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Composting may sound intimidating if you're new to it—but don’t worry. While there are certainly wrong ways to compost, there are also plenty of ways to do it right. First off, it has less to do with finding the perfect compost bin than it does with finding the perfect one for you. What you’re composting, where your compost goes, and even the size of your kitchen can affect what kind of bin you want to buy.
A kitchen compost bin primarily acts as storage for food that is destined to eventually be composted, such as food scraps. If you don’t have an outdoor space or a drop-off site, you can still find ways to compost indoors, such as vermicomposting (composting with worms).
Here, we list the best compost bins to help you do good for the environment, potentially save money, and even nourish your own garden.
A compost pail is a simple way to turn everyday scraps and trash into garden gold. This stainless steel compost bin has a capacity of 1.3 gallons and includes a charcoal filter to neutralize odors. It’s large enough to hold at least a day or two's worth of kitchen waste and food debris, making this composing bin a great pick for your kitchen counter or under your sink.
Take note that you won’t be doing any actual composting in this bin. Instead, think of it like a convenient, odor-free way to house scraps and raw materials until you can add them to your outdoor composter or full-sized bin.
Marisa DeDominicis, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Earth Matters NY, explains, “Composting is actively changing your food scraps and your organic matter into something applied to tree beds or outdoor plants.” So instead of running outside every time you have compostable material, the Epica’s solid and seamless stainless steel construction prevents rusting and messy leaks while it stores your organic waste.
You can start your organic waste on the road to becoming compost with this budget compost bin from OXO. This kitchen compost bin is super easy to keep clean—thanks to the smooth, crevice-free interior liner. Without seams, deep corners, or ridges, foods and liquids won’t build up inside of this bin and cause unappetizing smells in your kitchen. It’s easy to rinse clean, according to reviewers, and keeps odors under control. Made of plastic, you can also store this container in the freezer—a recommendation that DeDominicis says helps to control odor.
One additional feature of this budget compost bin that users appreciate is the lack of vented holes in the lid. Sometimes these vent holes can be difficult to clear of small debris or become a breeding ground for fruit flies. The lid sits flush on the top of the compost bin but doesn’t seal shut so that airflow isn’t stifled. This airflow can slow the growth of bacteria and mold. With a capacity of 0.75 gallon, this is on the smaller side for a compost bin, but it is suitable for collection of waste for a day (or two).
"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
If you’re looking for a small living compost bin, this one from Uncommon Goods will catch your eye. The multi-chamber design provides easy access for depositing waste while giving ample room for live worms to get to work creating nutrient-rich casings.
If the thought of a living compost bin makes you squeamish, consider the benefits. Unlike indoor compost bins that must be transferred to larger outdoor composters for decomposition, this living composter, when combined with the right type of worms, will work efficiently on your countertop to transform waste into fertilizer ready for your garden use. Reviewers enthusiastically report that there is no odor or flies when this small indoor compost bin is properly managed. Keep in mind that its small size makes it more suited for a single person or couple than a large family.
Composting with worms, or vermicomposting, is a highly efficient and eco-friendly way to produce great quality indoor compost. The Quest Worm Factory is a popular pick for a small worm composting bin. This composter includes 4 trays that stack neatly and fit in compact spaces, like under your kitchen sink.
This composting bin with worms manages odors well. It also includes a spigot on the front for dispensing liquid from the trays (sometimes referred to as composting tea or liquid compost). However, a few people found the spigot to be awkward to use and had to move the composting bin onto a counter in order to dispense it. The most common suggestion that reviewers have is to add more ventilation holes to the lid in order to increase airflow. Otherwise, this small worm composting bin is perfect for apartments, condos, or under kitchen sinks.
“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
If you don’t mind the company of red wiggler worms (contained, of course), then the Urban Worm Bag is a unique option for an indoor compost bin. This system utilized a layered bag with an easy access zipper to make managing and accessing your compost a cinch.
While you might think a worm bed system looks more like an outdoor compost bin, keep in mind that worms need a temperate environment. If you live in a region with very warm or very cold temperatures, your living compost system may suffer. When used as an indoor compost bin, you’ll appreciate the fact that the stand makes it easy to access processed compost (worm castings) from the underside of the bag with relatively little hassle. A few people mention that the zipper can be hard to close after harvesting your compost, but this appears to be more of the exception rather than the rule.
Bokashi is another method of composting, but this system utilizes an anaerobic process—which requires sealing off waste from exposure to oxygen. The SCD Probiotics All Seasons Indoor Composter is an easy way to get started with this composting process.
The 5-gallon bucket and bokashi starter material make it easy to begin fermenting your organic waste right inside your kitchen. The airtight seal ensures that no smells escape, according to reviewers. The end result from this indoor compost bin is a fermented product that needs to buried in our garden or added to a traditional composter for additional processing. However, the benefit is a quick turn-around time for processing organic waste and very rich nutrients for your plants.
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, like bones and eggshells, or items that are prone to odors or attracting pests, like meat and dairy products.
Most reviewers find this machine easy to operate and a simple thing to incorporate into their daily or weekly routine. In an Instagram story, Eva Chen called it one of the "top ten 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 in 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.
Activated charcoal filters are one means of controlling odors of indoor compost bins. This compost bin from Utopia Kitchen includes two charcoal filters to cut back on odors. The filters can be soaked in warm soapy water for regular cleaning and a quick refresh to keep them working for months at a time.
This stainless steel compost pail measures 14 inches tall and has a diameter of 9 inches, making it the right size for underneath your kitchen sink or on the countertop. The charcoal filters fit inside of the tight-fitting lid and can last several months—depending on how often you clean them and how many odors your filter is tasked with absorbing.
"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
The Full Circle Compost Bin uses compostable liners to keep odors away and make the composting process more streamlined. The 1.5-gallon container is made of recycled plastic and steel materials. Line each bin with a compostable bag that is easy to remove when full and can be placed directly into your outdoor composter or garden. There’s no mess and no clean-up to do once you’ve removed the bag. Just replace with a fresh one to keep collecting waste.
In addition, the Full Circle compost bin aims to control odors and flies with a unique air flow system that aerates your waste. This system, plus the use of compost bags, makes this a popular option with home users that are looking to minimize mess and odors sometimes associated with compost bins. It's also an excellent choice if you use a composting collection service, rather than composting yourself in your backyard.
Compost in style with this well-designed compost bin from Crate and Barrel. In addition to its on-point modern appearance, we also love that this composter is eco-friendly. It’s constructed of renewable bamboo and is biodegradable at its end of life.
But you won’t be ready to part with this composting bin any time soon. A carbon filter keeps odors under control, and once you’ve emptied the contents of the bin into your composter, the container is dishwasher safe for quick clean-up.
What to Look for When Buying a Compost Bin
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding what size of 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, perhaps, live in a city with curbside pick-up for compost or have your own compost pile, a small bin is probably ideal. But 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). But 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, another 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.
Composting and collecting kitchen scraps can either be incredibly affordable or get pricey fast. You can find a basic bin for collecting scraps for under $20, whereas the price of worm bins can start at hundreds of dollars. If you’re just getting started with composting, start with an affordable bin that you like and go from there.
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 much (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.
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 a household chore. In addition to caring for the worms, you’ll need to make sure the worm bins are also 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.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
For this document, we interviewed Marisa DeDominicis, the Co-Founder 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.