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Wheelie Bin Composter

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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.
 
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PicRic (author) 9 months ago
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.
herrdictator9 months ago
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!
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AndiGail1 year ago
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.
PicRic (author)  AndiGail1 year ago
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?
PicRic (author)  bookemdano501 year ago
Hi bookemdano50. I got them from the local hardware store. They are either air vents or drain covers, I think.
diy_bloke1 year ago
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
PicRic (author)  diy_bloke1 year ago
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 :-)
PicRic (author)  diy_bloke1 year ago
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
Flegeance1 year ago
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.
PicRic (author)  Flegeance1 year ago
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
PicRic (author)  Flegeance1 year ago
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.
canemaker492 years ago
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!!
PicRic (author)  canemaker492 years ago
Thanks, canemaker49.
tim_n2 years ago
PicRic - a really nice build, but I'm unsure how effective it would be. Generally compost bins are open at the bottom to allow the natural soil bacteria, worms etc to get in. You're relying on heat and bacteria in the food to break down the food - which it will do - but you'll generally find you'll build up in flies etc that will come in on the food. The resulting 'compost' will not be mixed, will be quite sludgy and not a brown rich mix as you'd get out of a traditional bin.

This could work however with a few design changes such as filling the bottom cavity up with a few rocks into a wormery, but then it couldn't be left out in the sun and would need to be in shade!

Good effort, perhaps in a few months you could show us the resulting compost and put me to shame if I'm wrong!
PicRic (author)  tim_n2 years ago
Hi tim_n

You might well be right. I am still trying to grow my green fingers.

I don't plan on any changes at this stage because I want to see what the results are like from this set up. If it is not very effective then I will make some changes. Yes, I will be adding an update on the compost results in time.
tim_n tim_n2 years ago
http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-Compost-Bin-From-a-Wheelie-Bin/

In the comments the author notes that it didn't get sludgy, but it did compress down and would work better upside down - but no mention of worms etc!
scoochmaroo2 years ago
Great build! This is definitely something I'd want for my home.
PicRic (author)  scoochmaroo2 years ago
Thanks scoochmaroo. Glad you like it and it would be great to see your wheelie bin composter when you build it.
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