Given the sheer number of banana peels my family goes through in a week, I decided to start composting using a kitchen compost bin. But I speak from personal experience when I say that not all compost bins are created equal; the one I was using was buzzing with fruit flies in a matter of days. Whether you're ready to start continuous composting outdoors or you're looking for a countertop option, the best compost bins come with the ventilation you need to keep odor and pests away. The size of the bin is also important to consider so that you get one that can keep up with your organic waste output.
Below you'll find a handy guide to the two types of compost bins: indoor and outdoor. Some people may find that an indoor pail conveniently works to deliver scraps to an outdoor structure.
Indoor Compost Bins
If you live in an apartment or you're not ready to go full-scale with a large outdoor bin, indoor compost bins can be the perfect solution. Here are a few quick things to keep in mind:
- Capacity: Indoor bins range in size from the ultra-compact to industrial family-size. As a general rule of thumb, you may only need a 1-gallon (or smaller) bin if you're living alone or in a household of just a couple of people, but if you're a large family generating a lot of food scraps, look for one that's between 1.3 to 15 gallons. Most of the options you'll find online tend to be right around 1.3 gallons.
- Ventilation System: Choosing an option with ventilation holes and either a charcoal or carbon filter will help keep smells from getting overpowering.
- Carrying & Cleaning: Look for bins that have handles for easy carrying, whether that's over to your cooking station or outside to your permanent bin (or out to the curb for collection). You can also spring for lining your bins with biodegradable compost bags for even easier cleanup.
- Aesthetics: Bins come in several styles — consider what will fit in best with your decor or if you want it tucked away altogether, like with a mountable under-sink unit.
Outdoor Compost Bins
There are three kinds of outdoor compost bins to consider, and since the commitment level for each varies, it's important to find the right one for you.
- Stationary: Also referred to as continuous composting, this style requires the most yard space but it's generally "toss it and forget it." You can compost yard debris, garden materials, and kitchen scraps, but know that every once and awhile you'll need to give it a churn manually. Look for models that have good air holes for ventilation to keep odors away — and dark, UV-resistant plastic options will capture heat well (which will help fuel the decomposition process).
- Tumblers: Often called batch composting, this method is fast but requires frequent rotating, and you'll have to be willing to create the right compost mix to start. However, these units are great for smaller outdoor spaces. Dual-chambered options will let you add fresh scraps to one side while the other side composts uninterrupted. If you're interested in making compost tea, make sure your vessel comes with a tea collector.
- Vermicomposters: If you're not perturbed having worms do the dirty work, vermicomposting is a highly effective method of composting that can actually be used indoors or outdoors, and is generally less smelly. That said, you have to commit to keeping the worms healthy, being careful not to give them too much or too little food.
Best Indoor Compost Bins
1. The Overall Best
- Capacity: 1.3 Gallons
Backed by more than 4,500 Amazon reviews, this sleek, durable stainless steel bin is compact enough to fit on your counter but still can hold 1.3 gallons worth of food waste. Its built-in (washable) charcoal filter and top ventilation holes keep things fresh and the carrying handle makes it highly portable. Note: You get one replacement filter with your purchase, but several reviewers mentioned you should replace the filter every couple of months. It's best to wash this bin by hand.
Helpful Review: "[...]It gets used daily, mostly for coffee grounds, but it also gets banana peels, orange peels, apple cores, and eggshells regularly. There’s absolutely no odor, the lid comes off and on easily, and it’s great for carrying outside to the big compost pile we have for our garden. Very wellmade, very sturdy, and goes nicely with the other stainless steel / nickel fixtures in our kitchen."
2. A Stylish Option Made From Eco-Friendly Bamboo
- Capacity: 1.6 Gallons
If you want a compost bin that's as functional as it is adorable, consider this indoor composting bin from Bamboozle. It's made from eco-friendly, dishwasher-safe bamboo and comes with a cute handle for easy carrying. It has top ventilation holes and comes with two charcoal filters that will each last about two months before needing to be replaced — when that time comes, replacement filters can be purchased from the brand's website or your local hardware store.
Helpful Review: "I love this little compost bin. I was using an old plastic ice cream container for my kitchen waste, but this one looks really nice on the counter.[...] The shape fits right in the corner on my counter top and the charcoalfilter works perfectly to prevent any odors, even onions. I love that it is made from eco friendly bamboo, it cleans easily, and the soft beige color blends in with my kitchen."
3. An Affordable Hanging Bin That Fits Under The Sink
- Capacity: 1.3 Gallons
If space is at a premium, this budget-friendly compost bin can easily be mounted under your kitchen sink with an included mounting accessory. This pick is the only indoor option on the list without a carbon/charcoal filter but the idea is that the bin is out of the way so pests stay at bay, and as one reviewer noted, "Easy to remove and dump and doesn't let any stinky smell get out." It can be used with or without removable bags. It's made from nontoxic plastic and comes with a handle for easy carrying.
Helpful Review: "Super happy with this purchase, we have a very small galley style kitchen and this is the perfect size compost bucket, i love that there's a catch for the liner from dropping into the container. Thinking about ordering a second one for our bathroom trash!"
Best Outdoor Compost Bins
4. A Dual-Chambered Tumbler That Fans Love
- Capacity: 37 Gallons
With more than 1,500 Amazon reviewers giving this unit a perfect five-star rating, you can rest assured you're getting a durable outdoor composter in this dual-chambered model. It's made of dark-colored polypropylene plastic which is then mounted on a sturdy galvanized steel frame. The brand says that by turning it five to six times every two to three days (under the right conditions), you could have compost in as little as two weeks. It comes with adjustable air vents for optimum aeration. The only downside: It does not come pre-assembled.
Helpful Review: "This unit is a barrel, divided into [two] halves separated by a hexagonal wall. It spins around an axle, so there is no need to use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the composting ingredients. [...]All I need to do is roll it on its axle, and the contents get mixed up nicely. There are air holes on either side, which can be slid closed. There are also built-in water drainage holes in between the hexagonal slats, so the contents are ideally moist, and never soggy. [...]It's well-made, a little challenging to assemble, but the plastic is resistant to sun damage. I should last for years and years. Spinning the barrel by hand is a good workout. I really like this composter. [...]"
5. A UV-Resistant Stationary Composter That's A Cinch To Set Up
- Capacity: 65 Gallons
This affordably priced continuous composter is made with UV-stabilized, durable plastic that one reviewer noted is "much more rugged than a plastic garbage container." It will require assembly but instructions are included and no tools are necessary. It comes with aeration holes (in two different sizes) on each of the four panels for ventilation, and it has doors on each side to easily retrieve the finished product. The snap-on lid provides a secure seal.
Helpful Review: "I like the access from all four sides! This is a great bin for composting. Easyset up and easy to use."
6. A Stackable Worm Composter With A Tea Collector Tray
- Capacity: 4 Gallons
If you've decided that vermicomposting is for you, this worm farm starter kit has what you need to get started with ease, including bedding material, a thermometer, and a handy infographic magnet on what kitchen waste is safe to feed your worms (although the worms themselves are not included). It comes with four trays but is expandable up to eight trays should your composting needs increase (those extra trays are sold separately). Made from high-quality recycled plastic, it comes with a built-in collector tray for making compost tea. While this can be used indoors or outdoors, it's safe to use in temperatures ranging from 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the brand.
Helpful Review: "The Worm Factory was very easy to set up; there were no problems with breakage and it seems quite sturdy. You do not have to do any assembly, just stack up the pieces.The information book is well written and helpful. The included supplies for setting up the factory are great to have. [...]There si no odor at all, at least not so far and the book describes how to avoid or fix this if it occurs. So far, so good!"