Can You Compost in a Trash Can: Yes, But…

compost trash can
Yes, you can use a garbage can for composting food waste. However, you will need to adjust the recycling bin to make the composting process as effective as possible. In most cases, this entails creating holes in the can for drainage and aeration.

How to Compost in a Trash Can

The following is a DIY method for composting biodegradable kitchen scraps.

1. Choose Your Trash Can

Choose a garbage can made of plastic, metal or stainless steel with a lid that can be secured firmly and holds at least 32 gallons of waste.

We recommend you use a metal can if there is a problem with rodents or other kinds of pests in your area.

2. Drill Holes Around the Can

Drill holes around the garbage can (sides, bottom, and lid) using a drill with a hole saw measuring 2 or 3 inches in diameter.

Space each hole approximately between 6 and 12 inches apart. These holes supply the oxygen and airflow required to make the composting process more effective.

3. Attach the Screening

Cover holes with window screening. Window screening should ‌fix each hole in the can’s inside.

You can secure the repairs with silicone caulk or epoxy.

4. Trash Can Composter Placement

Position the garbage can composter in an easily accessible location. Put it on bricks if you can, so air can flow underneath it.

5. Add Organic Waste

Start adding organic materials from plants. You may compost just about everything in a trash can composter, including food scraps like banana peels, eggshells, leftover cooked vegetables (without butter or salt), spoiled fruit and vegetables, used tea leaves, coffee grounds and shredded newspaper, yard waste like weeds, leaves, and spent flowers.

If you add too many “green materials” to the compost pile, like peels from fruits and vegetables, grass clippings, and weeds, it will become overly damp and ‌smell bad.

Also, an excessive amount of “brown materials” in a pile cannot generate enough heat and, therefore, will decompose slowly.

It would be best if you aimed for a brown to green ratio of at least 4:1.

6. Watch the Pile and Turn It

Your kitchen compost should have the consistency of a sponge thoroughly rung out. Anything even slightly damper will emit a foul odor because it has turned anaerobic, so oxygen no longer reaches certain sections of the mound.

A pile that has become excessively dry will typically not give off any heat. Throughout the entire decomposition process, watch the moisture levels, and change the proportion of browns to greens in your mixture as necessary.

Besides keeping your compost moist, you will need to leave it aerated, so it has oxygen. We accomplish this in a typical pile by turning the components of the pile once each week.

To aerate the trash can composter, lay it on the side and roll it several times. That will allow air to circulate throughout the can. Repeat this task twice per week.

Location of Your Garbage Bin Compost

Remember that the location of your trash can and composter is a critical consideration. As compost bins are filled, they gain a significant amount of weight, which is especially noticeable when the contents are damp. Pick a spot where it won’t have to be shifted around very often.

The size of a trash can is significantly less than that of a conventional composting bin. When the time comes for you to put your compost to use, you can transport it to where it is required by using a five-finger exercise hand trolley.

Even better, leave the trash can bin next to the garden bed. That way, you can apply it to your plants.

Choose a spot that gets a lot of sun. The composting bin will soak up solar energy, increasing temperature, which benefits the composting process.

How to Manage a Trash Can Composter

If you wish to ensure that the grounds for decomposition are at their optimal level, you will need to turn this mixture frequently.

When organic matter decomposes, it tends to fall within itself, which causes the air in the ingredients to be forced out of the mixture. However, oxygen is a necessary ingredient for the composting process.

Stirring it up is the most effective method for reintroducing some air into space.

You can prod it with a stick or buy an aerator explicitly made for composting, like this one on Amazon.

What Not to Compost in a Trash Can

If you want to get a successfully finished compost, you want to keep the following items out of your trash can composter:

  • Bones: Worms alone cannot break down bones.
  • Grease/oil: Immersing your food scraps in grease will hinder them from receiving the moisture required for decomposition.
  • Stickers: Before adding food leftovers to the compost, ensure that you remove any stickers from the fruit.
  • Chemically treated leaves: Before adding any foliage from the lawn, ensure you have not sprayed them with any weed killers or pesticides.
  • Cat or dog feces: May include viruses and other microorganisms you wouldn’t want your trash can to come into touch with because they may infect your plants.
  • Milk and eggs: These foodstuffs can produce a foul odor and draw unwanted vermin.
  • Woody plants and sticks: These do not break down easily.


Discovering composting as a way of life or even better, as nature’s way of recycling, Ana dedicates her time to trying out new methods of composting at home. Her goal is to share everything that she’s learned in the hopes that it will help others discover the amazing rewards of composting.

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