5 of the Best Compost Bins

Find a compost bin that suits your lifestyle and your gardening needs

Researched and tested by Daniel Woodley. Fact Checked by Hannah Miller. Published to Soil & Compost on the 1st March 2020. Updated: 25th February 2023.

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A few years ago, I built my own composter, and I found it was slow going and a bit smelly, so I then created a hot composter that produced usable compost within 3 months.

I know many of our readers here at DIY Gardening might be considering buying a composter, so here I’ve listed my favourite products and I’ll discuss what I like and dislike about them.

In a hurry? The HotBin hot composter is my #1 choice and it won product of the year at the Chelsea Flower Show 2019.

See the HotBin on Amazon here or read my in-depth review of it here.

1) “Thermal” and “Hot” Compost Bins

Thermal or hot compost bins are constructed with either foam insulation or double layers of plastic; the purpose is to increase the temperature within the bin. I know from my testing and experience that a warmer bin will break down the materials much faster, meaning you’ll get your compost in less time. Hot composters can create usable mulching compost in as little as 30 days, way sooner than a traditional composter. They can even produce fine, garden-ready compost in as little as 90 days. There’s another noteworthy benefit to hot composters that I’ve witnessed firsthand; the heat kills weeds, seeds and pathogens, all of which I’ve seen survive a traditional cold compost heap. Also, the higher temperature means you can compost items that wouldn’t be suitable for a cold composter, such as animal-derived foodstuffs. My favourite hot composter is the HotBin; it’s wrapped in 50mm of insulation and comes with these benefits:
  • A built-in thermometer that takes accurate readings.
  • A vent valve to control the temperature and keep it just right.
  • A sloped floor and an exit valve for any liquid waste that can be used as fertiliser.
  • 3-year warranty.
My only issue with the HotBin is the price, but you get what you pay for, and if you want a hot composter, I feel this is the best of the bunch. (More details and an honest review of the HotBin can be found in my guide to the best hot composters)

What Buyers Are Saying

As part of my research into this hot compost bin, I also looked at the online reviews from verified buyers.

Here are the key points mentioned:

Pros

  • Produces compost quicker than any other method
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Works in the winter too
  • 50mm of insulation
  • Discreet black bin

Cons

  • The price
  • You need to layer the material and it can take some time to get the hang of composting
  • It’s a bit small and only produces a limited amount of compost
Hotbin insulation

2) Barrel Composter

This is just one of several tumbler compost bins on the market and I feel it would be great for those with small gardens and container gardens etc. I think these devices look aesthetically pleasing and I’ve seen them being kept on patios, concrete and even decking. With this type of composter, you have more choices of where you can place it. This barrel produces 50 litres of compost and can be turned to speed up the composting process and prevent sludge from forming.

Pros

  • Perfect for small homes and gardens
  • Turning the barrel improves aeration
  • A great product for those in flats or with no garden

Cons

  • Only produces 50 litres of compost
  • Customers report that it’s fiddly to assemble
  • The price – it costs nearly as much as composter four times the size
Barrel composter

3) Mega Compost Bin

Looking for something a little larger? I’ve seen this huge compost bin in no less than four different gardens that I’ve worked in and it must be one of the most popular bins in the UK. The 4Smile is huge and can hold an impressive 300 litres. When I had the chance to check it out a few years ago, I felt it was surprisingly sturdy, weatherproof and made from UV-protected plastic. This robust composter also has a hinged lid for depositing garden and kitchen waste. If you’ve ever purchased a cheap compost bin with a loose lid before, you’ll know how annoying it is to see the cover fly off every time the wind picks up. That won’t happen with hinged lids. There’s also a large door at the product’s base for removing the compost; I tried and it’s just about the right size for a shovel. Measuring 83cm high and 60cm wide, this compost bin is perfect for medium-sized gardens.

What Buyers Are Saying

As part of my research into the best compost bins, I looked at the online reviews from verified buyers.

Here are the key points mentioned:

Pros

  • Huge 300 litre capacity
  • An analysis of online reviews shows that many are impressed with how sturdy the bin is
  • Reasonably priced
  • Hinged lid that won’t blow off in the wind

Cons

  • Fiddly to assemble with poor instructions
  • The compost can only be removed via a front door, meaning some may get trapped at the back of the composter
  • Several reviewers stated that they damaged the plastic with a garden fork when raking out the compost

4) Traditional Wooden Compost Bins

Traditionally, compost bins were made from lengths of slatted timber, and while they might not be as aesthetically pleasing as some modern designs, they have many advantages, most notably aeration. The slats also allow insects into the composter, which helps to break down the material into usable compost. Holding a whopping 860 litres, this compost bin is huge, and I feel best suited to large gardens.  Made from pressure-treated wood, this product is designed to last and comes guaranteed against wet rot for 15 years. This is very similar to the first compost bin I made myself and there are a few issues I had with it:
  • It’s much cooler than a sealed bin so the material took a long time to breakdown into compost.
  • The smell was too much for me, this is an issue with all bins like this.
  • Pests were able to get into the bin, including mice.

What Buyers Are Saying

As part of my research into the best compost bins, I looked at the online reviews from verified buyers of this slated composter.

Here are the key points mentioned:

What Buyers Liked

  • The huge 720-litre capacity was liked by many buyers
  • Many owners reported that it was easy to assemble
  • This composter was described as a “traditional” product by several owners

What Buyers Disliked

  • Some were concerned at the lack of a lid and made a makeshift one.
  • Several owners stated that the timber was soft and should be treated with a protective wood stain first
  • While several buyers stated that they liked this composter, they also mentioned that it could be sturdier

5) The Geobin

This is another product that I’ve seen used by some of the clients we’ve worked for over the years. The Geobin is made from 50% recycled plastic and when not in use, rolls up to a space-saving tube. The size of this bin is adjustable, so you can expand it fully or roll it up slightly if you’d like a narrower bin. I liked the look of this product and it was practical too. It also has plenty of holes for ventilation and being easy to move would be a big bonus for many people. Pro tip: Secure the Geobin to the ground with stakes until it’s loaded with enough materials to hold itself in place.

What Buyers Are Saying

As part of my research into the Geobin, I looked at the online reviews from verified buyers of this lightweight composter.

Here are the key points mentioned:

What Buyers Liked

  • Many buyers stated that they liked how it was lightweight and could be packed away when not in use
  • Several stated that it was ideal for smaller gardens
  • It’s easy and quick to assemble
  • The holes helped aerate the compost and speed up the process, according to several owners

What Buyers Disliked

  • Some described it as too lightweight and flimsy
  • Several stated that it needed to be staked or secured with fixings/posts that weren’t included in the box
  • A small number of users stated that they had issues with their dog and pests gaining access to the decomposing food

Never Composted Before?

I suggest buying an accelerator, these contain bacteria that speed up the composting process.

A stirrer helps to aerate soil and is a good investment:

Aerator Tool

You’ll need to turn the contents of the compost bin occasionally, this will aerate the materials, speed up the decomposition process and also ensures the final compost is consistent. Some compost bins make it impossible to use a fork or shovel so use this tool instead, it’s designed specifically for compost bins.

Compost Maker

Speed up the composting process in your bin by using this compost maker from Garotta which contains nitrogen and limestone. Just add water and 2 -3 tablespoons for every 8cm of kitchen scraps and green garden waste. This powder is harmless to pets, wildlife and children but encourages bacterial growth inside the bin.

Accelerator

Each packet contains twelve tablets and every one contains thousands of bacteria and fungi which help to accelerate the composting process. Just add the tablet to water and pour into the middle of your composting bin and turn the contents once a week. Each pack treats 1800 litres of composting material.

Composting FAQs

How often should compost be turned?

Once the bin is established, you can accelerate the composting process by turning the contents with a fork or tool every week. This improves the aeration inside the bin.

How wet should the compost be inside the bin?

If you squeeze the material in your hand and water seeps out, the compost is too wet, if it crumbles and won’t hold its shape then it’s too dry. I’ve found through years of composting that somewhere in the middle is just about right.

How long does a compost bin take to break down the materials?

From my experience, if you regularly turn the compost bin, you can expect to get usable compost in 6 – 12 months. If you just leave it and make no effort to maintain your bin, expect the process to take 9-18 months.

I’ve seen DIY and commercial hot composters produce thick mulch-like compost in 30-60 days and fine compost in around 90 days.

How do I know when the compost is ready to use?

The contents of the bin will have shrunk by at least a third and will have an earthy odour. The compost should by now be soft and crumbly and roughly the same temperature as the outside air. All but the largest of items should not be recognisable.

Author: Daniel Woodley

Daniel has over 18 years of experience in the construction, home improvement, and landscape garden industries.

He previously worked as a project manager and has experience in managing teams of tradespeople and landscape gardeners on both small and medium sized projects.

Daniel is also a keen gardener and enjoys growing unusual plants and tending to his lawn.

More About Daniel Woodley.

Daniel Woodley

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