DIY on a Dime: $8 Countertop Compost Pail

For everyone who has emailed and Facebook’d to ask for the plans for our tumbler, we didn’t give specific measurements because they’ll be different depending on the size of the bin. Ours is not a standard 55-gallon drum, so our cuts wouldn’t work for it. We also did a lot of things that aren’t really necessary (the removable bin, the routing, the T-brackets, etc). 

If you want to make an awesome-but-not-exactly-like-ours compost tumbler, check out the Boys’ Life plan. Those Boy Scouts know what’s what. Theirs was the base plan for our tumbler, but we figured out our sizes based on our bin and we added features on as we went along. We’ll probably post the exact cuts of our tumbler if there’s a demand for them, but there are so many floating on the interwebs that it seems really unnecessary. Ya know?

Hey peeps! We’re off to a pretty productive Memorial Day. Bradley’s cleaning the garage and bringing in some new wood we scored. We’ve already picked 2 pieces from the pile to turn into bedside tables for the guest bedroom. So stoked — not that it’s not fun keeping all our stuff of the floor and under the bed, but the room will feel more finished. While Bradley did that, I loaded the composter and ceremoniously gave it the first tumble. I did it with coffee in one hand and I actually said “Wheeeee!” as it spun. I may also have lifted my coffee mug in a toast-slash-salute. Good times.

Now that our compost tumbler (aka R2D2) is in the back yard, we decided to tackle a quickie project to go along with it. We’ve been eying compost crocks and pails that are designed to sit on kitchen counters. Basically, it’s a mini garbage can that sits on the kitchen counter. We fill it up with compostable food scraps, and when it’s full, we take it out to the tumbler. That way we’re not making 3 trips a day. We mentioned in our last post that we want composting to not feel like a chore. The pail would be a huge help in that.

We found some containers we liked. This one on Amazon is adorbs, but not worth $34 to us. This EcoCrock is cute, but not $36 worth of cute. Here’s one that isn’t even cute, but it costs 30 beans.

The more we searched, the more disappointed we were. It’s just a container with a lid and carbon filter inside to keep things from getting stinky. It shouldn’t cost $30 or $40. We decided to stop looking and make our own. And we’re using the word “make” very loosely here. This is a project that a toddler could do in 2 minutes. Seriously. Also, we picked up our materials at a grocery store so we didn’t have to go far.

Here’s what we purchased:

Look familiar? It’s the spitting image of the $30 compost pail we found on Amazon. We’re pretty sure it’s the exact same container. Only ours is a galvanized ice bucket that we found in the seasonal / BBQ aisle of our grocery store. It was $7.50.

Ours came with a little scoop, which we might use to scoop up veggie scraps or whatever into the container. We also picked up a cat litter box air filter from the pet aisle:

Most of the fancy schmancy compost pails (like this $45 beauty) boast about their charcoal filter that helps control odors. This is the same thing.

It lasts just as long (3 months) and it can be found at any pet store and most grocery stores. And it’s hella cheap because it’s not a specialty product. We paid $1.20 for one big filter.

We also needed masking tape and a pair of scissors, which we already had at home.

We removed the filter from the package and cut it in half:

We made 2 rings of masking tape and stuck them to one half of the filter. We sealed up the other half back in its baggie:

We stuck the taped side of the filter to the inside of the lid, pressing firmly to make sure it adhered well:

And, uh, that’s it, folks. We’re done. We popped the lid back on, tossed that sucker on a kitchen counter and started filling it up with food scraps and other compostable stuff.

Our filter is good for 3 months, and then we’ll swap it out with the other half that we sealed up in its baggie. We’re covered for 6 months before this thing will need any maintenance. The container is dishwasher safe in case so it’s easy to clean. It holds about a gallon of scraps, so we won’t have to go to the tumbler every day.

Here’s the materials list and cost breakdown of our quick-and-cheap compost pail:

  • Galvanized bucket = $7.50
  • Half a cat litter box charcoal filter = 60 cents
  • Scissors = already owned, so $0
  • Masking tape = already owned, so $0

Total cost = $8.10

We’d been stashing all of our compostable food scraps in a tupperware container in the fridge for 2 days before we made the countertop container. Including that stuff, it took 3 days to fill up the new container. We’re thinking we’ll be outside flipping the tumbler 2 or 3 times a week. Perfect!

We’ll keep you posted on how our new container works out for us. And we’ll be back soon with more updates from the home front. See y’all soon!

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13 thoughts on “DIY on a Dime: $8 Countertop Compost Pail

  1. I have to say, reading this post, and the one from yesterday makes me with even more that i had a garden so I could compost.
    Are you guys going to decorate your tumbler?

    • We’re really loving having a back yard — it’s still really new to us! So far, the plan for the tumbler is to make a big cement planter that sits in front of it. That way we can “hide” it. We’re planning a really manicured, modern yard and a tumbler wouldn’t fit the look all that well.

  2. That tumbler design is also useful for mixing small quantities of mortar or concrete. Wayback when Mother Earth News had similar homemade yard and farm equipment designs made from readily available “found” objects.

  3. LOL @ Handyguy…anyway I do have a compost bin in my yard but it is the rubbermaid bin that sits in one place. I had minse going for a year and I finally had the chance to use it. I planted in it and I will see if that plant acts like it is on steroids or not. LOL. I did have a problem in how to keep my scraps in the house and like you I was not about to spend $30 on a container but I opted to make on demand trips to the bin so to speak. I like your pail idea and with the filter tip I am going to keep my eyes out for something that can be converted. Thanks

  4. So glad I found this post! Our kitchen compost pail has holes in the top and came with a carbon filter but I think my husband dumped the carbon filter in the big compost bin, but he won’t admit it. And I’m not diggin’ in there! So we need a replacement filter. And, duh, where to get the filter is SO OBVIOUS now! Thank you for posting this. And we love our kitchen compost pail — it keeps us committed to composting whatever scraps we can.

    • No problem! We can’t take the credit for discovering the filter thing. We googled to see what the different components were for compost pails and there are tons of websites that list cat litter box filters. Gotta love the internet!

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