Compost Container for Kitchen: A Simple and Frugal DIY Bucket/Pail/Bin

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Compost Container for Kitchen

In an effort to save money and be more self-reliant I set out to make my own compost container for our kitchen. It only costs $1.50 to make!

Making Dirt – Part 1

Note: This is part one of a two-part article on compost.

Read part two – DIY vermicomposting worm farm – here.

I knew I was getting old the day I began to think that making my own garden dirt was cool.

Don’t get me wrong… I don’t think I’m old, and I don’t dislike the fact that I am getting older, actually, I think it’s pretty cool. I just find it amusing the way our thinking changes as we age. The one wish I do have is that I knew what I know now when I was 16!

Kitchen Compost Buckets

Today I want to follow up on a promise I gave to several readers in my “Breaking Free From a Culture of Temptation” article a while back. I promised I would write a post detailing how I constructed a kitchen compost bucket for very little money. In the original article, my temptation to purchase a kitchen compost bin rather than make my own almost won. Here is the snippet from the original article:

A store-bought kitchen composting bucket ($20) Here again, I made my own… and only spent $1.50! This will likely be the subject of a forthcoming post.

Both of these compost-related purchases were very tempting, and I really had to fight the urge to buy and instead choose the frugal road. Beyond saving money, I have more pride in these possessions — partly because I made/improved them, and partly because I know that I sacrificed my short-term wants for my greater goal.

Making my own bin was easy, cheap, and satisfying. Much more satisfying than buying one for $20, or worse yet buying one for $50! If you are not into making your own, you can purchase one of the two I was debating between. They are both high-quality options that I would have gone with if I weren’t über frugal!

Store-bought kitchen compost bins

  • The $56 option is a stainless steel kitchen compost bucket that employs a charcoal filter to eliminate smells.
  • The $20 option is a plastic bucket that also employs a charcoal filter.

As I mentioned above, each of these is a solid option if you are not trying to play the role of Fruggie McFrugalpants. Prices posted were taken at the time of writing.

So What Did I Do?

I made my own of course!

My homemade, DIY kitchen compost bucket

  • The $1.50 option is an empty plastic coffee can with its very own built-in charcoal filter.

Here’s how I did it:

  • An old empty coffee can or similar free container with a resealable lid (I got a few from the office that was being tossed)
  • A package of charcoal filters from your local pet supply store – they sell them for kitty litter boxes (this eliminates the odor)
  • A drill with a 1/4″ bit
  • A hot glue gun (super/crazy glues should work fine too)

1.  Start with your parts and tools
Compost Container for Kitchen 1

2.  Drill 10+ holes in the lid with a 1/4″ drill bit

3.  Hot glue the charcoal filter to the lid

4.  Voila – the finished product
Compost Container for Kitchen

We store our DIY Kitchen Compost Bucket under our kitchen sink so food scraps can easily be added to it during food preparation. My wife is very particular about smells and was happy to find that no odor came from our homemade bin, thanks to the charcoal filterJust like with any other bin equipped with a charcoal filter, you will have to replace the filters every few months if you want them to remain effective.

Did you make this compost container for your kitchen?


About Matt Jabs

Matt loves to inspire others to save money and live more sustainably. He is passionate about eating local, living simply, and doing more things himself. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. MiTmite9 says

    For some reason, hitting the “reply” button on these comments is not working for me.

    I wanted to share with others how to add your kitchen scraps to your soil, if you’re not going to be putting together a compost pile:

    Take your kitchen scraps out into your garden. Dig a hole. Toss in the scraps and, if you feel so inclined, use a shovel to further cut up things like citrus peels and egg shells. (The smaller the pieces, the quicker the scraps will become part of your garden “fertilizer.”) Shovel in the soil, covering your scraps.

    Cover the filled-in hole with a large piece of screen. (The size mesh on your screen doesn’t really matter. You’re only using it to prevent scavengers from digging up your scraps.) Weight down the four corners of the screen with some heavy rocks. I like to use a piece of screen about 2′ x2′ or larger. We have a couple pieces of screen, rotating —– to allow the scraps time to break down. If you don’t have rocks, I find that shoving in tomato cages at each corner of the screen works just as well.

    As for making your own indoor kitchen scraps bucket: I have found the absolute best method is this:

    Purchase a stainless steel 4-quart dog pail. (“Indipets” makes them. And there are other companies. Shop around.) I got ours at a dog show (cheaper than online). We are a household of three adults. All of us cook, so we have plenty of scraps for our bucket. You may even want to purchase a bucket which has a flat back, so you can store your scrap bucket up against a wall. We keep our bucket on our kitchen counter, right next to the sink. There really is no smell at all. (And we add meat scraps, too.)

    Pro tip: When using this stainless steel bucket method, you may need to have a large, flat bowl (pasta bowl?) to use as a moat. Here in CA we get ant invasion that lasts throughout the summer months. Keep your bucket surrounded by water . . . no ant problems.

    As a lid for the bucket, you will have to find an old bread/butter plate, preferably a nice thick one. Thrift store? Swap meet? What’s good about using the plate as a cover is —- you can *tilt it* when you want to add scraps. No need to be taking any lid off or screwing it back on. No need for charcoal filters that probably aren’t recyclable as compost.

    This one stainless steel bucket should last you for at least a decade. PLUS — it has a handle, so it makes it plenty easy to haul your scraps out into your garden.

    Feel free to ask me any questions re: kitchen scraps/composting. I’ve been doing this now for about 50 years. (Hope the site will allow me to reply.)

  2. Rachel says

    Anyone know how to keep wild life such as skunks and bears from an outdoor compost? We are transitioning from urban to rural-ranch life and eager to start composting but don’t want to attract these lovely scavengers. Thanks

    • MiTmite9 says

      Hi, Rachel. See my other comment (April 2, 1:03 p.m.). Use a screen (2′ x 2′ or larger) to cover your scrap hole and rocks to weight it down. We have two screens that we rotate use of, allowing earlier scraps to biodegrade. Add a bit of water once in a while, to help the scraps break down faster.

  3. Regina says

    Hi Matt,
    I have been using a repurposed plastic ice bucket, labeled: “FOR MOTHER EARTH” for a number of years, it has a lid and no air holes. I have never used charcoal filters and just empty the bucket regularly.
    My question, what do you do with the charcoal filters? Can you compost them or should they be thrown away?
    Thanks! I just got a new stainless steel compost pail like the one you recommend for my birthday and I am wondering if the charcoal is necessary?
    I am like your wife with the gift and curse of a sensitive nose.
    Thanks, for sharing your expertise.

    • Matt Jabs says

      That is a great question Regina, and one I do not know the answer too. Perhaps someone else in the community does so let’s see if anyone else answers.

    • MiTmite9 says

      Check to see if your charcoal filter is compostable/biodegradable by trying to tear it in 1/2. Is the filter paper or does it contain plastic? If the filter tears easily, and you see no evidence of plastic —- you’re good to go.

      Also: Just this past year I discovered that a great many “paper” teabags contain plastic. Mind-blowing, right? Check online to see if you’re drinking tea that contains plastic. I only discovered this nasty fact after researching those Starbucks’ “Teavana” tea nylon-looking teabags. Not only are those teabags plastic (!), the labels also contain plastic backing. UGH.

      Celestial Seasonings, Tazo, Teavana . . . All contain microplastics. You want to avoid using their products. Certainly DO NOT put them in your garden.

      • MiTmite9 says

        The teabags: Forgot to add —– you most certainly don’t want to add those microplastics to your body, either.

  4. karin says

    i forgot to add, i found the same exact 5″ filters pictured at my pet supply store. pkg of 2 filters for $2.79

  5. karin says

    thanks for this idea! i finally made mine today (i’ve had the coffee can saved for about a year lol). the only thing i did differently was drill 4 extra holes closer to the edge. then i used 4 brads to fasten the filter to the lid (instead of gluing it).

  6. Vera says

    I already use a coffee can for my kitchen scraps, but the filter is a great idea I hadn’t thought of. I also have an old kitty litter pail on my back porch, I just empty the kitchen scraps into it, then when it gets partially full I take it to the compost pile. I am going to add the charcoal filters to both. Thanks for the great idea.

  7. Akira Konya says

    That’s pretty sweet… I live in an apartment and I don’t have a yard; only a small little dirt median out in the parking lot area. I always thought I couldn’t compost anything because I couldn’t dig a compost pit or build one of those wooden boxes, but this could totally work for me! I actually go through these 5 pound plastic jugs of protein powder all the time (the containers are probably 2 gallons or so) so I have empties everywhere and I’ve been looking for some way to use them… Thanks!

  8. Lenita says

    I have a stainless container with holes in the lid and the filter that fits in the lid. My compost grows mold and now with warm weather is starting to “sweat”. How do I stop both? I wish I found your site before I bought the container.

    • MiTmite9 says

      The teabags: Forgot to add —– you most certainly don’t want to add those microplastics to your body, either.

    • MiTmite9 says


      Don’t worry about the mold or the sweating of your container. Both are safe occurrences. Especially the mold. It only means your kitchen scraps are already doing their thing —- decomposing.

  9. Nicole says

    Sorry I am new to this but I don’t understand what I would do with my kitchen compost?

  10. Leah says

    Hi. I am just learning about composting and gardening. I live in an apartment. I am attempting to grow plants on my porch. I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to collect scraps for composting. I planned to give her the scraps for her garden. Can i use some for my porch plants? She gave me a plastic diaper container. Will this work? I am unable to drill holes, will that be a problem?

    • MiTmite9 says

      Hello, Leah:

      I commented (extensively) at the end of this thread re: best kitchen scraps container. You really don’t need a huge container for your scraps —- unless it’s your “second” bucket and the one you have outside and want to fill before then burying the contents.

      Many years ago I went to a dog show and found a nice 1-gallon stainless steel bucket (with handle). Cost was low. “Indipets” sells them online, but shop around for best deal with them or other manufacturers. Just make sure it’s stainless steel. Bucket is about 8″ x 8″.

      Keep this bucket on your kitchen counter. Cover its 8″ opening with an old bread/butter plate. Some solid type plate. The beauty of this is you can tilt the plate/ lid when you want to add scraps. Makes things so much easier.

      We’ve been using bucket and plate for decades. No smell. We even add meat scraps.

      Once you get a bucket-full of scraps, bury it out in your garden. Place a screen about 2′ x 2′ or larger atop the scraps’ hole. Weight it down with some solid rocks. Scavengers can’t get to it —– unless you have Bears . . . We have two screens that we rotate —– allowing the scraps to biodegrade/break down. If you add a bit of water occasionally to these scrap holes, it will help to break things down more quickly.

      Pro tip: If you have any type of ant problem —– make sure to employ a large flat pasta-type bowl. Fill it with a couple inches of water, keep bucket inside this moat. No ant can access your scraps.

  11. John says

    I built this two but instead of glue the filter I used 1 inch fasteners you could use smaller. But these I had on hand. So the filter can be changed every so often. Just push then fasteners through the filter and bend them back. It works great.

  12. Jennifer says

    This may be a stupid question: Once it is full, do you go and dump into larger, outdoor compost bin or do you just dump it into the garden and mix it into the soil? I am really interested in starting a large compost bin but haven’t yet. However, I have started using a small, counter top one like yours but with no filter. But I’m wondering if it’s all for not if I don’t have a larger bin to add it to, ya know?


    • Meari says

      I’ve been using mine for almost two months now. I empty mine into a larger compost bin outdoors. I’ve seen online where you can dig a hole in your garden and bury it. I’ve been using my indoor bin for about two months now and there is no smell whatsoever. Each time after I empty it, I rinse it out.

    • Cynthia says

      I have a 6″ deep layer of pine straw in my beds. I keep the compost in the kitchen for a few days then pull back an area of pine straw and dump the compost on stop of the soil. Maybe not the best use, but it turns into top soil after a few months, improving the beds, and keeps my garbage at home!

  13. cassie wadley says

    I have been using my coffee can composter for a couple of months now and have been mostly pleased. The charcol filter kept coming off, the hot glue wasn’t durable enough, but not a problem, because when I ditched the filter there weren’t any unpleasant smells that anyone in our family could discern (we keep it under the kitchen sink in a cabinet). However, we were suddenly besot by gnats, like fruit flies. I never saw any come out of the bin when I took the lid off, so I didn’t think they were coming from there…wrong, they were. The last time I emptied it there were little larvae all wriggling about. Sooo, the moral to my story is, try one of two things, refridgerate or keep two bins and alternate, letting one be rinsed thouroughly and sit in the sun while the other is in use. Which I will probably choose the latter since our fridge is always packed. Other than those small inconviences, it’s great and I’m always amazed at how quickly it fills up (meaning I realize how much we threw away for no reason) And to boot, my outside compost in working out nicely with fresh additions, I just like to keep those little wigglers outside where they belong, lol!

  14. Deborah says

    The next step is the plastic bucket compost bin in the yard- so easy to make and no smell if you keep the green/brown ratio right.

  15. Meari says

    Thanks for the great idea. However, I went to four different pet stores and Walmart over the weekend looking for the charcoal filters and the prices were between $5-7 for a 2-pack of filters. Still cheaper than buying a kitchen compost bucket, though.

    • Donna says

      try looking in the section of the store where they sell portable air filters or search on amazon. I found a “universal replacement activated carbon pre-filter” that you can cut to size for $1.50

  16. Deb says

    I keep my kitchen waste in a large Tupperware container in the fridge. If I get pressed for fridge space the coffee container idea will be an option.