Build a Compost Bin out of Pallets

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How to build a compost bin from shipping pallets

Pallets make excellent material for building a backyard compost bin. Why? First, they’re pre-assembled so the amount of work that goes into construction is drastically reduced. Makes things easy. Second, their layout allows great oxygenation – an important component for successful composting. Third, they’re prolific pieces that many places are eager to get rid of. They get sent around so much many businesses have more than they can use, and they’d love to free up the space. Just last week on Trash Day I saw 4 pallets on the curb in Northside and I’m still kicking myself for not picking them up.

So how do you go about constructing one? You’ll need to gather your materials. You’ll need:

  • 3 pallets
  • Either a hammer or a drill (this depends on which method you prefer to use – either will work, just pick whichever is more convenient)
  • Either nails or wood screws (3 per joint is sufficient)

Wow, that was a short list.

pic2If you’d like to make a multi-compartment compost bin, you’ll just need two more pallets per compartment. You can construct these compartments side by side to make turning your compost much easier. I recommend two compartments as this gives you one to start with and one to turn into so that you can make sure your compost develops evenly.

Step 1. You’ll want to put the side wall pallets up on their sides so that the 2×4 forms your joint surface. If you try to do it the other way, you’ll immediately see the difficulty in joining two together. The back pallet you will want to lie down on its side so that the 2×4 rests on the ground. Again, if you try positioning it the other way you’ll see that joining them together becomes and “issue.” Let’s try to minimize “issues” so as to make this a success.

Step 2. With your two pallets in place, put either a screw or a nail in the top portion going from the back of the bin forward, through the thin slat of the back pallet into the 2×4 of the side wall. Put another one about halfway down and a final one down near the ground. If you’re the type who likes to really make sure things like this are secure, have at it. 10 screws aren’t going to hurt.

pic3Step 3. Place your second wall and secure it exactly like you did the first – through the slat on the back into the 2×4 of the wall. If you’re going to make a two or three compartment one, make sure on this one that you leave enough room to add a second pallet onto the back to form the rear of the second compartment.

Step 4. If you’re sticking with a one compartment bin, you’re finished with the construction. Take a look at our other article about setting up a layered compost heap to learn the best way to fill your compost bin.

Step 5. (for a multi compartment bin). Having left room on the back of your side pallet, fix another pallet, lying with its 2×4 on the ground, to the other half of the 2×4 of the side wall pallet. It should be flush with your back wall pallet.

Step 6. Finish the final side wall like you did the first one. If you want a three compartment bin, keep going. One of our neighborhood gardens has a 5 compartment bin due to the amount of waste that goes into it – it’d be quickly overwhelmed with anything smaller!

Compost is one of the most fascinating aspects of gardening. Head over to our other article about setting up a layered compost heap to see the most effective way to build your compost so that it breaks down. You’ll be amazed to see the soft, dirt like compost that develops.