By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
As people around the world mark Earth Day by volunteering to pick up trash or plant trees, many look for ways to continue in that spirit long after April 22. One option is to try composting, which recycles food waste that would otherwise end up in the trash and has the added benefit of being an economical way to get excellent fertilizer. As the Environmental Protection Agency explains, it can be as simple as piling up compostable material in your yard, but that method may take up to two years to yield usable compost. For less than $50, a compost bin can help speed up the process, keep animals at bay, and keep your space a little neater.The Redmon Green Culture compost bin is our top outdoor choice.
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Cheapism.com has researched two different kinds of compost bins for frugal-minded gardeners. Two of the recommendations are kitchen pails for storing compostable (and potentially smelly) food scraps for transportation outside later. The other two live outdoors and house the actual composting process.
- The indoor OXO Good Grips compost bin (starting at $20) has a tight-sealing lid that keeps unpleasant odors securely inside. With a clean, compact design, the bin is small and attractive enough to sit on a countertop. At the same time, the opening at the top is large enough to make accidental spills unlikely, online reviewers say, and the self-closing lid is easy to open with one hand.
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- The indoor Gaiam compost bucket (starting at $18) is available in two sizes, 1.25 and 2.5 gallons. In either case, reviewers say, the bins fit easily underneath the sink or on the counter, although they're not particularly stylish. These bins use activated-carbon filters to successfully contain smells, according to reviews. The filter has to be changed out every three months but doesn't cost much to replace; packs of three go for about $5.
- The OXO Good Grips compost bin is our top indoor choice.
- The outdoor Redmon Green Culture compost bin (starting at $47) is a 65-gallon plastic bin that reviewers say is easy to set up and light enough to move around the yard. Mesh-covered holes on the sides of the bin allow for ventilation, a necessity for swift decomposition of waste into usable compost. The solid unit keeps the goods contained and the snap-on lid secures tightly.
- The outdoor Fiskars Eco Bin (starting at $40) has a large 75-gallon capacity and can be folded up for storage, a feature many reviewers appreciate. The bin has mesh sides and no base, a design that allows for airflow and moisture absorption. The open bottom also lets worms and microbes get into the compost and help things along.
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Some indoor bins can see the composting process all the way through, but they typically cost far more or must be diligently tended to maintain the right mix of materials and keep the compost from smelling bed or attracting pests. The indoor compost bins mentioned above simply store several days' worth of food scraps, limiting back-and-forth trips to a bin outside. Some reviewers suggest using biodegradable bags inside these small bins to limit the mess; you can find a pack of 25 for about $7 or $8. Others just spray the bin clean with a hose after emptying the contents into an outdoor composter. The OXO Good Grips compost bin is dishwasher-safe.
The outdoor bins on the list help create optimal conditions for composting. For a speedy transformation into so-called "black gold," a compost pile needs plenty of ventilation, moisture, and heat and should be turned regularly. Expensive tumblers allow for easy churning of the contents, but with a cheaper bin you'll need to use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the compost by hand.
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