How Do I Start a Small Compost Bin?

Avoid compost bin odor by adding enough brown composting material to balance wet fruit and vegetable waste.

Avoid compost bin odor by adding enough brown composting material to balance wet fruit and vegetable waste.

Starting a small compost bin for household use reduces the amount of waste your family sends to the landfill each week. Although a compost pile is the easiest method of composting, using a compost bin will prevent rodents and other scavengers from digging in your compost in search of food. Choose a bin that's large enough to accommodate your family's food waste and yard clippings and has a sturdy lid to keep out pests.

Pick a dry, shady location for your compost bin. If you have a home garden, put the bin near it to reduce the distance you will have to transport the finished compost.

Place brown composting materials, such as dead leaves, twigs and branches, into your composting bin. Chop up larger pieces, such as branches, into smaller bits with a shovel or machete so they will decompose quickly.

Add green composting materials, such as vegetable scraps, lawn waste and other wet items, to your compost bin. Mix the materials with a pitchfork.

Add water as necessary to make the mixture slightly damp, then mix once more. Continue this process, slowly building the depth of your compost as you have more waste to add. Do this until you have at least 10 inches of compost in the bottom of your bin.

Bury vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds or other wet items with a strong odor under 10 inches of compost. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends this depth to prevent odors. Moisten the compost with water as necessary to ensure that the mixture is slightly damp.

Mix the compost every two weeks with a pitchfork. This process should add additional air pockets to the mix, reducing odor and accelerating decomposition.

Items you will need

  • Compost bin
  • Brown composting materials
  • Green composting materials
  • Pitchfork
  • Water


  • If your compost pile has a bad odor, it is too wet or has too many vegetable and fruit scraps. Incorporate brown compost items such as dry leaves and shredded paper to restore the balance.


  • Do not add fats, oils, dairy products or pet waste to your compost bin. Items such as aluminum foil, plastic and glass also are not appropriate for compost bins. Avoid treated wood, painted wood or lawn trimmings treated with pesticides that could contaminate the compost.

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About the Author

Amy A. Whittle is a freelance writer who specializes in home improvement, green living and pet care issues. Her work has been published by Woman's Day.com, the Huffington Post and other online and print publications.

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