Used Wooden Pallets or Skids: Making Free, Easy Compost Bins
I’ve seen fancy compost bins that rotate and produce a continuous supply of ready-to-use compost at all times being sold for as much as $500. I don’t know about you, but I could buy an awful lot of compost from the local landscaping store for that much money. If you’re on a budget like me, consider making your compost bins out of readily-available, free wooden pallets. Not only are you helping the environment by not paying to introduce more plastic into the world (although some commercially-made compost bins are made from recycled plastic), but wooden pallets / skids are perfectly suited to the job. They’re all the same size, square, and come prefabricated with ventilated slats that help your compost stay aerated!
Here’s how to make easy compost bins from shipping pallets:
First go to a local factory or warehouse store and ask if you can have three shipping pallets. Don’t pay for them because most places are happy to just get rid of the things. Check the free section of Craigslist and you’ll usually find some.
Some designs call for four pallets – three sides and a bottom – but I find it easier to use the dirt as the bottom. You get less aeration from undernieth, but it’s easier to shovel and allows worms to come up from the ground and help with the composting process.
If you want to build a multi-stage composting system just repeat the steps and get more pallets.
Step 1: Connect the pallets with long screws so that they are all standing up and joined together in a U-shape. See picture.
Step 2: Staple chicken-wire to the outside walls on all three sides. Some instructions call for this to go on the inside walls, but we find the shovel or pitchfork catches the chickenwire this way and tends to make turning the compost more difficult.
Step 3 (optional): Using another wooden pallet or an old screen-door, attach a hinged door to the front of the bin. I find it easiest to just leave it three-sided with the front open.
Step 4: Start adding yard and kitchen waste like raked leaves and vegetable-based kitchen scraps.
You can expand on this and create a multi-tiered system in which you have three such bins. The first bin is for new compost, the second is for semi-composted material and the third is where you collected the finished compost. Just rotate them out, which ensures regular aeration as you turn the compost over to the next bin. The benefit here is that the third bin will almost always be ready for harvesting by the time you need it.
Perhaps it is even better illustrated by the video below:
More composting resources!