Make a Compost Bin From a Wheelie Bin




Our council runs a green waste collection, for which they provide each household with a green recycling bin. This bin is for garden waste, you cannot put any other compostable waste in it.
Also when this garden waste is taken away, and your cospostable food waste has gone to landfill, none of the nutrients get put back into your garden.

That got me to thinking that I would much rather compost all my garden and compostable household waste and make use of it back into my garden.
So all I needed was a suitable container for composting in. I could have bought an actual compost bin, or made one out of wood, but then I would still have a green wheelie bin, only now there would be nothing in it.
Solution - Turn Green Wheelie Bin into COMPOST BIN
1) cut a flap on the front to allow access to compost
2) add a tap at the bottom to allow for collection of liquid plant food from the compost heap

Step 1: What You Need

A quick trip to your local hardware store/ garden centre should get you everything you'll need at a price which is much cheaper than a compost bin.
1)Obviously a wheelie bin, if you don't have one you can buy them , but you may be better off getting an actual compost bin. However councils may be able to sort you out with one which has been damaged, i.e. the wheels have come off or similar.
2) A couple of concrete blocks to set your finished bin on. (�6)
3) Hinges (I used stainless steel to avoid rusting, but this makes them more expensive) (�4)
4) Machine screws to fit hinges and barrel bolt. (�3) I chose to use nuts and bolts because the plastic of the wheelie bin is quite soft and i was concerned about screws not threading properly
5) A water butt tap (�3)
6) A bag of gravel 10 to 20mm (�2)

Step 2: Drill a Hole for the Tap

The bottom of my wheelile bin has a plastic grate for some reason, however this allows us to put gravel in the bottom which will create a sump for collecting the liquid which drains off the compost.
To get at this wonderful plant food you need to install a tap.
Mark and drill a hole for the water butt tap. Put it in a sensible place as close to the bottom of the wheelie bin as possible.
Don't worry about trying to install it just yet, unless you fancy climbing inside and have a friend to help you on the outside.
I put mine on the front right hand side, which when the finished bin is set on the concrete blocks allows you to get a container under the tap to drain off your liquid food.

Step 3: Compost Removal Flap

On my wheellie bin the plastic grate at the bottom is hinged and i'm guessing it isn't water tight above the point where the hinge is on the outside.
I used a piece of string and a spirit level to figure out where the hinge level is on the front of the bin. If you are using a different style of bin which is water tight all the way then you can put the flap wherever you want. I chose to put mine just above the plastic grate as any higher than that and any excess leachate from your compost will leak away anyway.

Mark out where you want your flap to be and cut out with a jigsaw. I drilled some holes in the corners to get the jigsaw blade in.

Step 4: Flap Attachment

Now line up your hinges and mark on the flap where they are to attach, do the same with the barrel part of the barrel bolt.
Drill the holes and bolt the hinges and barrel bolt to the flap.
If your bin is not flat on the front you may run into problems when you try to open the flap once it is fully attached. I had to cut out a wedge from each side. If that is going to be the case for yours, now is a good time to trim it down with the jigsaw (see photos).
Mark on the body of the bin where the hinges will sit by placing the flap back into place.
Drill and bolt the hinges to the body of the bin.
Mark where the barrel bolt keeper will sit and drill and bolt that into place.

Step 5: Aeration Holes

To encourage airflow through the compost bin and avoid smelly anaerobic bacteria being dominant drill a load of holes in the side and back of the bin,mark them out and drill them out neatly to keep it looking nice.
Once the holes are drilled now is a good time to reach through the flap and screw the back nut of the tap into place

Step 6: Finished

All you need to do now is set the bin on the blocks and fill the bottom with gravel and start filling it with your biodegradable waste.
Drain off the liquid and dilute it in your watering can (hosepipes are bad) and you have a great feed for your plants.
And depending what you are composting you should have a nice compost within 6 to 8 months. After there is a bit of compost in there start adding a few worms, they will help speed up the composting process and they help to keep the heap aerated.
This took me around 2 hours but i wasn't exactly rushing. And it cost about £18 but i could have done it a lot cheaper, by finding free stuff to put the bin on, finding old bits and barrel bolts and using gravel from the garden or from the beach.
A proprietary compost bin of this size would easily cost £30-£40.

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    28 Discussions

    I think your wheelie bin needs to be upside down. I think eventually as they rot, the layers of compost can get stuck about 1/3 of the way up because the layers get squished as they get compressed towards the bottom. Other than that, I think it is very good. If it was upside down, maybe you could attach the lid to the wheels or something like that? A lot of rain falls on my compost bin in winter, (and it can get in through the air vents and make the contents soggy. If it had a big lid, almost like a hat, most of it would miss it.

    2 replies

    Thank you gaiatechnician,
    Having now been using my compost bin since i made this instructable I can confirm that the compost does get a little squished and does not fall too naturally and can need a bit of coaxing with a garden fork. I have not had problems with the contents getting soggy, but i did have problems with it drying out last summer in the long dry weather. A bit of watering with rainwater and a bit of the leachate from the compost bin sorted it out.
    So I have a couple of recommendations if you are considering doing this project.
    1) use as straight sided a bin as possible. (so if your council supplied bin is like mine make a different type of compost bin. Check out the instructables composting ebook at
    2) make sure anything you put into the compost bin is cut small. I found woody items tended to exacerbate the sticking problem.

    I agree that the ideal way to build this is to do it upside down. If anyone else fancys suggesting a design I would be happy to put a link to it on this instructable.

    It is fair to say that when i was reinventing this wheel it turned out a bit square. lol!


    I have an idealized process in mind.
    I am keen on watering the compost during the year.
    With compost tea from the bottom of the compost bin.
    You could use the windowfarm method, which is an aquarium air pump powering airlift. That would be easy and a good starter method.
    And someone could make it tomorrow!
    You might even power your pump with a solar panel.
    Or you could develop the "fermentation powered pump" idea to power it.
    I am probably not the only person to think of fermentation powered pump.
    I thought of it over 20 years ago but I couldn't make the darn thing at the time.
    My version has no valves and can pump in stages. Your version can have valves if you want but I warn that water valves can be blocked or leak with the tiny debris from compost. Anyways, I think automatic watering of compost heaps is the way to go.


    9 months ago on Step 6

    Ok so I'm a few years late but I'm new to composting, just bagged myself a new free wheelie bin and I'm going to make this, mine doesn't have the plastic grid in the bottom, does it have to have one or can it do without, I have a metal grid from something else I can cut to fit if needed


    Question 10 months ago

    Is it entirely necessary to have the plastic grate in place between your compost and the gravel ? would a bed of sticks do the same job ?

    1 answer

    Answer 10 months ago

    Not necessary at all, it just came with the bin. It just helped avoid digging out gravel when digging out compost. A layer of sticks will eventually rot away so I wouldnt bother. Just try not to dig out the gravel.


    3 years ago

    What brand of trash can is this with the grate inside?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, Great instructable! I'm intending to use your design...
    Your pics seem to indicate that the holes should be drilled in the lower section of the wheelie bin - yes?
    It seems like one of the problems with composting is aerating the mix. Do you think an improvement might be to have a couple of rods from one side of the bin to the other, and attached to these rods are legs (say 50mm). The rod can be turned with a handle to simulate a chaff cutter.
    Any other improvements you may have thought of having used your prototype now for several years?

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, I drilled holes to allow some ventilation through the compost.
    If your wheelie bin is tapered smaller towards is base (as is likely with a wheelie bin you will have problems with the compost compacting as it gets compressed.
    I drilled some 10mm holes at various points further up the bin on three sides to allow me to poke the compost with a bar. This is basic version of what you have suggested.
    I think the main consideration for this bin is what you will be composting. Anything which has a woody stem or has similar strength needs to be cut as small as possible (ideally run through a garden shredder). My problems have stemmed from longer and sturdy material holding compost material up inside the bin.
    It can be hoked down with tools through the collection flap but it is way more effort than you would want in a compost bin.
    An ideal modification would involve the bin being turned upside down, but that would involve a complete rethink.
    Happy building and give me a shout if you have any further questions.


    5 years ago

    Made this in Wa, works great. It's never had a problem with the temp. except it might get too hot at times and kills off the worms I add from the yard to it.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hello in WA. I want to try this but a lot of people say the wheelie bins are too small to hold enough stuff to heat up. Has anyone got one hot in this climate? I might put electric pipe warming tape around it, then wrap the whole wheelie in insulation.


    6 years ago on Step 6

    This is awesome. I didn't want to spend a dime on my compost bin and now have a more appealing use for my yard trimmings bin.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is exactly the sort of instructions I was looking for. Thankyou very much for your time and effort to share your creation with us all! Here in WA you can buy little wheelie bins for whatever purpose and my parents happened to have one in the backyard that isn't being used for -anything- which seemed a total waste to me. I'm sick of putting kitchen scraps seperate from the rest of our rubbish only for it to go into the same bin that the council picks up anyway, so I figured I'd turn it into a compost bin :D My folks are happy with this idea.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Not sure how much room you have or how much extra work you want to put in to it but having it rotate would probably solve the compaction problem. Put a steel pipe thru the middle and suspend it on a 2x4 frame off the ground about 4 inches. Add some latches to the top lid and you should be able to spin the container on the axis of the pipe to mix the compost. This should be a lot easier than a fork. The 2/4 frame could have rollers so you can pull it away from the wall and put it back after rotating. You probably wont lose much if any "tea" if you can rotate it fairly quickly. You might have to beef up the pivoit points of the pipe on the sidewalls.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    i don't have any first-hand experience with composting, but since i *want* to compost, i've read a fair bit about it. from what i've read, it seems that certain compost processes get extremely hot. i don't know precisely which conditions create this heat, but i know that it is usually considered a good thing, as it will kill weeds and other undesirable elements. if you do manage to generate this kind of heat in your bin, you will cook your worms.

    in fact, i just saw another instructable about vermiculture where the guy had to add a cooling system to keep his worms happy. (although he was in hot & sunny texas, not the UK.)

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You'll probably find that the worms will just move to a cooler part of the bin (it is not an even temperature all the way through), until the worst of the bacterial decomposition is through and they can move back into the middle of the heap.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I live in a small country town in Queensland Australia, and our local council upgraded us to twin-tubbed recycle bins, allowing us to retain the old single tubs for our own purpose. I had thought of a compost bin, and will certainly give this a go. Many thanks.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Something tells me the council won't be too happy about this... At my local hardware store, wheelie bins can cost more than a ready-made compost bin!