Cooking is an adventure. Cooking is fun. But cooking at home also produces a lot of waste. Even if you're making carrot top pesto and turning your Sunday roasted chicken into cubes of broth in the freezer, there's still a lot of food scraps stinking up your garbage. What's worse is that all of those scraps produce methane gas as they rot, making them a major contributor to climate change, according to scientists at the United Nations.
If you’re ready to embrace a more eco-friendly set of lifestyle habits, then it’s time to think about the ancient art of composting. This allows you to process plant and food waste and convert it into an organic material that can be used as plant fertilizer. It helps reduce your carbon footprint and sanitation bill while transforming kitchen trash into a real treasure for gardeners.
Effective at-home composting relies on a quality bin to store your waste and facilitate the composting process. Whether you’re seeking a compact freezer model, a larger bin for worm composting, or something in-between, here are the best kitchen compost bins.
Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin
What We Love: Sleek, easy to clean, rust-resistant, odor-eliminating
What We Don't Love: Might not be big enough for families
The Epica 1.3-Gallon Stainless Steel Compost Bin is an industry leader. This stainless steel bin uses 304-grade stainless steel as its primary material, which is specially calibrated for durability and rust resistance. The bin comes with charcoal filters to attach to its lid, which prevents odors from escaping the device. The lid itself features a tight-fitting design but is also easy to lift off with one hand.
This bin can handle up to a week's worth of food scraps from one or two people before it needs to be emptied. It’s easy to wash this stainless steel device with dish soap and water, and the charcoal filters can last for up to 6 months before needing to be changed. The Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin keeps the composting process simple, intuitive, and error-proof, making it a worthy purchase for environmentally conscious shoppers (and, thanks to its affordability, for budget-conscious shoppers as well).
Price at time of publish: $23
Material: Stainless steel | Dimensions (LxWxH): 8 x 7 x 12 inches | Capacity: 1.3 gallons
Best Overall, Runner-Up
Oxo Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin, 1.75 Gallons
What We Love: Compact, lightweight, lid is easy to maneuver, two sizes
What We Don't Love: No charcoal filter
An inexpensive yet highly reliable compost pail, the OXO Good Grips Compost Bin is a great fit for smaller kitchens. Petite, lightweight, and made of resilient plastic, this bin looks very much like a miniature trash can, and the fact that it comes with a lift-off lid on a hinge reinforces the trash can similarities. The lid can be fully removed for easier emptying, and its design allows for oxygen circulation, which keeps odors at bay.
It comes in two sizes: 0.75-gallon, which holds about 2.8 liters, and 1.75-gallon, which holds about 6.6 liters. This bin doesn’t require a composting bag, but one will fit inside with ease if you prefer it. Some users say that the plastic is also sturdy enough for storing food scraps in the freezer.
Price at time of publish: $33
Material: Plastic | Dimensions (LxWxH): 6.2 x 6.1 x 7.5 inches, 7.75 x 7.3 x 7.6 inches | Capacity: 0.75 gallon, 1.75 gallons
Full Circle Scrap Happy Scrap Collector & Freezer Compost Bin
What We Love: Fits in almost every freezer, made of freezer-safe silicone, easy to clean, reasonably priced
What We Don't Love: Small capacity
Some prospective composter users want an extra level of protection against the potential odors from leftover eggshells and broccoli stalks. If you count yourself among this number, then you may find that a freezer-safe compost bin, which tucks into your freezer rather than living on your countertop, best suits your needs. After all, nothing smells when it's frozen.
The Full Circle Scrap Happy Food Scrap Collector proves ideal for freezer composting due to its small silhouette, which can easily fit into a wide array of freezers. Users can leave scraps in the freezer bin until they’re ready to put them through the composting process, which also decreases the odds of attracting fruit flies or other pests. The Scrap Happy is dishwasher-safe, and it can be used with a composting bag or without.
Price at time of publish: $21
Material: Silicone | Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.5 x 6.1 x 5.5 inches | Capacity: 0.5 gallons
Related: The Best Kitchen Trash Cans
Best Food Recycler
Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50
What We Love: Quick and effective, no odors, easy to clean
What We Don't Love: Expensive
Vitamix’s reputation for exquisitely crafted, top-of-the-line appliances doesn’t stop at its famous blenders. The company also makes a remarkable composter that takes all of the guesswork out of the composting process. All of the bins on our list will let you hold food scraps until they make it to the compost pile, and many composters can't handle meat by-products like chicken bones. But with the Vitamix FoodCycler, you can skip the work and end up with fertilizer in about 5 hours.
This 500-watt machine works by first dehydrating the scraps, grinding them, sterilizing the grounds with heat, and cooling it down. It has the power and strength to convert most foods into high-quality fertilizer, though you should use a mix of dry and wet scraps. It includes a removable 2.5-liter waste bucket with a carbon-filtered, anti-odor lid, so you can store food scraps until it's time to run the machine. The waste bucket can be cleaned using your dishwasher.
Price at time of publish: $400
Materials: Plastic, aluminum | Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.6 x 11 x 14.2 inches | Capacity: 0.5 gallons
Related: The Best Vitamix Blenders
Best For Worm Composting
Urban Worm Bag Worm Composting Bin
What We Love: All-natural, faster than aerobic composting, minimal odor
What We Don't Love: Worms must be purchased separately, must be temperature-controlled
Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, happens when red worms are placed in a bin with moistened bedding (usually shredded newspaper or cardboard and soil) and fed a diet of fruit and vegetable scraps. The worms then digest the scraps, and their “castings” become odor-free and mineral-rich fertilizer. This process may make some composting hopefuls squeamish, but experienced compost makers know that worm composting is both natural and very easy.
The Urban Worm Composting Bin boasts a simple and direct design; the worms live on their bedding inside the bag, the food is fed through the top, and the castings can be easily harvested from the bottom. The bag sits in an iron stand to keep it aerated, and this composting system can be stored either indoors or outdoors (at a temperature range of 55-95 degrees). Of course, something this big needs dedicated space, and it takes at least 4 months before you have usable compost.
Price at time of publish: $139
Material: Oxford fabric, iron | Dimensions (LxWxH): 27 x 27 x 31 inches | Capacity: 29 gallons
For a traditional countertop compost canister that will hold your scraps until it's time to hit the pile, there's the easy-to-clean Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin (view at Amazon), which will look chic in your kitchen and keep odors at bay. If you have room in your freezer for a scrap-holding bin, the Full Circle Scrap Happy Scrap Collector & Freezer Compost Bin (view at Amazon) is your best bet.
What to Look for When Buying a Kitchen Compost Bin
Composting bins come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and materials. Most countertop models can hold anywhere from 0.5 gallons to 2 gallons of food scraps. If your compost pile is close by, you might be able to get away with only needing to hold a few days of scraps at a time, no matter what your family size is. If you instead have to drop off your scraps weekly, you'll need a larger bin (and probably one that's freezer-safe). Backyard worm composters can hold more, but the exact quantity depends on the number of worms.
Fortunately, most compost bins require very little in the way of maintenance. Just put the food scraps in, wait until the compost bin is filled, and then add the waste to an outdoor pile or bin to convert it into fertilizer (or take the waste to a compost drop-off in your community).
In terms of cleaning, most compost bins can be washed either by hand with soap and water or through a dishwasher cycle. You should do this every time your empty the bin to avoid pests.
Nowadays, many compost bins come with odor-preventing features like charcoal filters, and you definitely want to prevent them. Flies are attracted to the gases given off by rotting food. Ultimately, a secure lid will do more than anything else to keep odors and gases at bay. If you’d really like to eliminate any chance of food waste stink, then a freezer-safe compost bin might be your best option.
What kind of food can be made into compost?
When composting food items, you’re always safe with fruits and vegetables. In addition, eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags can go into your compost bin without hesitation. Meat, dairy, and animal bones require higher temperatures when composting and secure areas away from pests. It's up to you to decide if it's for your own backyard pile, or an organization doing composting.
What should never be composted?
Fats, grease, and oils are rarely welcome in composting since they don't break down and attract pests. Human and animal wastes, as well as human proteins like hair, coated paper, and diseased plants should also never be in a composting pile.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Taylor Tobin is a freelance journalist who specializes in recipe testing and deep-dives into popular dishes, ingredients, and pieces of kitchen equipment. She recently moved into a one-bedroom Austin apartment with a far larger kitchen than the one she had in her tiny Brooklyn studio, and she’s excited to use the extra counter space to start her own composting adventure.
Read Next: The Best Mandolines