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Types of Manufactured Compost Bins

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Bins from Commercial Vendors typically fall into one of several categories:

Cylinder Bins

I use the term "cylinder" loosely -- the bin may occupy a square or round footprint.

Some bins consist of just the cylinder, i.e., walls which go around the pile -- no top or bottom. Others add to this basic design. The C.E. Shepherd bin has a smaller, square cylinder placed vertically in the middle of the pile for aeration and to allow watering into the pile.

Another bin (I was unable to determine its name or manufacturer) consists of a cylindrical wall of rubber-like material with a cone-shaped cover. The cover shed snow and rain but helped to retain the pile's moisture.

I recently saw an ad for a bin (but did not see the actual bin) which consisted of 8 panels that snapped together. You could make one bin that was roughly one cubic yard, or multiple smaller bins. Supposedly individual panels are available for sale, so you could expand one bin into a 3-bin system if you wanted to. I will keep my eyes open for the actual bin and provide an update.

Cylinder bins make turning easier because they are so portable. Pick up the bin from around the pile, set it next to the current pile, and move the composting debris back into the bin. Covers are not necessary, but may help if you get a lot of rain or snow.

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Enclosed Cylinder Bins

Other manufacturers offer enclosed versions of the cylinder bin. Rubbermaid Composter, Soil Saver Classic Composter, Garden Gourmet by Scepter, and the Smith and Hawken Home Composter are examples of this type. These easily-assembled bins are made out of tough plastic, have a top and bottom, provide ventilation, and have a door at the bottom from which you remove finished compost. They are various sized, some not large enough to build a pile a cubic foot. The pile is totally enclosed within the lids, some have locking lids, which would be helpful in detering pests if you were composting food scraps in your backyard pile.

The following list summarizes an email from David Johansen of Enviro Care:

The advantages of various enclosed bins (not all enclosed bins have all features) include

  • Some enclosed bins are large (11.5 cubic feet)
  • Openings are small enough to repel rodents
  • Needs less watering
  • Attractive appearance allows it to be placed in full view
  • Small footprint (2 x 2 feet)
The particular bin sold by David's company was designed to be a continuous cycle bin (as opposed to being used for the batch method). To aerate, just stir. Because they are made of plastic and enclosed, water does not escape as quickly as an open bin -- that could be very useful. It seems to me that it would be aggravating to get the finished compost out of the little door at the bottom, but people who use these have told me it is no problem.
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Revolving Drums or "Tumblers"

These are drums on a spitz-type device that is turned with a crank. Some are vertical and turn end-over-end. Others are horizontal and revolve around the center of the barrel. Materials will mix better using a tumbler with flat sides or inside baffles.

Remember that you must be strong enough to turn the barrel with a lot of wet debris. They are very heavy. Look at the volume held by the tumbler, then understand that in order for the materials to mix properly, you will only be filling it 5/8 full. My two tumblers are the vertical type and they become difficult to turn when full. Some people with horizontal tumblers have told me that was less of a problem with the horizontal types.

Revolving drums or turning units claim to make compost faster than the other types of bins. I have used two brands of tumblers and they have not made compost any faster than an open bin when using the "hot pile" method. Using an add-as-you-go or "cold" method works better in an open bin in my experience.

I have seen one revolving drum which had the lid bolted shut in order to keep it from falling off during turning. It seems to me that that would discourage me from inputting more materials into the bin. Before you purchase, check to see if it is easy to input materials AND easy to access finished compost.

A second version of the revolving drum is not on a spitz, but sits on rollers on a platform. This may be easier to turn.

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A close relative of the Revolving Drum is a compost bin that is an octagon-shaped or rounded drum. You roll it along the ground to turn the pile. One even has the days of the week printed on it so you can keep up with when you last turned it.

Online Stores
Compost Tea eBook
Build a brewer with a bucket and less than $15 worth of components, and make aerated compost tea.
Composting the Holidays eBook
Compost fall leaves, hay bales, holly wreaths, pine trees, etc. Compost pumpkins (food waste) in a compost pile.



  1. Types of Manufactured Bins
  2. Build a Bin
  3. Sifters and Screens
  4. Hand Tools
  5. Chippers / Shredders

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