Composting is a very eco-friendly practice and allows you to recycle your food waste into fertilizer rather than just tossing it in the trash.
So you can imagine my surprise when I went shopping for a compost bin and found it hard to find a truly environmentally friendly option. To help others in this quest, I decided to write a guide on the eco-friendly compost bins that are available to buy and what to look for.
Best eco-friendly kitchen composters
Indoor compost bins are small bins designed to sit on your kitchen counter. The idea is that you put all your compostable scraps in the kitchen composter, then when it’s full, you empty the contents into your outdoor compost bin.
This saves you from having to take multip trips a day to the outside bin.
Here are my picks for the best eco-friendly kitchen composters.
Bamboozle Food Composter – Bamboo
This all-natural compost bin is made from bamboo fibers. Bamboozle collects excess materials from bamboo furniture manufacturers and grinds the fibers into a fine material that’s then molded into a compost bin.
Bamboo is a fast-growing plant that you can harvest frequently, making it a much more sustainable option than traditional wood. And as the bin is made from 100% natural materials, it’s biodegradable, so it has a minimal lasting impact on the world.
The bin is strong, durable, and moisture resistant. It’s also dishwasher safe, so you can readily clean it. The lid comes with charcoal filters to keep any smells and flies at bay.
EPICA Compost Bin – Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is an incredibly durable material and is also 100% recyclable. Recycling steel is easy to do, and unlike other materials, it doesn’t lose any of its properties after being recycled. The new product will be just as high a quality as the old product, so the steel should never enter the waste stream.
However, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about recycling the bin because there’s no reason it won’t last you a lifetime with proper care.
One thing that sets this bin apart from its competition is that it’s molded in one piece. It has no joints where small bits of food can get stuck. This means it’s really easy to keep clean. As with other compost bins, the lid comes with replaceable charcoal filters to absorb any smells.
Norpro Compost Keeper – Ceramic
Ceramic is a natural material that’s sourced from the earth. Once it’s reached the end of its life, it can be returned to the earth without worrying about any toxic chemicals being released.
There is an argument that the large amount of energy needed to create ceramics makes them not so eco-friendly. But ceramics are extremely durable (as long as you don’t break them!), and this bin will last much longer than its plastic counterparts.
The long lifetime of this compost bin, combined with the fact that it’s benign once it is returned to the earth, makes it a more environmentally friendly choice than a plastic bin.
Best eco-friendly composters
Once your kitchen compost bin is full you’ll need an outdoor compost bin to empty the scraps into.
A lot of outdoor compost bins on the market today are made with plastic which everyone knows is not great for the environment. But there are some better options.
Here are my top picks for the best eco-friendly garden compost bins.
Algreen Products Soil Saver Classic Composter – Recycled Plastics
The Algreen Compost Bin is made from 100% high quality post-industrial recycled plastics.
The bin is manufactured in Canada by a family company that proudly states that most of its staff members have been working there for 14 years! The fact the bin is manufactured so close to America means that the bin has a lower carbon footprint than other bins manufactured further afield.
Algreen also partners with carbonfund.org to offset its carbon emissions.
The plastics it uses are BPA free and designed to withstand extreme temperatures and UV rays, so you shouldn’t need to replace the bin very often. Algreen is so confident in their product they offer a 20-year guarantee.
The bin is a continuous composter, so very low maintenance. All you need to do is put your waste in the top and wait for it to process. After a few months, the bin will be full of finished compost. However, since the compost is hard to turn, it can take longer than other kinds of bins.
If you’re in the market for an eco-friendly compost tumbler specifically, check out the FCMP compost tumbler. It’s also made from recycled plastics and offers slightly faster composting times (at the expense of requiring turning).
Greenes Fence Composter – Sustainably Harvested Cedarwood
This compost bin from Greenes uses sustainably harvested, untreated cedar wood and is built in the USA, so it has a low carbon footprint. The wood is taken from a managed forest, which means that at least one tree is planted for every tree that’s cut down. However, it’s usually more than one that’s re-planted.
The average lifespan of an untreated cedar wood compost bin is around 10-15 years, so a long time! And as wood is a natural material, the bin is biodegradable. At the end of its life, the composter can become the compost. Cool right?
However, wooden bins don’t suit everyone because they tend to be open and have little protection against the weather or rodents.
If you’re interested in worm bins, the vermicompost bin from sacred resources is a great choice. It’s made using reclaimed beetle pine wood, so it doesn’t use virgin materials. Check it out here on Amazon or here on the sacred resources website.
Behrens Galvanized Composter Steel Trash Can – Metal
This galvanized steel trash can from Behrens is made using scraps from their manufacturing plant.
They claim that 100% of their manufacturing scrap is recycled into new steel products, so nothing goes to waste. A very sustainable business model.
One thing I like about this bin is the raised bottom. It aids in drainage and aeration and prevents pests from burrowing their way into the composter. However, it is a little on the small side for hot composting, so it will only support cold composting.
Biovessel – Eco Living Worm Composter
This indoor worm composting unit (known as the Biovessel) not only looks amazing but is also extremely functional and perfect if you want to compost indoors.
The Biovessel is made from 100% recycled HDPE (plastic) for the main unit and has a cork lid.
Composting with worms allows the unit to remain compact whilst also allowing you to see visible results within a matter of days – not months.
If you do decide to purchase this unit, don’t forget you’ll need to get the worms separately. I recommend Uncle Jims Red Wrigglers. The box of 250 will be more than enough to get you started.
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.