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Composting is natural recycling at its best. Organic waste, like mowed grass or your leftovers from dinner, make up 30% to 50% of the amount of garbage people throw away each year. While you won’t be able to compost all of your household’s organic waste, composting significantly reduces the overall amount of trash you’ll throw out each year.
When you throw out organic waste, it sits in the landfill and decomposes. During decomposition, organic waste releases a potent greenhouse gas called methane. Methane has many harmful side effects. While the technology landfills require to capture methane has significantly improved in recent years, the best method of capturing methane is to eliminate it at its source. This is one of many reasons why composting is so important. As an added bonus, composting also creates excellent food for your plants.
While many people like the idea of composting, few of us have the time required to maintain and tend a traditional compost pile. This is where investing in a home composter can be beneficial. These machines hasten the composting process and eliminate the need to maintain an unsightly compost pile.
As composting has become more popular among gardeners and homeowners, an increasing number of composter bins and tumblers have hit the market. These models vary widely in design and price, and with so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one will best fit your needs. Composting is a simple process, and a superior composter should be simple to use.
Quick look: The best composters to buy in 2019:
- Envirocycle Composting Tumbler
- Envirocycle Mini Composting Tumbler
- Worm Factory 360 WF360B
- Good Ideas CW-2X12
- Redmon Green Culture
Compost Bins vs. Compost Tumblers: Which One Is Right For You?
If you are searching for a new composter for your garden, it is helpful to divide composters into two primary categories: compost tumblers and compost bins. Although both options are effective at composting, each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the benefits and features that each one has to offer will make it much easier to choose the one that best suits your needs!
Here is a quick look at how the two compare to one another:
- Top loading
- Made from heavy duty construction grade materials
- Mixes and aerates while spinning
- Lower storage capacity
- Empties from the top
- Has a completely sealed design
- Top loading
- Made (usually) from plastic resin
- Has minimal aeration
- Higher storage capacity
- Empties from lower doors or ports
- Has no “true” bottom
Size and Portability
In terms of dimension, composter tumblers and bins are usually roughly the same size – occupying between 6—8 square feet of space. Because most compost bins feature an open bottom, they are not designed to be moved after being filled. The majority of compost tumblers are also designed to be stationary, but an increasing number of models now feature wheels that allow the tumbler to be wheeled to the location where the compost will be emptied.
When it comes to capacity, compost bins tend to hold 2 to 3 times more organic waste than tumblers. On average, a bin can accommodate 45 to 150 gallons of waste (depending on its size), while tumblers hold between 25 and 115 gallons of composting materials. The disparity is due to the design of compost tumblers. Under large loads, a compost tumbler’s drum becomes difficult to properly spin.
Because compost tumblers are usually made from construction grade materials, they are more durable than compost bins. Heavier materials are used in their construction because the tumbler must be able to support the whole weight of the materials being composted. When you are looking for a new composter, be sure to examine the central axis connection and the supporting legs for sturdiness. If the drum offers handles to assist with spinning, these should be strong as well.
Composting bins are crafted from lightweight plastic, usually a plastic resin, since they do not need to be moved. The downside to using these materials is that, over time, they will become brittle when exposed to the elements. It is not uncommon for the plastic to chip or crack with age.
A compost tumbler is designed to “turn” the compost. In general, the drum will need to be turned several times once or twice a week. Because a tumbler essentially “mixes” the composting ingredients, it makes the composting process quicker and easier. The sealed tumbler generates more heat, which hastens the decomposition of the organic waste it holds. On average, a batch of compost will mature in 6 to 8 weeks.
Using a compost tumbler is not always simple. The drum can become quite heavy as more and more materials are added to it, and larger units can require two sets of hands to turn. However, after the compost has matured, it is easier to empty a tumbler than it is a bin. If the whole batch is finished maturing, then a wheelbarrow can be wheeled directly underneath the tumbler, and the compost can be emptied into it.
By comparison, the design of compost bins makes it difficult for gardeners to turn the compost. For this reason, most gardeners simply do not even try. The lack of turning produce less aeration, and as a result, it takes longer for compost placed in a bin to mature. Although it depends on the time of year, it will, on average, take compost 8 to 12 weeks to mature in a bin.
Once the compost is mature, it is often difficult to extract from a compost bin. The mature compost is located at the very bottom of the bin and is compressed by the weight of the organic waste on top of it. Because using a shovel could potentially damage the bin, most manufacturers recommend using a hand trowel or hand spade to remove mature compost from a bin. This process can be tedious and time consuming.
Because of the additional features they offer, compost tumblers are significantly more expensive than compost bins. Generally, tumblers cost approximately 30% more than bins. The tradeoff is that tumblers are more durable and longer lasting than bins.
Compost Bin Reviews
1) Envirocycle Composting Tumbler Bin and Compost Tea Maker
- Produces liquid and solid compost
- Made in the U.S. from rust free, BPA free, food safe, and UV resistant materials
- Backed by a limited 5 year warranty from the manufacturer
- Lack of leverage makes it difficult to tumble as the composter becomes fuller
Described as “the most beautiful composter in the world”, the Envirocycle Composting Tumbler Bin and Compost Tea Maker is capable of making both solid and liquid compost. It is made in the United States from BPA free, rust resistant, and food safe materials. No assembly is required, and it comes ready to use. The top of the unit features a rotating drum that creates a solid compost, and the base can be used to collect excess liquid for a “compost tea”. Its aesthetically pleasing design allows it to be placed close to your home.
This composter bin comes with 8 unique drain plugs so you can customize your composting experience. The design features slotted vents to provide the organic waste with more air to speed the composting process, and worms can also be used to hasten the process. The simple design requires you to only turn the drum three full times, once every three days, and mature compost will be ready in 4 to 8 weeks. This model can be used any time of the year and is backed by a 5 year warranty from the manufacturer.
The Envirocycle Composting Tumbler Bin has won overwhelmingly positive reviews from its users. A very small percentage of users have complained that the lack of leverage makes it difficult to turn the drum, but overall, consumers strongly recommend this model.
2) Envirocycle Mini Composting Tumbler Bin and Compost Tea Maker
- Manufactured in the United States
- No assembly required
- Produces liquid and solid compost
- Animals can get inside the composter to eat scraps
The Envirocycle Mini Composting Tumbler Bin and Compost Tea Maker offers all of the same features and benefits as its bigger cousin – in a more compact design. Capable of producing both liquid and solid compost, this mini tumbler bin does not require any assembly and comes ready to use. The materials used in its construction are antioxidant and UV protected. This model is backed by a 5 year limited warranty from the manufacturer. The Envirocycle Mini can collect up to 1 gallon of compost tea in its base.
The drum’s deep grooves are easy to grab hold of. The drum needs only to be turned three full times, once every three days. For this mini model, mature compost will be ready in about four weeks. When the mature compost is ready, the drum can be rolled off of the base. After removing the door, the compost can be dumped and mixed in with the existing soil or applied as a top layer of soil. There is no need to use your hands or any tools to remove the compost.
Like its larger counterpart, the Envirocycle Mini has won rave reviews from those who have purchased it. There have been a handful of complaints about animals being able to access the unit’s side vents to get at the food inside the composter, but these have been few and far between.
3) Worm Factory 360 WF360B Worm Composter
- Has four composting trays (can be expanded to eight)
- Comes with a voucher for free worms
- 10 year manufacturer’s warranty
- Takes an average of 12 weeks for a tray of compost to mature
- Susceptible to climate conditions
The Worm Factory 360 is billed as the ultimate “green” composting machine for the eco-conscious household. This model does not require any assembly; although the trays must be stacked on top of one another. A purchase includes an instructional booklet and DVD to teach new composters the ins and outs of how to use this composting system. Also included is a voucher for one pound of worms (free), which are shipped separately. With the aid of the worms, the Worm Factory 360 can be used to turn food scraps, cardboard, and paper waste into nutrient dense soil for plants. The model’s thermo siphon air flow design was created to speed the process along.
The worms must be fed a minimum of once a week, but can be fed every day. The scraps fed to the worms should be comprised of 50% food waste and 50% paper waste or cardboard. The worms should not be fed citrus, meat, or dairy products. Each of the Worm Factory 360’s trays is equipped with a grid bottom, so the worms are able to migrate upward as new trays are added to the stack. This model can accommodate a maximum of eight trays at once.
Overall, the Worm Factory 360 WF360B has won favorable reviews from users. Because the worms are susceptible to extreme cold and extreme heat, some users have had to move their Worm Factory composters indoors, which has created some complaints, but most agree that this model does offer an excellent value for the price.
4) Good Ideas CW-2X12 Senior Wizard Dual Tumbler Compost Bin
- Made in the U.S. with FDA approved materials
- Comes fully assembled
- Dual chambers offer 11 cubic foot total capacity
- Removing the compost requires some amount of physical effort
- Plastic is prone to cracking
Described as the next generation of composting, the Good Ideas CW-2X12 Senior Wizard Dual Tumbler Compost Bin offers two, side by side chambers to allow two batches of organic waste to compost at the same time. Manufactured in the United States, this model is made from BPA free and food safe materials approved by the FDA. It comes fully assembled, requires a low amount of maintenance, and oversized lids secure the composting chamber from the elements, wild animals, and pests.
In total, the two chambers can accommodate approximately 50 gallons of organic waste. The drums must be manually turned every few days, and users have praised the model’s massive grip bars, which provide leverage to assist with turning the drum. The textured interior prevents waste from sticking to its interior, and additional vent holes encourage air flow to hasten the composting process. Because the lids are threaded, you do not have to worry about them accidentally popping off.
Reviews for the Good Ideas CW-2X12 have been mixed to positive. A small number of users have experienced cracking in the model’s plastic housing. A greater number have been displeased with the amount of physical exertion required to remove mature compost from the tumblers. Potential buyers should be warned that this model does not come with an instruction manual, so users will need to already be familiar with the composting process.
5) Redmon Green Culture 65-Gallon Compost Bin
- Design features four door access and lift off lid
- Made from weather resistant plastic resin
- Composting guide included
- Plastic resin cracks in cold temperatures
- Bin does not securely “fasten” to the ground
The Redmon Green Culture 65 Gallon Compost Bin comes with all of the parts required for assembly, an assembly guide, and a beginner’s guide to composting. Constructed from weather resistant plastic resin, this compost bin can accommodate up to 65 gallons of organic waste. The lift off lid makes it simple to add more waste as needed, and its four doors (one on each side of the model) offer additional convenient access points. Numerous ventilation holes provide the air flow required to hasten the composting process.
The Redmon Green Culture Bin is available in two different options: compost bin only or compost bin with an included aerator. Users have praised its simple design and the ease of assembly. The bin has small stakes that are used to secure it to the ground, and the ground essentially becomes the “bottom” of the bin. Users have experienced some difficulty with properly securing the bin to the ground, especially in windy climates.
This particular model has won overall favorable reviews. A small number of users have experienced cracking in the plastic resin when it is exposed to cold temperatures, but most agree that, for its affordable price point, it offers a great value.
The advantage of having so many different types of compost bins and compost tumblers to choose from is that it will not be difficult to find one that suits your garden’s unique needs. There is no right or wrong option to choose. Which type of composter you choose will depend on your budget, how much physical labor you are willing to invest in composting, the amount of compost your garden requires, and what your personal preferences are. What is certain is that your plants will thank you for investing in a composter.