Drum Garbage Can Composter





Introduction: Drum Garbage Can Composter

I wanted to try making one of the many DIY drum composters posted on the site but was having a hard time finding a food-grade 55 gallon industrial barrel here in Brooklyn, so I substituted a relatively cheap garbage can.

Step 1: Assemble Materials

You're going to need a couple of 2x4's, lots of wood screws, two hinges, a padlock assembly, a 3-4 foot piece of rebar or PVC tubing, and lots of very small nuts and bolts. Oh - and a garbage can.

Now everything depends on what size garbage can you select - if you get a really big one, you'll need to cut your wood into larger pieces in order to build a big enough frame to allow your can (once it's been suspended by the rebar or PVC tubing) to swing a full 360 degrees without hitting any part of the frame. So buy your garbage can and then figure out what size wood pieces you'll need in order to build a big enough frame. I bough a 35 gallon can for $14.99 and it probably doesn't make sense to go any smaller than that.

Step 2: Build the Frame

I am no carpenter, as you can probably tell, and so I just built a basic frame using 2x4's, wood screws and metal plates to hold everything together. You'll probably need a circular saw and miter tool to cut the pieces.

Step 3: Prepare the Garbage Can

This is mostly simple with one tricky part. First, you'll need to use little metal nuts and bolts to permanently attach the lid to the can. Make sure you buy a can that has a lid that hangs over the top of the can enough so that you can drill a hole through both and attach them with a nut and bolt.

Then drill lots of holes all over the garbage can to provide aeration to the bacteria that will be composting your waste.

Finally, and this is the slightly tricky part, you'll need to cut a 'door' into the body of the garbage can into which you'll place waste and out of which you'll hopefully extract usable compost. If you're using a jigsaw, I suggest setting the bevel to 45 degrees so that the blade is tilted towards the center of the door. This will help to form a tight seal and not let compost spill out when you're spinning it around later. After you've made the cut, attach hinges to one side and some mechanism for keeping it closed on the other. I also attached some little metal plates on the top and bottom sides of the door just to keep it nice and secure.

Step 4: Hang the Can

Now cut two holes into the sides of the garbage can just large enough to allow whatever you're going to be using to suspend the can on the support structure. I used rebar but you could also use PVC tubing probably. You don't want these holes to be too big - just big enough to get your suspending beam through. Then I drilled 2 similarly sized holes into the two spots on the support structure where I wanted to suspend the garbage can.
I then passed the rebar through one end of the support, through both ends of the can, and then through the other end of the support. And voila!
Check to make sure it's sturdy and that you can swing the can a full 360 degrees without any obstructions.
Have fun composting!



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    I really like this Idea. I am also going to build one soon. But as for the Lid I think I am going to bolt a piece of Plywood to it and make the hole for the compost to go in on the top with 2 sliding locks.

    Shouldn't you omit the latches and hinges and just use the lid that's already there?

    7 replies

    It is meant to spin and therefore the lid needs to be sealed to the rest of the bin otherwise all your composting stuff would fall out the first time you go to spin it.

    Right - the lid has to hold a lot of weight when the whole thing is spun and I decided that it needed to be permanently sealed and that the door should be on the side.

    Ok, guys, I've got the solution: how about cotter pins. I am going to build one of these soon, I was talking with my dad about it and he suggested cotter pins all the way around, maybe 3-5 of them. They could be attached by wire so they wouldn't get lost. This would solve the problem of keeping the lid on, yet still using the lid.

    I'm all done! I will post some pictures.

    I have 2 lynch pins opposite the handles, which snap over the rim, I have a full batch in the one on the left there and it's holding so nicely, I could even leave it upside down.

    I can't leave it upside down. I tried, and then it rained and the water sort of funnels through the bottom and the lid as well, weighing down the lid, buckling it outward. No loss of compost though, just nutrients.

    Sorry forgot to upload files. . .


    Hi, now that is something I can do, I have the container the wood and the hardware. "Great job, thanks for sharing, I am going to make to one to start and one to cook, Ideally three is best. Nice really nice.

    In our area, we can purchase (for about $10) a large milk barrel from Roberts Dairy. Our church purchased some to make rain barrels. I don't know if it would work here, but it's a possibility. The container is likely "food grade" if this is a concern to people. We are planning to make rain barrels as well, but I might also try this idea. Thanks!

    Chuckymonkey is right, hinge or clamp the lid. Other possible improvements, hmmmm. Use something like grommets at the axle holes so the "barrel" will last longer. If using ready rod for an axle then tighten up on the barrel with nuts and washers. This would allow for a crank handle which makes it easier to turn. For better mixing perhaps some small fins or blades on the axle inside the barrel. You might also put a basin under the barrel to catch the compost tea, good fertilizer. For the frame, not bad, but I'd put the bottom skids on their edges which would give you face to face joints. Much stronger than into end grain.

    Really great job on this, I'm going to build one this spring. Just a couple of thoughts that may make it a little simpler even. Instead of using a door on the side, just put four hasps on the lid. Then for simple transport and removal you just notch the upright 2x4's. This will let you lift the can off and just pull the rod out. Take off the lid, tip the can over and voila!

    Bravo! These are the creative,innovative and imaginative ideas and projects that moved mankind up the evolution ladder. You have an idea, you think it will work, and you sit down and think about how to put it together. Love it! Love this website! Glad I found it.

    hey u hav such a great idea i think im gping to copy ur idea ok umm if u have any other gardening or plant ideas please leave me a comment

    Great 'ible! It may not be pretty, but it really does look much more do-able (is that even a word?) than most of the other DIY tumbler type composters I've seen. This goes in the Faves pile :)

    I'm not familiar with spinning compost - what does this do? Is it like the tumbling action of a washing machine? L

    1 reply

    Good question! Actually any composter worth his mettle will find a way to 'turn' his or her compost. If they have a simple compost pile, they can use a pitchfork to move it around periodically. If they have a traditional compost bin, they can buy a compost turner, which is like a spear with wings that pull back as you extract the spear from your pile, effectively mixing it around. You need to mix for 2 main reasons: 1-The more oxygen present at the site of decomposition (where the bacteria and other microbes are working away at your waste), the faster they can turn your kitchen scraps into compost; 2- It helps get the microbes to all areas of the waste so that it is uniformly composted. The benefit of a drum composter like this one is that all you need to do in order to mix your compost is give your drum a little kick every now and again. No need for pitchforks or fancy aerator contraptions. The crazy thing is that they sell pre-fab composters for upwards of $300 when you can make one like this for maybe $30!