Composting Bin Types

Successful composting systems can take many different forms and can be purchased or homemade. In choosing the right composting system, you should consider the following questions:

  • Will you be composting food scraps, yard trimmings, or both? If you include food scraps, you should use a rodent-resistant bin (no openings larger than 1/4"). Worm bins are good if you’re composting only food scraps.
  • What volume of composting materials will you be producing? For large volumes you may need more than one bin.
  • Do you have a big or small space to keep your bin?
  • Will you need more than one compost bin to simplify management of materials in different stages of decomposition?
  • What is your budget? Homemade bins are cheap and they work just fine.

Worm Bins

Worm composting is unique because it uses food scraps only, and no yard waste.  It is ideal for people with very small yards, or no yard.  Worm composting bins can be made in any size or can be purchased.  Worm bins are designed to exclude critters that might be attracted to food scraps.  A successful worm bin will not smell, can be harvested every few months and can be kept indoors or outdoors.  Find out where to buy or how to construct a worm bin!

No-Bin System

This is the cheapest form of composting and is great if you have lots of yard trimmings and a moderate to large area to locate your heap. This system can be problematic if there are animals like raccoons, deer or dogs that are likely to scavenge the pile.  A heap or open pile should be covered in the rainy season.


This type of bin is inexpensive and can be made out of wire and stakes, or bought as an adjustable plastic enclosure, with or without a lid. Hoops are enclosed and are tidier than a heap and can be moved and covered easily, but are not animal resistant.  Some hoops are adjustable.  Find out where to buy hoop bins!

One Bin System

A one bin system can be square, circular, or cone shaped and can be commercial or homemade.  Most commercial bins have lids and ventilation and may be animal resistant.  These bins are good for smaller yards, material volumes and areas with animals.  Bins aid in moisture and heat retention.  Many people prefer to have an enclosed bin because it is more attractive.  However, they can be hard to turn and harvest.  Free or reduced price compost bins are available to most Santa Cruz County residents through their local waste hauler. Find out where to buy single-bin systems bins!

Multi Bin System

This is a great system for a household or community space generating a significant amount of waste.  This system is efficient, allowing you to have 3 working piles at different stages of decomposition and it is easy to turn and harvest.  This style bin can be made animal resistant.  Download construction plans for a multi bin system.

Tumbler or Spinner

These self-contained barrels, drums or balls rotate for easy mixing and fast decomposition.  They are more expensive than other systems, but can be more convenient because they are easier to turn. These bins are fine for small spaces and are usually animal resistant.  Download construction plans for a rotating barrel composter