compost Bin
Mounts to drawer
Full Circle designed a bin that eliminates two of the biggest gripes with compost collection bins: flies and odor. If you have zero tolerance for either, consider this offering, which can be placed in the freezer until you’re ready to add it to your worm bin or outdoor composter.
It also doubles as a portable scrap collector that you can mount to a drawer just below counter height, making it easy to sweep scraps into it. Because it’s made of flexible silicone, it’s easy to turn inside out to ensure complete emptying and uncomplicated cleaning.
Material: Silicone | Dimensions: 18.27 x 5.24 x 5.51 inches | Capacity: 2.23 liters
The Utopia Compost Bin (view at Amazon) is a great all-around choice at a low price for folks that just need an attractive container for their scraps until they can take them outside. If you generate a lot of scraps and are game to try your hand at a low-impact pet that also does the work of composting for you, consider the VermiHut (view at Amazon).
What to Look for When Buying a Compost Bin
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding what size compost bin you need. Smaller bins need to be emptied more, which offers both advantages and disadvantages. Smell is less of an issue if emptied frequently. If you have an outdoor compost bin because you live in a city with curbside pick-up or have your own compost pile, a small bin is probably ideal. On the contrary, if you are limited to weekly drop-offs, you may want a bigger bin.
Anticipating how many scraps you will produce can be tricky, but try to also consider what you’re able to compost. Backyard composting is usually limited to vegetable matter. Industrial composting can handle far more waste, including animal matter, compostable plastics, and soiled cardboard. If your scraps are handled by an industrial composting service, you may find composting simpler because of the great array of things you can compost.
Where you plan to store your compost bin should also factor into its size. Under-sink storage can be a great option, particularly because it can accommodate larger bins (and help a bit with smell). If you want to keep scraps in the fridge or on your countertop, you may want something with a smaller footprint.
Even a basic bin—which is little more than a lidded bucket—can offer features that make your life easier. A compost bin with an easy-to-remove lid, for example, will allow you to easily add scraps into it as you prep food. A handle lets you easily carry the bin outdoors, and holes can allow for venting and reduce odor for food that sits out. Some bins are also designed to reduce odor with increased ventilation inside of them or come with replaceable filters.
Some bins even accommodate biodegradable liners that allow you to bag up the compost. If you want to use liners, just make sure they fit your needs. Many types of material that are industrially compostable, including organic material like bones and some compostable trash bags and plastics, won’t break down in a home compost pile.
Worm bins often offer more features, simply because the actual composting is happening inside them. A specific kind of system, often trays, allows worms to move up to the newer waste. If you want to compost with worms, make sure to look for features that allow you to access the processed material easily. You’ll also want to see if there’s a way to drain out liquid compost, a byproduct of vermicomposting.
Odor is the biggest enemy of indoor composting, and the right material can help you fight that. Metal is particularly good at not absorbing odor, but plastic, if cleaned regularly and designed without cracks or corners, can also minimize odor. Some bins are also constructed to be dishwasher safe; washing your bin after filling it up can help with odor, as well.
While plastic is very common for compost bins, it can give people pause, especially if they are composting to reduce waste. You can look for plastic bins that can be recycled eventually or are made from recycled materials. Other materials, like bamboo or stoneware, can offer a plastic-free alternative that’s still attractive, but may require more care to keep smells from being absorbed.
Types of Compost Bins
Compost bins start out pretty basic: a bucket that can store scraps until you dump it, either in your own compost pile or somewhere it can be picked up and processed. These countertop compost bins are usually fairly basic, offering an easy-to-remove lid, handle for carrying, and maybe some holes for ventilation. If you just need a place to store food scraps in your kitchen, this is what you’ll likely buy.
Compost bins can get even fancier from there. Food recyclers can grind and heat food, speeding up the composting process significantly. While a food recycler can break down food in as little as eight hours, there are some drawbacks. Because the broken-down food doesn’t have bacteria, it can’t be immediately used as compost and will have to sit outside for a while to break down further. Food recyclers are also able to break down far more types of food waste, like dairy and bones, that home compost piles typically can't break down on their own because they don’t get hot enough.
Worm composters are also meant to stay indoors because worms need a temperate environment. Vermicomposting bins vary in design, but usually allow for worms to move upward and leave rich compost for you below. This can happen with trays or other systems that allow you to access the lowest level of the bin to get your worm castings.
Bokashi is a less common form for composting and is done in an anaerobic environment. These bins have tight lids that let your waste ferment. The resulting fermented material can’t be used as mulch (unlike regular compost) and needs to either decay further in a compost bin or be buried. Bokashi is tempting for those with limited outdoor space, but what you can do with the material is limited.
How much maintenance is required with compost bins?
Kitchen compost bins can last forever if you care for them properly. Usually, that means washing them out, either by hand or in the dishwasher, after emptying them. If you buy a bin that requires liners, which some do, you’ll also need to make sure you’re keeping those stocked. If you’re actually composting with your bins, you can also get tools to measure the pH of the soil as well as its temperature and moisture levels.
Worm bins are a far more high-maintenance process, and worms can feel like a cross between a pet and household chore. In addition to caring for the worms, you’ll need to make sure the worm bins are well-maintained and in the right spot to let the worms thrive. Vermicomposting isn’t rocket science, but it can be a lot to jump into, especially for newbies.
Where is the best place for a compost bin?
Storing your compost collection bin is actually a really important choice for the success of your composting system. If you place it out of the way and make collecting scraps too much of a chore for you and your household, you may not make scrap collection a habit. If you place a stinky bin that you don’t like the aesthetics of front and center in your kitchen, it may not last once you get sick of seeing and smelling it.
The size of your bin and kitchen also play a role as some larger bins, such as worm composting options, may be too large to realistically store on a countertop. Likewise, smaller kitchens may not want to spare the space no matter how compact the bin.
If you want to keep your bin hidden, but accessible, under the sink makes sense for those that are small enough to fit. You can also use a pantry or closet as long as it’s close enough to the kitchen that getting to it with your scraps doesn’t require a special trip. If you have one of the attractive options we highlighted above, try placing it on your countertop. Here, it’ll be more likely to get used as scraps will have less distance to travel. For countertop bins, make sure to get an option that has some form of odor control.
What should you add to your compost bin?
Fruit and vegetable scraps form the bulk of any scrap collection regimen. Outside of that basic ingredient, it’s best to check the recommendations for your specific compost bin and the compost system you use. For example, worm composters discourage too much coffee, citrus, and other ingredients that can make the worms’ soil too acidic. The Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 (view at Amazon) can break down nut shells, eggshells, and even bones, but the brand discourages using too many sweet fruits in one batch as they can caramelize and bind the machine as it heats and grinds.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Justin Park, the author of this piece, has been composting since he was introduced to it in his grandmother’s garden. Since then, he’s become a Master Gardener in two states and produced DVDs on composting for compost experts at The Rodale Institute. He’s tried worm composting and large-scale composting, and has personally tested several of the models mentioned above.
For this roundup, he interviewed Marisa DeDominicis, the cofounder and executive director of Earth Matters NY, for background information on what to look for in a compost bin and the best types of compost bins for different lifestyles.