THE MIDAS TOUCH
Composting takes kitchen and yard waste that would otherwise go to a landfill and turns it into economical organic fertilizer. Serious gardeners and eco-minded consumers lovingly refer to nutrient-rich compost as "black gold." Although it costs nothing to pile food scraps and coffee grounds in the backyard, many people live in urban areas or prefer to buy bins to contain odor, keep pests away, and speed up the slow decomposition process.
Most compost bins, regardless of design or size, incorporate both "green" matter (food scraps, grass and plant clippings) for nitrogen and "brown" matter (dried leaves, paper) for carbon. Kitchen compost bins are small, covered buckets that keep odors and bugs at bay until food waste can be emptied into a stationary or tumbling composter outside. Compost tumblers sit in a frame and allow frequent turning to aerate the contents, which helps them break down within about a month or so. Stationary compost bins sit directly on the ground and promise a large yield with little effort, although the compost takes longer to mature. You can turn the contents occasionally to speed decomposition, or just throw in organic matter and forget about it until the lowest level in the pile is ready to be shoveled out and used.
Cheapism.com dug through expert and user reviews to find the best composters for less than $150, and a few bonus models that offer something distinctive — such as worms to assist the microorganisms as they do their work.
Prices and availability may vary.
OXO GOOD GRIPS COMPOST BIN
Good Countertop Compost Bucket
Est. Price: $20 | Buy it on Amazon
- Simple, sleek, lightweight, compact design (7 x 7 x 7 inches and just 1.2 pounds when empty).
- Easy to clean, with smooth interior walls and slight rounding inside at the bottom keep waste from getting stuck in nooks and crannies.
- Lid flips up and stays up; also removable for emptying.
- Fold-down carrying handle.
- Two color options: white with green interior and charcoal with sage interior.
- 12-cup (about 0.75-gallon) capacity requires frequent emptying and is probably too small for large households.
- Some users wish the lid had a tighter seal (or the bin came with a filter) to trap odors.
- Supposed to be dishwasher-safe, but reviews suggest that it can become warped from high heat; some say water gets trapped between the inner and outer linings.
Takeaway: Although it's a pretty basic little bucket, the Oxo Good Grips Compost Bin pleases hundreds of users with its svelte appearance and user-friendly functionality. This small kitchen compost bin offers a handy and efficient way to recycle kitchen waste without offending aesthetic sensibilities or attracting fruit flies (for the most part). In lieu of trusting this bin to the dishwasher, many owners say a good rinse after dumping the contents will do.
EXACO TRADING CO. 2-IN-1 KITCHEN COMPOST BUCKET
Good Metal Kitchen Compost Bin
Est. Price: $24 | Buy it on Amazon
- Right-sized for a countertop at 7.5 inches across and 9.75 inches high; 1-gallon capacity.
- Convenient "bucket-in-bucket" arrangement for easy transport and cleaning; polypropylene liner is dishwasher-safe.
- Carrying handles on the sides of the outer bucket; fold-down handle on the inner bucket.
- Does a good job keeping odors in, according to reviews.
- Attractive compost bin that comes in soft green, oatmeal, white, matte silver, and stainless steel (price varies by color).
- Scattered reports of the lid not sealing well and the rubber gasket coming off, the inner bucket retaining odors, and generally flimsy build quality.
- Some say the exterior on the steel model is prone to tarnishing and discoloration, and several complain of handles rusting.
- A few users grouse that the bin holds less than expected.
Takeaway: Despite its metal construction, this small Exaco compost bin weighs a relatively scant 1.54 pounds. The 2-in-1 bucket system helps keep smells under control, and the plastic inner bin is easy to empty — but beware of carry handles that may not be quite up to heavy loads and a lid that doesn't always seal tightly; a handful of owners tell of fruit flies making an appearance. Although some users prefer the look of this kitchen counter compost bin to its overall performance, the vintage styling and diminutive footprint appeal to many.
EPICA STAINLESS STEEL COMPOST BIN
Best Compost Bin for Kitchen
Est. Price: $23 | Buy it on Amazon
- Modern good looks and odor-free performance make this compost bin a standout, users say.
- Replaceable charcoal filter in the aerated lid to absorb odors.
- Generous size for a countertop model, at 1.3 gallons.
- Fairly compact footprint for its capacity (7.2-inch diameter and 11-inch height).
- Molded, 1-piece stainless steel bin with no seams to trap dirt or worries of pieces separating.
- Fold-down carrying handle for portability.
- Some complaints of fruit fly invasions; may require vigilance (and careful cleaning of the filter) to keep them at bay.
- Some grousing about the filter being hard to remove.
- Scattered reports of rusting and holes in the bottom of the bin.
Takeaway: This Epica compost bin draws rave reviews from thousands of users. They like how it blends in with the kitchen décor, seems sturdy and well-made, and is easy to transport to the yard for emptying. Although it weighs just over 2 pounds, the weight reflects the bin's solid construction and relatively large capacity. The charcoal filter keeps odors at bay, but some reviewers are grossed out by fruit flies that hover in and around the bin. The washable filter should last about six months.
YIMBY IM4000 TUMBLING COMPOSTER
Best Budget Tumbling Composter
Est. Price: $100 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Fast composting, easy turning, and user-friendly overall, according to reviewers.
- Two separate chambers with a removable door and adjustable aerating holes.
- Ergonomic handholds on the octagonal-shaped tumbler create interior fins that aid mixing.
- Hard-wearing, UV-resistant, BPA-free, recycled polypropylene body; galvanized steel frame.
- 37-gallon volume capacity is just right for a family and/or a small garden.
- Opening for filling and emptying is too small, some users say.
- A bit of grousing about assembly ordeals; a second person helps setup go faster.
- Some reports of cracks developing in the sides.
- Short 1-year warranty.
Takeaway: Composting newbies throw their support to this Yimby tumbler/composter for its ease of use, speedy work, and sturdy, elevated design. Although a few reviewers consider the size too limiting, others say the Yimby IM4000 holds more than you might think. With dual chambers, one side can stew and take new waste while the other side is ready for use, a plus for gardeners who can't wait for large batches to finish maturing. The comparatively cheap price enhances this composter's appeal.
LIFETIME 60058 ROTATING COMPOSTER
Good Large Compost Tumbler
Est. Price: $122 | Buy it from Walmart
- Sturdy and durable, with black, double-walled, high-density-polyethylene panels.
- UV-protected and weather-resistant, with a powder-coated steel frame and galvanized steel base.
- Removable lid with a wide opening for filling or emptying.
- Skips air vents (which can attract pests and rodents) in favor of an internal aeration bar.
- Unique ergonomic shape that's easy to rotate, users report.
- Makes usable compost relatively quickly, according to reviews.
- Large, 80-gallon volume.
- Comes with a DVD composting guide.
- 5-year warranty.
- Challenging and time-consuming setup; some buyers report missing hardware.
- Some users gripe about difficulty turning the composter when full, and a few wish there were greater air flow.
- Water can become trapped inside the outer casing.
Takeaway: Most reviewers really like the Lifetime 60058 tumbling composter, so much so that some bought a second one to ensure an ever-ready supply of composted fertilizer. Elevation off the ground ensures that bugs and critters can't get in, and the double-walled panels keep the contents warm even in cold weather. The major complaint about this product, shouted loud and clear in reviews, is the need for better assembly instructions. Many reviewers say two sets of hands are needed and urge buyers to read assembly tips offered in online comments.
REDMON GREEN CULTURE COMPOST BIN
Good Cheap Stationary Compost Bin
Est. Price: $51 | Buy it from Lowe's
- Outfitted with air holes throughout; good ventilation helps kitchen and yard scraps quickly turn into compost, reviews say.
- Weather-resistant, UV-protected, heavy-duty polypropylene bin; 80 percent recycled plastic.
- Lift-off lid and four doors at the base for removing compost.
- Snap-together assembly with just a few screws; anchor-pegs for stability.
- Generously sized for a compact bin (26 x 26 x 31 inches), it can hold up to 65 gallons of food scraps and yard waste.
- Scattered grumbling about difficulty getting the bin properly squared in assembly, flimsiness, and an ill-fitting lid that comes off easily in the wind.
- Some say the opening is too small to turn compost.
- Holes may allow flying insects inside.
- Short 1-year warranty.
Takeaway: The simplicity of this Redmon compost bin is a key part of its appeal, and many say it's a good composter for beginners. Users appreciate the value price, easy setup, and minimal maintenance required to get high-quality compost. Worries about invading insects and moles can be allayed by placing mesh over the ventilation holes and on the ground beneath the open base. A few users suggest placing a heavy weight on the lid to ensure the bin stays anchored.
Best Cone Compost Bin
Est. Price: $99 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Simple, tough, and durable, users say; no bugs, odors, or critters; retains heat and yields excellent results.
- Cone shape facilitates turning and removing compost and provides vertical and horizontal ventilation.
- Locking lid and door; anchoring screw pegs.
- Made of high-density, UV-resistant polyethylene; minimum 50 percent post-consumer recycled material.
- Fairly large (10.5 cubic feet); holds just about 80 gallons.
- Easy to assemble, with no need for tools.
- 10-year warranty.
- Occasional reports of parts not aligning.
- Scattered grousing about customer service fails and rather basic design for the price (one owner calls it an "inverted large garbage bin").
Takeaway: Patience is required with the Earth Machine, but the wait for compost is worth it, most reviewers say. Users can opt for an active role, churning the contents every week or so, or take the passive route, just adding kitchen and yard scraps with an occasional poke and then shoveling out the finished product from the bottom after four to six months. Users like the unusual cone shape (most stationary composters have corners) and generous volume.
ALGREEN PRODUCTS SOIL SAVER CLASSIC
Best Large Stationary Compost Bin
Est. Price: $97 | Buy it on Amazon
- Selling points include durability, functionality, ease of assembly, and speedy composting, according to user reviews.
- Weather-resistant, BPA-free, and made from 100 percent recycled material.
- Lots of air vents for oxidation and a "self-watering" lid with a lock and holes to let moisture in.
- Two sliding doors for bottom access; can be assembled for preferred door placement (side-by-side or opposite-side entry)
- Large, 95-gallon volume.
- Impressive 20-year warranty.
- Lacks anchoring pegs on the open base.
- Some say savvy critters find their way in.
- Scattered reports about the lid not locking into place.
Takeaway: You can get rich fertilizer from backyard and kitchen waste in a matter of weeks with the Soil Saver composter, according to reviewers. The extra-thick, heavy-duty housing keeps the contents plenty warm even when the weather cools in temperate parts of the country. Although digging in and churning the contents of this composter can take a bit of muscle, its overall design makes it very user-friendly; some owners even say they've achieved great yields without turning. An included composting guide provides useful tips for beginners.
GEOBIN COMPOST BIN
Good Large Composter for Yard Waste
Est. Price: $35 | Buy it on Amazon
- Design makes composting incredibly simple, users say in reviews, with easy access through the wide-open top and plenty of ventilation.
- Adjustable size from 2 feet to nearly 4 feet in diameter; 36 inches high.
- Enormous maximum volume of 216 gallons.
- Made of 50 percent recycled plastic.
- Bin may not stay upright unless mostly full; stakes may be required.
- Some users struggle to unfurl the very tightly rolled plastic for setup.
- With no lid, plenty of air and moisture can get in, but so can everything else.
Takeaway: The extra-large Geobin is a useful aid to anyone eager to turn mounds of fallen leaves, grass clippings, and other yard waste into rich fertilizer. Reviewers urge care when adding food scraps, as the wide-open top may invite unwanted animals and insects. Many laud the customizable size, the thick, tough plastic, and the "keys" that lock it into a round shape. Simple and cheap is the overall consensus, which is why a number of municipalities have turned to these bins for their residential composting programs. Check the company's website for deals on multiple bins.
ENVIROCYCLE TUMBLING COMPOSTER
Bonus: Composter With Tea Collector
Est. Price: $230 | Buy it on Amazon
- Yields rich, black compost in weeks with the right mix of ingredients and turning the drum per instructions on the ground-level base, reviews say.
- Very user-friendly and impervious to leaks and critters.
- Liquid fertilizer ("compost tea") drains into the base for collecting or emptying into the ground; a garden hose can be attached to the front spigot.
- Removable 35-gallon drum with a latched door and aerating vents.
- BPA-free and UV-antioxidant-protected.
- No assembly required.
- 5-year warranty; customer service garners unusually strong commendations from reviewers.
- Scattered reports that the drum doesn't stay on the base; valve to drain tea placed too high.
- Some grousing about small opening for removing compost.
- Some balk at price.
Takeaway: Available in pink(!) or black, the Envirocycle composter grabs attention with its squat, ground-level design — a significant departure from the more common tumblers set off the ground on metal frames. Users like the aesthetics, simplicity, and sure-fire results; many have purchased two. When collected from the base, the compost tea can be diluted to spray on plants or to "feed" the soil. You can even put worms in this compost bin, but it's recommended not to spin the tumbler to avoid harming the little compost helpers. There's also a smaller, 17-gallon size; the Envirocycle Mini Composter sells for $170.
WORM FACTORY 360
Bonus: Worm Composter
Est. Price: $110 | Buy it on Amazon
- Reliable and speedy compost production year-round, reviews say, without off-putting odors when used indoors.
- Upward air flow and worm-created air passages speed decomposition and produce very high quality vermicompost.
- Liquid fertilizer (compost tea) collects in the base; spigot for draining.
- 4 stacking trays; expandable to 8; minimal assembly required.
- Available in black, green, or terracotta recycled high-density polyethylene.
- Compact 18-square-inch footprint.
- Comes with a DVD and instructional guide, mineral rock dust, a thermometer, a hand rake, a scraper, a worm ladder, and bedding materials.
- 5-year warranty.
- Does not appeal to "wormaphobes."
- Not intended for yard waste; food, paper, and fiber scraps only.
- Attracts fruit flies, according to some reviews.
- Many Amazon reviewers report receiving kits with missing items.
- Worms must be purchased separately (and timing is critical; everything should be set up before ordering).
Takeaway: In the Worm Factory composter from Nature's Footprint, worms wriggle around in a tray filled with scraps, do their thing, and snake upward for fresh food, leaving behind super-rich fertilizer. Some attention is required — getting the right mix of scraps is key — but newbies and veterans say maintenance is low-key and the process is efficient from start to finish. The composter can be used indoors or outdoors, and the worm-based system allows eco-conscious consumers who live in cold climates to recycle food and paper waste year-round.
GARDEN TOWER 2
Bonus: Composting Container Garden
Est. Price: $392 | Buy it on Amazon
- Many owners say they've successfully grown small ornamental, vegetable, and herb plants while composting food scraps.
- Holds 50 plants plus a vermicompost core; users can harvest compost and nutrient tea through a removable drawer.
- Vertical stacking design (up to 43 inches, and 24.5 inches in diameter) allows both gardening and composting in a small space, such as an apartment terrace.
- Made of nontoxic, BPA- and PVC-free high-density polyethylene with UV protection; certified "Red List Free."
- 360-degree rotating base for better access and varying exposure for plants; feet can be anchored for greater security.
- 5-year warranty.
- Some grousing about the build quality of the composting tubes.
- It's made to be used with worms, which may not appeal to the squeamish.
- Scattered reports that the concept just doesn't work (plants don't get enough food, space, or light), although pictures from successful owners suggest otherwise.
- Takes food waste only.
- Some pushback on the price in reviews.
Takeaway: There are only about 50 reviews on Amazon for the Garden Tower 2, but more than four out of five tell of tasty harvests and colorful blooms — and there are a lot more laudatory comments and photos on social media. This composting planter is especially well-suited for apartments with terraces and houses with small yards, and for people eager to compost kitchen waste and grow a garden with minimal effort. Some reviews note that the inner composting core, comprised of stackable perforated tubes, can be tricky to keep stable and straight (using zip ties is one suggested hack) and the spaces for holding the plants are too small. Still, a majority of users seem to really like the tower and the responsive customer service. (Although the composter carries a lower price tag of $359 on the manufacturer's website, steep shipping charges are likely to nullify the price advantage over Amazon. Consumers buying multiple towers, however, can benefit from quantity discounts.