Compost Pail Comparison

Homegrown Neighbor here:

Just a quick product review.
Containers to hold your kitchen scraps are now common accoutrements sold in home stores. The idea is you fill them up as you prepare food and they are able to store the coffee grounds and broccoli stems without getting any flies or foul smells until you have a chance to get out to the compost pile.
I used to use a large yogurt container for this and store it in the fridge. The problem was, the container was way too small so I still had to empty it practically every day. If I was preparing a lot of veggies I would overflow, with scraps piling up on plates on the counter. My kitchen looked dirty and embarrassing. So the idea of a larger container to hold my food waste is appealing.
My kitchen has stainless steel appliances so when I saw a coordinating compost pail at a big box store, I had to indulge. But the honeymoon ended quickly. I recently bought a pail that I like much better. So I thought I would share the information.
So the pail on the right, with the holes on the top is my old compost pail. The pail comes with these removable carbon filters. A word to the wise. Never, ever purchase a product like this. I am convinced that it is a poor design, made to force you into buying more carbon filters. I actually had fruit fly larvae embedded in one of the filters. My roommate refused to even open the thing.
The pail is hard to clean. It is always scummy. The top little handle part fell off and it is inside the lid somewhere under the carbon filter. Too many parts.
The pail on the left is my new pail. It is from Gardener’s Supply Company. The design is simple- a pail and fitted lid. No holes, no carbon filters. And it is about half the price of the other one. It can go in the dishwasher and is easy to clean overall. Simple design, no parts to purchase later, I love it. It fits several days worth of kitchen scraps unless I’m doing a big meal for guests. I like only having to empty the pail every three or four days.
Of course any vessel with a fitted lid would work to hold your kitchen scraps. Many everyday containers could be used for this purpose. But I love that this one matches my kitchen and looks neat and tidy. I like that it is easy to clean, dishwasher safe, slick and shiny. No one knows what is rotting on my kitchen counter when I hide it in this pretty pail.

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  1. I own the compost pail on the right, and I love it. The filter has lasted over a year, and it never smells. I have grown some pretty raunchy messes in it to from neglect. The carbon filters are easy breezy to take out and wash off. Simply pull it out of the hole and push it back in once dry. Also that would make it possible to remove the fallen handle. Not that my handle has ever fallen off.

  2. I have the one on the right two. The air holes/filter combo mean that your compost won’t get mouldy before you take it out. I like that feature a lot.

  3. I use recycled, gallon-sized, lidded plastic food containers. I got about 4. I keep them in the garage until I can take them to the compost pile. Easy to wash. No problem with mold. No smell. If all four are waiting to be taken out, I put them in a recycled plastic moving crate and carry the crate out. I will put a shoulder strap/handle on the crate eventually so my hands can carry other tools.

    But I hear you, pretty things are pretty. If the tool works and helps you and others to compost, that is what matters. What are you going to do with the first pail?

  4. Actually, it’s the lid that makes it stink. Vegetable matter left to rot in an anaerobic environment will stink, which is why your farts stink, and why your compost pile stinks if you don’t have enough airspace in it. Also why methane digesters create methane. Vegetable matter rotting in an aerobic environment doesn’t stink, which is why your compost pile doesn’t stink if it’s aerated properly.

    I used to keep kitchen scraps in a lidded yogurt container until I couldn’t stand the fact that I had to go out to the pile nearly every day, and it rains here a lot. And I couldn’t stand the smell anymore. So I recycled a gallon milk container by cutting straight down behind the opening so that I could leave on the handle, and then straight out to the front of the jug. It’s nice because the handle makes a nice backer so things don’t go all over the wall when I toss them in, it washes up okay, doesn’t stink, and the price was right: $0.

  5. wow I gotta ask why everyone who doesn’t take out their bucket of kitchen scraps daily why they would distance their compost bin so far from the backdoor of their home?
    Kinda over thinking the issue IMHO –

  6. I have a very pretty bamboo (my house is full of bamboo, including the floors i laid) pail. it has the little holes with carbon filter. I too have experienced fruit fly larva: nas-tee. but i suck it up and just wash it out, picking them out with a knife and putting the filter (and theknife) into the dishwasher. I have a spare filter and just swap them out. works pretty well. i worry about that little handle inside breaking – but i relaly like the ‘take out an interior pail’ feature as dragging the whole thing outside, as i used to do, was not so much fun. yogurt bins are insufficient!

  7. I use a plastic Folgers 48oz container that I took home from work. The lid fits tight so it doesn’t smell and I simply rinse it out after I dump it.

  8. Hurray for the recycled plastic lidded container idea. My compost can is an old 2.5 gal pool chlorine container with the lid that screws on, much like the usual 5 gal size for paint, but smaller. I keep it out next to the trash cans.

    I can anticipate remarks about using only a food grade container for this sort of thing. I am a strictly organic gardener, but let’s face it, Cl is a sanitizer. Also, the pool chlorine came in a heavy plastic bag within the container, and I figure any residual CL has dissipated long ago. I have a similar 5-gal bucket, well scrubbed, that is dedicated to brining the Thanksgiving turkey

  9. For the first time ever on this blog, I really have a problem with this post. I’ve been pretty frustrated and disgusted over the last couple years as the “green” revolution has taken flight with the advent of infinite green magazines, stores, even an entire cable TV network. Frustrated because there is SO much real potential in such a flurry of interest for people in this country to actually think deeply about the way we live and our impact on the world around us, and live more simply, sustainably, self-sufficiently, and, implictly, creatively.

    And disgusted because instead, in typical american fashion, most people have taken this call to sustainability as yet another excuse, like we need one, to consume, consume, consume. I don’t know how many shows I have watched where people are gutting their entire houses to put in new, shiny, high-tech, and EXPENSIVE green gadgets. The priciest tankless on demand hot water heaters, rain barrels that match the trim on their 4000 square foot homes, multi-level worm “estates” that cost hundreds of dollars – and yes, stainless steel compost containers too that match all their kitchen gadgets. And not just ONE shiny stainless steel dishwashable compost bucket, but multiple because the first wasn’t exactly right? Completely flies in the face of what true sustainability is supposed to be about. Green has become its own elite culture, complete with accoutrements and price of admission.

    Coming from the third world, it is continually appalling to me to see the level of consumption and waste that accompanies “green living” in this country. There are, of course, large numbers of people trying to live truly sustainably (ie. the way most people in the rest of the world do, out of necessity) and I would count you guys among their ranks. Pleaseee don’t veer into product placement and review! Not interested!

    I LOVE this blog…which is why I guess I’m so upset by such an otherwise innocuous post. Kudos to readers with their dozens of other, better ideas for compost containers.

    Sooo, that’s all for my early morning rant.

  10. Girloftars:

    We really appreciate your concern. Please don’t worry–we’re not going to turn into a product review site. We agree that the concept of “green” (whatever that means anymore) and consumerism have become unfortunately intertwined. Here in LA a “green lifestyle” is code-speak for a certain brand of conspicuous affluence, when we all know that the best way to live green is to live simply: use less, buy less, recycle, repair, improvise, etc.

    However, we also believe that we have to pick our battles and allow ourselves luxuries. Switching from a whole-hog classic American consumerist model to a more considered lifestyle is a long term process. Transitions of this sort have to be gradual or they will not be lasting. So when I speak to people who have guilt about certain not-so-green items/practices that they feel they really should give up–like for instance, using paper towels–I say keep your paper towels. You don’t have to don a hair shirt. Just do what you can, as you can, and call that enough for the moment. My goal is for this lifestyle to be joyful and addictive, for it to be based in pleasure, not guilt.

    So we come back to compost containers. The important fact is that everyone is composting, not what they keep their scraps in. Homegrown Neighbor likes her shiny new container. It makes her happy. If it comes with a bit of a footprint, I’d say she’s offsetting that footprint by all her other practices (keeping a huge, water-wise garden, being a vegetarian, teaching gardening, volunteering, biking, etc.). It’s all about context.

    But yes, I completely agree with your main point, which is that we can’t buy our way to salvation.

  11. I gave my parents a simple human trash can: – It’s cheaper than most overpriced compost pails, and has an inner pail that you can lift out. Unfortunately my parents still bag up the compost (which then ends up sitting on the patio or the counter) which defeats the purpose of emptying and rinsing out the pail every day. To the poster above, I read an article a little while ago by a UCSC professor on the trend of green consumerism over active environmentalism. I think this is it: I admit that I’m a consumer of green products, though I do try to reduce my carbon footprint when I can, and try to set a good example for others. Whether they follow or are even interested however, is another story. :

  12. I live in town, but garden and compost at my father’s place out in the country. I only make it out there twice a week, so I need a system that will let the compost pile up for a little while before being dumped. I have been keeping two 5 gallon food grade buckets in the laundry room for the last year and have had excellent results. One bucket is full of sawdust that I get by the truckload for free from a mill. Whenever I add anything to the other bucket I throw a scoop of sawdust on top. No smells, no fruit flies, no need to keep it covered. I got the idea after reading the Humanure Handbook.

  13. We use the compost bucket on the right, a stainless steel version with a lid purchased from the fantastic Lee Valley catalog. We have had it for years now and simply love it. It’s a durable, great design– something we like to give as a housewarming gift too.

    I have found that the lid is a bit extraneous however. For most of the year in our climate (Michigan), we don’t have to cover the compost bucket while it sits in our kitchen. I empty it every 3 or 4 days, and it doesn’t give off any smell. In the summer or when company comes (!), I drop on the lid more often. The lid helps keep away the fruit flies and lowers the confusion factor of the non-believers in composting.

  14. I use a garbage can with a foot-operated spring-loaded lid. I change the removable inner bucket when I take the compost out: a few days in the elements (rain or fresh air) helps clean it out, and seems to break up the fruit fly life cycle. If it has collected rain, that water is used either in the pile or the garden.

    Before bringing it into the house, I line the bottom of the empty compost bucket with leaves, straw, or whatever else is available. It helps a lot with smell and cleaning both, and is a part of balancing browns and greens in the pile.

  15. I should’ve been clear: I rotate between two buckets, each spends about as much time empty outdoors as it spends filling up.

  16. We use a kitty litter bucket. We pulled the label off so it’s just a plain white bucket with a locking lid, and it holds about a week’s worth of kitchen scraps. No smell, no mess, no bugs! And it was free – we have three cats so these buckets tend to pile up and we’re always looking for new ways to use them.

  17. Half-gallon milk/oj carton, top opened up, with a big office black-triangle clippy, does the job, holds enough scraps to last about 3-4 days, and best of all is free and helps the reuse of a product, diversion from a landfill, and usually turns into a planter with nasturtiums here on benton way.

  18. At home I’ve got a 4 cup glass measuring cup/bowl that I picked up for free. I live in a dry climate, so I don’t worrry about a cover. I leave it on my counter top. For work I scavanged some large metal coffee cans. I talked the guy who runs a mini-starbucks in his office to bring me the grounds. And now another one of my co-workers (who moved from a house to an apartment) has some cans as well and brings me her compostable scraps.

    My backyard needs help, I need dirt.

  19. I have been using a Folgers can because I also don’t like the idea of a carbon filter that has to be replaced. This is the prettier version of what I have then—I like it and may have to consider getting one. I also wanted to share that just before I go out to the compost bin to dump my container, I top it off with water, just another way to get water to the compost so I have to use the watering can or hose less often.

  20. I actually just use a transparent green tupperware container. While that means I can see the compostable material, I can also tell when the bin is full, which is very valuable to me.

  21. I am looking for a compost pail blog when I came across your blog and find it very informative. I enjoyed reading your blog from the very beginning til the very end. Looking forward on your future post

  22. I use a large stainless steel pot. When company comes over, if I don’t take time to empty and wash it and put it away, I just pop the lid on it.

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