$5 Compost bins

I hate throwing out perfectly good food. I have a gallon bag in the freezer that is full of scraps from my carrots, onions, celery, etc. so I can make veggie stock when it’s full. But there still is all the other things that get thrown out, egg shells, coffee grounds, banana peels, that I know I could be putting to better use. Since I just made my raised garden beds (yay for me!), I wanted to start composting so next year I can replenish the soil without having to go and buy a bunch of additives.


I started looking online and found an add on Craigslist from a local car wash, they get their wash chemicals in 55 gallon plastic drums and wanted to get rid of the empty ones. I wanted barrels so that I could knock them over and roll them around for a bit to mix the compost inside instead of dumping it all out, mixing it, and putting it back in to let it compost evenly. I swung by later that day and picked up two of the drums (for $5 I should have bought more), the man warned me that they had stored chemicals and shouldn’t be used for storing drinking water or anything edible.

Once I got home I got out my trusty skill-saw and cut those babies open. Once the tops were off I could smell the chemicals and thought about just trashing these since I didn’t think I would ever get rid of the chemical residue. After half a jug of bleach and a lot of scrubbing with a stiff brush I got rid of the smell and the waxy feel of the barrels. The next morning after airing out I couldn’t smell the bleach or the chemicals anymore so I decided that they would be safe after all for compost.


I used a hand drill and a 1/4″ bit for the holes. Starting in the center I made holes about 3″ apart all the way across the base (hopefully this will drain out all the brown liquid that comes with compost). Then I turned the barrels on their sides and started drilling around the barrel. They aren’t the most even or pretty holes, but these aren’t going to be on display and they work. It was hard keeping them from spinning away while drilling, but finally I found that straddling them and holding them in place with my knees was the only way to do it.


I used some left over landscaping pavers to lift the barrels off the ground and let air circulate underneath them. Four pavers under each made them even and they don’t wobble or slip. I placed them close to the side of my shed so that the wind doesn’t pick them up and spill kitchen scraps all over the yard, but not so close that the run off from the roof hits the lid and gets inside (I am planning to add gutters to the shed and a rain barrel).


I then had the joy of putting my first bowl full of scraps in the compost, it was filled with leftover coffee grounds from my French Press, banana peels (I rip those into small strips to help them compost faster), eggs shells and the stems of veggies. Later in the week I added the dirty bedding from my chick’s tub and some dry leaves from last fall. It is such a nice feeling to be able to take so many things that I used to throw out and do something useful with them. By next year I will have rich compost to add to my garden beds!

I am planning on getting several more of these barrels and turning them into rain water containers for the garden since the bleach did such a great job cleaning out the chemicals. They currently just have the old lids set on top, once I get new lids made for them I will post an update to show you what I ended up doing (as of right now I have no idea).