Eco-friendly material options explained
I’ve listed a few bins above all made from different materials, some of which you might be wondering what makes them eco-friendly.
Here I’ve gone into more depth about each material and why buying a compost bin made from each one is benefitting the planet.
There’s no getting away from the fact that if you want to buy a compost bin, most options are made from plastic. Plastic is so popular because of its convenient properties which make it the perfect choice for a compost bin.
But not all plastic bins are equally bad for the environment. There are options available that are made from 100% recycled plastic. Recycled plastic is much better for the environment than virgin plastic for the following three reasons:
- No new materials have been created to make the bin, so you haven’t added to the plastic problem. Using recycled plastics also requires less energy compared to virgin plastics
- You’ve prevented the plastic from being sent to landfill. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, so if it isn’t recycled, there’s no other option but to send it to landfill
- You’re increasing the demand for recycled plastics, which will encourage more companies to start using it instead of virgin plastic
A good eco-friendly alternative to plastic bins is wooden bins. The key with wooden bins is to make sure the wood is sustainably harvested.
Deforestation is a big environmental issue, and you want to make sure that the bin you’re buying isn’t contributing. An FSC ( Forest Stewardship Council) certification is a big plus because it means you can be sure the wood has come from a sustainable forest.
Also, check that the wood hasn’t been treated with any chemicals. Treated wood can leach unwanted chemicals into your compost.
Metal (galvanised steel)
A third material choice for an eco-friendly compost bin is metal. The most commonly used metal is galvanized steel.
Galvanized steel is coated with a layer of zinc to provide longevity and protection against rusting or corrosion, reducing how often it needs to be replaced.
Zinc is a naturally abundant material, so it’s considered a sustainable way of coating steel. Also, both zinc and steel are easily recycled, and unlike something like paper they don’t lose any of their inherent properties upon recycling. This means that the materials never need to enter the waste stream. They can be recycled indefinitely, meaning there’s less need to mine the raw materials.
One concern some people have is that galvanized steel will leech zinc into their compost.
This concern stems from the fact that acidity and moisture speed up how fast zinc corrodes. Compost should be kept moist, and in the early stages of decomposition, compost is acidic due to the formation of organic acids. However, as compost progresses, the acids are neutralized. By the time the compost is finished, it should have a neutral pH.
That said, even with compost in the bin, the corrosion rate will still be extremely slow. The amount of zinc leached into your compost won’t be harmful. Especially when you then mix the compost with soil and dilute the nutrients.
Zinc is not very toxic and is actually beneficial for humans and plants in small amounts. People often take zinc supplements to help ward off colds or the flu.
A thick layer of zinc will take decades before you start to notice and sign of corrosion.
What to look for in a compost bin
When you’re buying an eco-friendly compost bin, it’s still important to make sure the bin will be functional and suit your needs.
Here are a few things I look out when buying a compost bin.
Type of bin
The first thing to decide is what type of bin you want. There’s a range of different composting techniques available, and different ones suit different needs.
For a completely passive pile, you want to opt for a continuous compost bin or a multi-bin system. With this type of composting, you put the waste in and leave it, simple as that! These types of bin also often have the largest capacities.
For something a bit quicker, you can look for a compost tumbler. These tend to have smaller capacities than continuous bins but because they’re so easy to turn the compost processes faster.
Other less traditional composting types include worm composting and bokashi composting. The links will provide you with more information on each one, but these are good options for urban composting because you can do them inside.
If you live somewhere cold or have plans to continue composting throughout winter then how insulated the bin is will be important.
Compost needs heat to decompose so the more heat the bin can retain the faster your compost will be finished. I’ve rounded up the best compost bins for cold climates here.
Aeration and drainage
Any good compost bin needs to have a working system in place to aerate the compost and make sure excess moisture can drain away.
If you don’t see how this is incorporated into the bin you’re looking at; it’s probably not a great compost bin.
The size of your compost bin is a big consideration.
Think about how much waste you produce, as well as how much space you have. These are the two main things that affect what size bin you need.
If you’re not sure, then opt for an expandable bin or one where you can buy extra parts to make it bigger.