Tag Archives: airflow

How to Build a Trash Can Composter with a Door

I made another trash can composter today- this time with a nice door upgrade.  What for?

Now that my first composter is filled up, it’s going to be tedious to empty out the finished compost 6 months from now.  With the door at the bottom, I hope to remove the finished material much easier.

All in all, the project cost me less than $30 and about an hour of work… better yet, it was a cinch to make.

I picked a trash can that had a relatively flat side so it would be easier to attach hinges flush to the surface.

Here’s a close-up of the door at the bottom:

To build the door, I drilled the holes for all three hinges and screwed them in place first (don’t mount the washers and nuts yet).

Second, I used a boxcutter to cut out the door…I made it a good 10″ tall to give my hand some clearance to fish around and remove finished compost.

Next, I threaded the nuts on the screws on each of the hinges and tightened them down.

Finally, I used a 3/16″ bit to drill aeration holes on all sides of the bin plus the lid.

Clean up and dispose all of the plastic shavings from the inside and the outside.

That’s it!

Now you’re ready to divert organic materials from the landfill-  Feels good, doesn’t it?

Equipment List:

-Phillips head screwdriver
-3/16″ drill bit for ventilation holes
-Socket wrench (or adjustable wrench)
-2 hinges
-1 latch
-Nylon insert lock nuts
-Lock washers
-Stainless steel screws

Here’s a video I made to show you how to add materials to the bin:


Compost Bins: Drill Holes in the Lid?


I didn’t drill holes in mine for a while because I just left the lid off, resembling my larger sized cubic yard compost bins.

However, using a lid with plenty of holes can offer the same benefits- good airflow and it allows rainwater to penetrate, too.

Now that it’s summer, compost systems need more moisture to work effectively… keep them damp, and if you want to use a lid, drill holes to contain the process without hampering it.

Not So Hot Compost

Not So Hot Compost

The reasons for the pile not working are easily solvable.

First: the pile is predominantly manure.  A working pile needs to have three times as much carbon as nitrogen.  He mentions activators, but in this situation they won’t help at all.

He needs shredded leaves as his browns.  I can’t tell if there’s any food scraps in there, added to the center and covered with a fresh layer of browns (shredded leaves).

Second, the pile is super dense and airflow is limited.  He needs browns.

Third, there is no reason at all to turn the pile, ever.  By doing so, the heat from the center is randomly redistributed, making the pile (the thermophilic critters) lose momentum.  Do less, reap the results.

When Composting, Does Size Matter?

How important is particle size for the success of your compost pile?  Composting naturally occurs over time, so is it worth putting energy into chopping up all the contents now?

At the end of my street, a huge pile of leaves just sits there practically all year long.  That section of the block is rarely cleaned, and the wind ensures that the pile continues to grow in size over time.

Now that it’s spring, I went right for this mess at the end of the street, and it was interesting to see just how well the leaves had broken down under the surface.  It smelled similar to a “forest floor”, which is the aroma of fresh compost.

This was a natural, nice and slow leaf compost in progress.

I decided to create a new compost pile using leaves that I didn’t shred, because I was both in a hurry and also being lazy.  I knew better- I thought I would come back to it later, and I didn’t.  My pile just sat there.  If I would have shredded all the contents, I’d be warming my hands on it by now.

Particle size is crucial in getting the pile jump-started and productive.  Here’s why:

-Uniform (shredded) materials self-insulate and will heat up quicker

-Shredded materials are easier to turn in a compost pile

-More surface area is created by shredding, which also makes it easier for bacteria to decompose the material

-Shredded materials keep your pile from being overly damp

These attributes apply to your food scraps as well.  If you added a whole piece of moldy produce to your pile, vs chopping it up into pieces first, the latter will break down drastically faster.

The greater the surface area you create, the easier it is for bacteria to digest it, and for you to turn over the pile.  A little effort will go a long way in composting.