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How To: Make a Compost Bin From a Trash Can

Friday, July 27, 2012

I grew up in the country, right in the middle of corn fields and farms. Every evening when we cleaned up the dinner table we had a bowl for kitchen scraps. The bowl was either dumped in the corner of the garden or given to the pigs. I never thought to do anything else with kitchen scraps. That was, until I went to college. I clearly remember the first meal I made in my college apartment. When it came time to clean-up, I didn’t know what to do with the scraps. Hog farms and backyard gardens are scarce on a college campus. Surely I wasn’t supposed to just throw them in the trash! Well, surely I was and that is what I did for the next several years. I finally became a grown-up with my first backyard and little garden. Wouldn’t you know it; right in the covenants and restrictions of our neighborhood it said “no compost piles.” Yikes! What’s a country girl to do?!

Well, this country girl and my small town husband made our own compost bin out of a plastic trash can. So, technically it’s not a compost bin. It’s a trash can that we only empty every year or so. This is a very easy project and makes for great compost.

1. Start with a lidded trash can. We used a 32 gallon plastic one that we already had but if you are handy at cutting holes in metal, you could probably use a metal one but rust would probably be a problem.

2. Using chalk, mark holes around the trash can approximately 3 inches in diameter and 4 inches apart. We made three staggered rows of these holes. You can adjust the placement and size of the holes depending on the size of your trash can.

3. Cut out the holes using tin snips or a dremmel type tool. Recycle the cut out holes.

4. Using either new or recycled screen material, cut squares large enough to cover the holes with some excess. Tape the screen in place on the inside with duct tape.

5. Viola! Now start to fill with kitchen and yard waste. There is some perfect ratio of brown to green material that exists for you scientific types. I’ll be honest with you, I add a little of this and a little of that. Basically, if it can decompose and I don’t want it anymore, I put it in the can. I keep it in the sun with the lid on so it can “cook” and add water or other liquids frequently. Initially, I didn’t keep it wet enough. Once I started adding water or taking the lid off when it rained the decomposition seemed to speed up.

6. One more thing, if you have big muscles and don’t mind drawing the attention of your neighbors, then you can roll the can around your yard to stir it up and add oxygen to the mix. It’s a good idea and does seem to help speed things up.

Happy Upcycling!

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