Wheelie Bin Composter





Introduction: Wheelie Bin Composter

This blog details what I did to make a compost bin from a disused wheelie bin. My motivation was wanting to recycle garden and vegetable waste but not wanting to spend money on an expensive compost bin from the hardware store. I happened to have an unused wheelie bin taking up space in the garage and it seemed like a fine vessel for the job.

The blog-post has step by step descriptions and photos showing the transformation from wheelie bin to compost bin. However, it is not a set of instructions because wheelie bin styles vary and personal preferences may dictate doing things a different way. You are encouraged to comment and share your ideas and experiences of your own wheelie bin composter experience. In time, I will add other posts about the results (the compost, hopefully) and it would be great to see yours too.

To be honest I don’t have a single green finger in any of the ten I possess, so, gardening, weeding and composting are all on a bit of a steep learning curve for me. Still I will persevere!

Now for the disclaimer:

This blog exists because I thought my experience may be of use to others. However, I take no responsibility for your interpretation of my experiences. If you do decide to make your own wheelie bin composter you should observe the following points:

Make sure you own the wheelie bin! The author of this blog does not condone using a wheelie bin provided for the collection of trash, or any other purpose, where the wheelie bin is, effectively, loaned to you.

It may be necessary for you to reuse or acquire additional parts for this project! Always use parts that are suited to the job they will be doing and do not imperil anybody or the correct functioning of other equipment by improper use or reuse of parts.

Safety first! If you undertake a project like this you will need to use a variety of tools and it is entirely your responsibility to ensure your own safety and that of others who may be involved, either passively or actively, in any way.

Now, thank you for visiting and, please, enjoy this blog.

Step 1: The Parts List

Wheelie bin, metal grid, two cabinet hinges, nine air vents. The tap and the tube of adhesive were returned to the store as they were not used. Various nuts and bolts and a door knob (not shown).

The minimum requirements to make the composter.

Design the composter first and obtain the parts you require before building as this saves time hunting down parts or going to the store multiple times.

Step 2: Tools to Do the Job

Screwdriver, 3” hole saw, drill, marker pen, tape measure. Wrenches, a file, metal cutters, wire cutters, a mallet and a jigsaw are not shown.

Assemble the required tools prior to beginning the job.

Step 3: Preparation

Clean inside the wheelie bin. Determine where the parts are going to be fitted and measure / mark out those areas.

A dirty bin may have traces of undesirable materials that may adversely affect the composting process.

Plan first. It makes the job so much easier.

Step 4: The Inside of the Wheelie Bin

The bottom of this particular bin has a very odd shape to accommodate the wheel housing at the back and a grab handle at the front. Extracting the compost at the bottom would not be easy so I fitted the Compost Base Grid above the molded wheel housing where there is also a flat side allowing a hatch to be cut out.

Using a wheelie bin with the least amount of narrowing towards the bottom of the bin will reduce the opportunity for the compost to clog. Flat sides with wheel fittings, etc., on the outside of the bin will increase the useable space inside.

Step 5: Compost Base Grid

This started life as a fire pit and needed the edges removed in order to fit the space in the wheelie bin.

The grid acts as a base for the compost material while ensuring good airflow from the bottom to the top of the bin.

The edges were cut off with metal cutters and the grid snipped away from the edges with wire cutters.

Use a metal or plastic grill with small holes to minimize compost material falling through. A large number of holes are good for the airflow. 

Step 6: Fitting the Compost Base Grid

The curving corners and the way the sides of the bin are molded made precise measurements difficult.

The grid was put in place and then each side was modified to fit the contours of the bin.

Measure twice and cut once!

Step 7: Cut the Holes for the Air Vents

The air vents are 3” diameter plastic floor drains from the local hardware store.

Good airflow is essential to healthy composting.

A hole saw with a pilot drill is a good tool for cutting large holes. Use it like any saw, stopping and starting frequently during the cutting process rather than cutting through in one go as the tool can ‘grab’ the material and it can get very hot. A rough file was used to remove the plastic swarf. To fit the air vents, Gently tap them into position with a rubber mallet. The vents fitted perfectly and did not require any fixings to hold them in place.

Save money by drilling holes with a regular drill bit but this is time consuming and rarely looks as neat.

Step 8: Completed Wheelie Bin Composter

The project, from initial planning to completion, took five hours but if I were to build another then I expect it would take less than three hours. The cost of the parts I bought, the air vents, was $23.13. Everything else was found in the garage. I had to buy the hole saw and that was a further $17.97.

The aesthetics may be improved by painting the white air vents and the heads of the exposed bolts.

Step 9: Completed Wheelie Bin Composter

The hatch was fitted on the rear of the wheelie bin because the wall is flatter than the front.

The bin can be wheeled to where it is required, the hatch opened and the compost scooped out directly on to the ground where it is needed.

Step 10: The Compost Hatch

The bottom of the hatch is just above the grill and the hinges are the type used on modern cabinet doors. They are spring loaded and the light weight of the hatch means that the hinges hold the door open and closed without the need for a latch.

To easily extract the fresh compost.

The hatch is 8” high and the full width of the bin, in this case, 14”. It was measured, marked and then each of the corners was drilled using a drill wide enough to allow a jigsaw blade through. The jigsaw was used to cut the straight edges of the panel. A rough file was used to remove the plastic swarf. The panel was fitted to the hinges and the knob added.

If you use conventional hinges add an eye to the hatch and a fit a hook above on the bin wall. Use the hook and eye to hold the hatch open when extracting the compost.

Step 11: Start Using the Compost Bin

Fill the bin with fruit and vegetable waste, old flowers, grass clipping and general green garden waste. It is not advisable to add weeds as the seeds may spout when the compost is applied to the soil. Neither should you add processed food, bread, meat, dairy products or excrement as this can make the bin smell and may attract undesirable attention from animals and vermin. Keep the compost material damp but not wet and nature will take over and breakdown the material into compost.

Eggshells but not eggs can be composted.

Step 12: The WBC Lives Here

The WBC is tucked out of the way on the south of the property so it benefits from the fullest sun and, therefore, heat which may help to speed the composting process.

Open the lid when it rains to get a free watering.



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    guys please help me, i am building my own, and i dont understand what's next, i fill it with compostable waste, and then? just wait? for how long? should i water it? should i move it now and then? =)

    1 reply

    Hi leizar

    When mine looked a bit dry I opened the lid when it was raining. Turning the compost certainly helps and as the material decomposes it shrinks a lot so new brown and green compostables can be added.

    You'll soon get the hang of it. Good luck!

    Hi herrdictator, You are clearly very enthusiastic about this method and your own composter project. I look forward to seeing your WBC solution.

    To answer your questions; I am using the wheelie bin composter for grass cuttings currently and I think it still has some way to go before the compost is ready. If you read earlier comments from me and others you will learn that the compost I got out previously was all in the center of the bin and the material around the sides was not composted. That is when I thought it needed some kind of stirring/turning system.

    AndiGail commented that turning the bin over periodically would help to compost all the material. That set me thinking and for a second prototype I am going to build another bin out of wood and chicken wire (probably, still trying to fully formulate the design) and I need to make some changes to the back yard to accommodate the composters yet keep them out of sight and away from my neighbors.

    The grate is quite fine as shown in the first photo of this article and compost falling through was not an issue but with worms helping out and making the compost finer it could well be. Knowing that at the start of this project I may well have made the grate of solid material instead. The door is where it is because then I would not have to be scraping the compost out from the wheel axles and from around the awkwardly shaped molding at the bottom of the bin.

    The 0.25" hardware cloth would probably work if you go that route. Maybe add a couple of pieces overlaying each other at different orientations to make the holes smaller.

    Good luck with your project.

    I love this idea, and I think it will work just fine. Any updates on the author's (or anyone) success with this?

    My town recently started a wheelie bin program and residents were encouraged to recycle their old trash barrels since they are no longer acceptable for collection. Somebody recycled two large and clean industrial wheelie bins that are actually better than what the town distributed. They're heavy plastic, have rubber tires, and the interior is much less impacted by the wheels than in the town ones and the one in this Instructable. I snatched them up with this project in mind.

    I've already drilled a bunch of 3/8" holes in the sides and bottom for ventilation. (I printed drill templates on adhesive vinyl and stuck them to the WBC so the holes are very clean and evenly spaced.)

    What I'm not sure of is the need for the metal grate. As the compost breaks down, won't it fall through the grate? How do you remove the stuff that falls through if the access door is above the grate? I have some 0.25" hardware cloth and some composite deck sleeve pieces to support it above the wheel indent, but before I cut the access door, I want to be sure this is going to work as planned.

    Anxious to hear your input, can't wait to get this thing into service!


    The round white things used for vents are actually floor drain covers. They are in the plumbing section of your Lowes, Best Buy, etc.

    I love your Composter. I have a couple of extra trash containers on wheels here that I am going to try to build one of these, with a few modifications. I have been studying the need for worms and think I have a solution for the problem. I also live in Texas, but near the coast so you know how hot and humid it gets down here. I do have a shady yard so that will help. Also, painting the bin white to reflect the sun will help I think.

    I also think that by cutting a section out of the bottom and using hardware cloth it will allow the composted dirt to escape and insects to enter and leave as they choose. I also think that by cutting some larger square holes near the top and putting hardware cloth there too, it will allow small flying insects in to do their work. Luckily, I have a large yard and can put my bin under a shade tree away from the house so that natural composting can occur without odor and insect issues. I have used an open wire system for years and turned it with rakes, shovels, hoes or whatever other tool was handy. At my age, however, I am looking for ways to cut down on some of the work so what energy I do have can be used for planting and harvesting....For your composter, I am thinking about a way to turn the contents or at least stir it....I though about just turning it upside down or on its side once a week and letting the insects work on it from the side and various angles... This would be the easiest way to handle it if you have help moving it around and back upright. Many of us do not have help though. I also thought of finding a large commercial dough hook from a Hobart mixer and fastening it to a large metal rod that could be turned with a variable speed drill or some kind of crank system. I will leave the construction of the stirrer to you guys, those ideas just came to me as I was reading your post......Thanks so much for the great idea. I shared it with my friends on Pinterest and Facebook.

    1 reply

    Hi AndiGail.

    Thanks for the comments. You have some good ideas. Do you have fire ants down there? Do you think they might take over the composter? I like the mixing idea. I keep coming back to thinking about an archimedes screw that would bring up the compost from the bottom and spread it at the top. Even with a drill though, I think it might be hard to turn when there is a lot of material in there. Simplest ideas are often the best though so turning the bin over is probably the easiest solution, in the short term at least.

    Where did you get the White vent covers, what were they called?

    1 reply

    Hi bookemdano50. I got them from the local hardware store. They are either air vents or drain covers, I think.

    interesting. I have a 'green' wheelie bin that is meant to collect compostable stuff and then being picked up by the city, but I just use it for composting myself coz the city actually charges me for it.
    problem is that I cannot modify it coz no doubt that would be a huge crime and I'd be send off to Gitmo.
    So I just throw in everything green and add water. maybe will not be true composting but it will rot and yeast (but no bad smells) and gives excellent enrichment for the soil. It even works in winter time as the bin is always ice and snow free, so something must be warming it up.

    Nevertheless, if i had my private wheelie bin, your instructable sure would be a good way to go

    4 replies

    What do your city do with their old/damaged wheelie bins? Maybe you can blag or buy a used one to turn into a composter.

    good idea, but tried that and no one knows who wld be responsible for selling them :-)
    The ones that collect old bins dont dare to give them away as they all have a chip and the ones that would be able to decide dont know who should give me a bin :-)

    Sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare .. Craigslist maybe?

    Wecome in Holland:
    I have two plastic compostors, not on wheel sbut OK. I use my green wheelie bin unmodified. I just let scraps rot in there with a lod of water. From time to time I scopp of the water and it is tremendeous for my plants

    your design is fine you only need to add composting worms, and make your holes bigger in the bottom to allow the worm compost to fall though.

    4 replies

    When I built the Wheelie Bin Composter I was living in Dallas, TX and I did not fancy the worms chances in the 100 degree plus summers. However, I emptied the composter to move it and there was some great compost in there but only in the center of the bin. Now I am living in Washington and getting ready to recommission the Wheelie Bin Composter and I do intend to add some worms. I need to figure out an easy way to turn the material too so that more gets composted. Any ideas?

    PicRIc Look up pass Through Worm Bin on Youtube. The worms eat everything (except no meat/fat or citcrits) and make the best compost you can find. Red Wigglers eat their body wieght in one day. As long as you have enough worms the compost will not stink either.

    I just found this sight it it great for what you want to do. http://vermicomposters.ning.com/forum/topics/diy-flow-through-bins-a?id=2094123%3ATopic%3A41256

    Thanks, Flegeance. Plenty of tips and tricks there.

    PS Let me know how you get on with building a MIG welder ... That will be very interesting!

    By the way earthworms would eat the meat, The issue is it will stink while they are processing it. Citrus burns their skin.

    Green thumb or not, you present a great instructable. For whatever reasons someone might have, the compost is portable. Not just in the yard but if you move. Nice job!!

    1 reply

    Thanks, canemaker49.