Compost is full of the nutrients your plants need, so it’s an ideal fertiliser, organic mulch, and soil improver. Just put your kitchen and garden waste into a compost bin and it will break down over a year or so to reveal fresh, home-made compost.
After rigorous testing by our expert gardeners, we’ve found the best bins on the market and explain how to choose one that suits you, so you can buy with confidence.
If you’re new to composting or would like more practical tips and information, see our guides on how to make compost and how to make a composting trench. We also have a handy trouble-shooting video on common problems with composting. For tested tools to help with the process, check out our guides to the best spades, border forks, gloves, wheelbarrows and best cordless mowers.
- Types of compost bins
- How to choose the best compost bin
- What to put in a compost bin
- How to compost
- Best compost bins at a glance
- Best Buy compost bins
- The best of the rest
Compost bins come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are made using different materials. Below, our Associate Editor David Hurrion takes you through the different types of compost bin.
Plastic compost bin
A plastic compost bin is ideal for a small space. The plastic sides and lid retain moisture and heat to encourage rapid decomposition, as well as blocking out light to stop weeds from growing. This type of bin should ideally be placed on grass or earth.
Wooden compost bin
Wooden compost bins produce the most compost. Typically 1x1m, the biggest wooden bins can produce hundreds of litres of compost. They’re often modular, so you can fit several together and cycle compost throughout the year to ensure a steady supply. Usually open to the elements, you can also increase their efficiency with a wooden lid or plastic cover.
Hot compost bin
Insulated with a close-fitting lid, hot compost bins are designed to allow decomposition at a much higher temperature and therefore higher speed than other composters (30-90 days, compared to around six months). They also result in a finer compost. Roughly the size of a wheelie bin, they need to stand on a hard surface.
Wormery compost bin
Wormeries work similarly to compost bins, but are slightly different. They’re designed for the small-scale composting of kitchen waste, and use tiger worms to break down material instead of decay. These specialised worms mix and break down the compost quickly and produce a nutrient-rich liquid for use as a fertiliser. Compost worms can also be added to larger bins. However, not all waste is suitable for a wormery, so you’ll still need a compost bin too. For more, you can read our guide on how to set up a wormery, or check out our expert tests of the best wormeries.
Make your own compost bin
You can also make your own compost bin using wooden pallets or corrugated iron. Enclosing the sides will retain heat, which speeds up the rotting process – the larger the pile, the more heat. The ideal minimum size is 1m x 1m and, if possible, make more than one, so it’s easier to turn the compost. For more help, take a look at our advice on how to build a compost bin.
When choosing a compost bin, consider the size of your plot, the design of your garden and the amount of compost you’d like to produce.
Compost bins come in a variety of sizes and capacities. A narrow plastic bin is perfect for a little city garden, but might not work for a bigger space in the country. On the other hand, a 1x1m wooden bin is great for large quantities of compost, but may be overkill if you have a suburban spot.
This means you should also consider how much compost you’d like to make and how quickly. Wooden compost bins can process the most waste, but if you don’t want to wait half a year for your first batch, insulated compost bins speed up the process, but offer less compost. Garden design is a crucial consideration, too. You might have a big patch of unused soil that would fit a compost bin, but might not be sunny enough to make it worthwhile. The type of ground you are setting your bin on is also important, as plastic and wooden compost bins will ideally need to be placed on grass or earth while insulated bins can sit on hard ground.
There are a whole range of kitchen and garden waste materials which can be put into a compost bin. You need a 50:50 split of nitrogen-rich ‘green’ material like grass cuttings and carbon-rich ‘brown’ material like dead leaves. This rough ratio of green to brown waste is crucial, because otherwise the waste won’t break down.
The rest is up to you. For green material, try green leaves, garden clippings and any vegetable waste, from potato peels to carrot ends and even coffee grounds. For brown material, use waste twigs, leftover newspapers, sawdust or wood shavings. The only exception here is wormeries, which only take small-scale food waste.
- Stand a compost bin over soil in a sunny part of the garden.
- Fill it with equal amounts of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ waste material.
- Every few weeks, turn over the soil to make sure decay is even.
- After six months, you should have great compost to use as mulch, feed, and soil improver.
- Best buy: Blackwall Green Compost Converter
- Best buy: Modular Compost Bin
- Best buy: Green Johanna 330 Litre Hot Composter
- Best buy: Hotbin Mk. 2 Composter
- Lacewing Easy-Load Wooden Compost Bin
- Harrod Horticultural Slot and Slide Wooden Compost Bin
- 400 Litre Thermo-King Composter
- Thermo Compost Bin Komp 420
- Aerobin 200L Composter
In every review we award the outstanding products our coveted BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy award. To see these and the others we recommend, browse our pick of the best compost bins below.
Nine of the best compost bins for 2022
Blackwall Green Compost Converter
Our rating: 4.25/20
The Blackwall Compost Converter is a BBC Gardeners’ World Best Buy for the best budget model. Made of recycled plastic, it consists of a one-piece cone shaped body with a snug-fitting removable lid and single hatch. It’s very quick to set up – just stand it on the soil and you’re good to go. It’s a great option for those who want a simple and affordable compost bin. However, because of its thin sides, it was one of the slowest composters on test, so if you want results quickly you may want one of the other models featured here.
Read the full Blackwall Compost Converter review.
Suttons Modular Wooden Compost Bin
Our rating: 4.5/5
This traditional wooden compost bin has a huge 573 litre capacity, earning it a Best Buy award for the best large compost bin. Made from sustainably sourced Scandinavian softwood, the planks easily slot into upright grooves on the corner posts and the bin can be accessed from every side. Thanks to its plastic cover, it produces the highest internal temperature of any of the wooden bins on test, guaranteeing fantastic compost. However, you should note that this cover let in a little rain.
Read the full Suttons Modular Wooden Compost Bin review.
Green Johanna 330 Litre Hot Composter
Our rating: 4.5/5
Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy for the most versatile compost bin, the Green Johanna 330-litre Hot Composter has a good capacity and works effectively for all types of food and garden waste. It does not need pre-mixing and is made from 100 per cent-recycled plastic.
Read the full Green Johanna 330 Litre Hot Composter review
Hotbin Mk. 2 Composter
Our rating: 4.25/5
If you want quick compost, look no further – the Hotbin Mk. 2 Composter is a BBC Gardeners’ World Best Buy winner for being the fastest to compost. A good option for small spaces, it has a built-in carbon filter to absorb smells, a temperature gauge on the lid and a tank in the base to collect the liquid produced during composting. That said, all waste needs mixing before going into this composter, and it can be a little tricky to access the compost.
Read the full Hotbin Mk. 2 Composter review
Although some models didn’t quite achieve a Best Buy award, they still have various features that make them worth recommending. Browse our pick of the best of the rest on test.
Lacewing Easy-Load Wooden Compost Bin
Our rating: 4/5
The simple construction of this wooden compost bin allows for a whopping 718 litres of volume. It’s made from slats to allow air circulation around the compost and the front ones are removable, making filling up the bin much easier and allowing lots of room to get at the compost when it’s ready. However, we found that these wide gaps meant that it composts relatively slowly. Made from pressure treated pine, the slats have a smooth, planed finish and are guaranteed against rot for 15 years.
Harrod Horticultural Slot and Slide Wooden Compost Bin
Our rating: 4/5
Producing some of the best and fastest compost on test, this composter is for serious gardeners. It’s designed to be modular, so you can add multiple units for extra capacity, and is very sturdy as it’s made of sustainably sourced wood with aluminium fittings. The planks slide out smoothly so it’s easy to add waste and remove compost. However, the lid isn’t included, and this composter needs a lot of assembly with power tools, so if DIY isn’t your bag you may want to look elsewhere.
Buy the Harrod Horticultural Slot and Slide Wooden Compost Bin from Harrod Horticultural
Garantia 400 Litre Thermo-King Composter
Our rating: 3.75/5
This plastic compost bin has a great 400-litre capacity. On test, its foamed plastic walls and carefully designed ventilation system helped it handle this volume quickly, producing excellent compost. It’s made from 100% recycled materials and includes a wide two-part hinged hatch for easy filling. However, it’s a little tricky to assemble.
Thermo Compost Bin Komp 420
Our rating: 3.75/5
With a robust, sectional design and made from thick recycled plastic, this bin is easy to access thanks to a wide hinged lid. Insulated and vented sides help it compost quickly and it’s available in a range of sizes, from 250L to 700L (pictured). However, we found that it’s fiddly to assemble without help, and it comes at a relatively high price.
Aerobin 200L Composter
Our rating: 3.75/5
Our tester liked this this high-tech compost bin, which thanks to its internal ‘lung’ to circulate air and a rigid recycled plastic outer shell produces compost quickly. It’s easy to access, but the bin needs a regular supply of ready-mixed waste to maintain temperature, as well as a drainage hose, which isn’t supplied. The leachate tank is also tricky to access.
How we tested
The bins were assembled and sited according to instructions, and then tested over year. They were given the required type of waste and similar bins were given the same mix of waste at the same time. They were assessed throughout the year, and we used the following criteria with equal marks attributed to each:
- Design & setup. Looked at ease and clarity of instructions, siting restrictions, and how well the design worked and extra features.
- Ease of use. Assessed the simplicity of adding waste and then removing compost from the bin.
- Compost quality & speed. Focussed on the speed the waste rotted down (including checking the temperature using a compost thermometer) and the quality of the finished compost.
- Value for money & eco credentials. Considered the value relative to the above, including warranty and RRP and as well as eco credentials such as type of material and, if plastic, whether virgin or recycled.
For more, take a look at how we review.
This product roundup was last updated in June 2022. We apologise if anything has changed in price or availability.