8 Kitchen Compost Bins We Love in 2023


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Jan 15, 2024

8 Kitchen Compost Bins We Love in 2023

We’ve updated this guide to focus exclusively on countertop compost bins. If you want an outdoor compost bin, we have a recommendation here. So you want to start composting. That’s great! Composting

We’ve updated this guide to focus exclusively on countertop compost bins. If you want an outdoor compost bin, we have a recommendation here.

So you want to start composting. That’s great! Composting diverts food waste from landfills and slashes your climate impact, since dumped food waste is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. As a bonus, composting also helps keep your kitchen trash cleaner and less stinky.

Whether you are a DIY composter, live in a city with curbside pickup, or drop off your green waste at a community composting program, you need something to collect kitchen scraps. You can absolutely use whatever you already own—and doing so is, in fact, the most sustainable choice.

But if you want a new countertop compost bin, here are a few we love, along with tips for buying one and ways to reduce funky compost odors.

A workhouse that will last years, this stainless steel option comes with a replaceable charcoal filter and is easy to keep clean.

Another stainless steel option with a replaceable charcoal filter, this bin is sleeker and less expensive, but it’s also a lighter-weight vessel.

If you prefer the look and durability of stainless steel, and you want a charcoal filter to reduce odors, senior editor (and longtime composter) Christine Ryan recommends the 1-gallon Oggi Countertop Compost Pail. She’s used it for almost six years to move scraps from her kitchen to the curbside bin. Christine said it’s easy to hand-wash, and she reuses the replaceable charcoal filter, squeezing out excess water before air-drying it.

For a cheaper and sleeker option, architect Talene Montgomery likes the Package Free Compost Bin Container, which has about a 1-gallon capacity. Montgomery, who also designs decorative lighting, has used this bin for two years and said it’s extremely easy to clean and that the durable stainless steel construction has held up to daily use. (Montgomery is a friend and former architecture-school classmate of editor Katie Okamoto, a co-author of this guide.)

Both bins have fully removable lids, so it’s easier to fit them in a dishwasher or under the faucet to wash. Removable lids also make it easier to scrape cutting-board and countertop castoffs into the bin—no floppy lids or potentially gunky hinges. Bonus: These bins won’t contribute to plastic pollution.

This no-nonsense plastic bin with a comfortable-to-hold handle keeps a low profile, and its lid pops off for cleaning.

Over the years, a number of staffers have been fans of the OXO Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin. The compact plastic bin, which holds about 1 gallon, is lightweight and has a hinged handle for toting, and its smooth surfaces are easy to clean. Although the attached lid isn’t airtight, it is removable, which helps when a thorough scrub is in order.

Claire Perlman, who oversees our accessibility coverage, uses this bin to collect kitchen scraps and store them directly in the freezer, unlined. So she can go a couple of weeks between drop-offs. And because this pail is plastic, it's more comfortable to handle right out of the frigid cold than a steel bin.

If you’d rather keep the bin on the counter and empty it more frequently, the OXO, available in white or dark gray, is unobtrusive enough that it won’t stick out like a sore thumb. Editor Katie Okamoto used a city-provided version of this for about a year in their previous apartment in Los Angeles. They liked the ergonomic swing handle, which made tipping its (unlined) contents into the municipal green bin a breeze.

Affordable and widely available, a clay pot is a plastic-free option, and it comes in a range of sizes. But you’ll want to place it on a dish or planter saucer, to prevent leaks.

These terra cotta clay planter dishes come in a range of sizes and will keep your countertop dry.

You can use anything to collect kitchen scraps, as long as it works for your lifestyle. Natasha Pickowicz, a produce-forward pastry chef and avid amateur gardener, told us she uses a regular clay garden pot. These pots are affordable and available at most hardware stores and gardening centers, and they come in a range of sizes. A clay pot is also plastic-free, and it can break back down into clay when you’re done with it.

Pickowicz covers her garden pot with a spare plate to store spent tea leaves, coffee grounds, and vegetable peelings in her garden. She uses the scraps she collects to make a nutritious compost tea to fertilize plants. The pot would also work well on the countertop, provided you keep it on a dish or planter saucer, to prevent leaking.

If you’re interested in making compost tea to water your plants, be sure to use only plant-based food scraps. When you’re ready, tie up the collected scraps in a cheesecloth or filter bag. “I’ll let it sit in cold water in a big bucket for a day, then water my plants with that tea,” Pickowicz said.

A bowl from this multipurpose set will be freezer-safe, durable, and space-efficient, and it will move from countertop to freezer with ease. But you may want to line it, to prevent soggy scraps from freezing to the steel.

If you prefer the flexibility and portability of a bag, this nylon tote is lightweight, washable, and squishable (so it can fit in the freezer).

If you have the space, you can store your kitchen-scrap pail in the freezer between cooking seshes, as accessibility editor Claire Perlman does. But you can also just use a bag or freezer-safe bowl—like one of the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls. Between trips to the green bin, associate staff writer Ellen Airhart, an avid gardener, uses paper bags to store scraps in the freezer.

You could even reuse a plastic bag or a nylon tote. Melissa Clark, food columnist for The New York Times, uses a Standard Baggu to drop off scraps at her local composting program, since it’s lightweight and can be thrown in with the laundry. Though a bag is floppy and not watertight, it can be stuffed into odd voids and crannies. So you’ll have more flexibility to Tetris around your ice cream cartons and frozen pizza.

A heavy-duty plastic bucket with an airtight lid can hold more food waste than a countertop bin. It’s also secure for transport, but it will be hard to carry when filled.

If you go through a lot of produce, have the space, and are able and willing to lift more weight, you might want something big.

Marguerite Preston, a senior editor on the kitchen team, uses a 5-gallon bucket made of heavy-duty plastic. “Cooking as much as we do, we just couldn’t fit all the scraps we generated into our packed freezer, so we settled on the bucket,” she said.

Editor Katie Okamoto has also used a 5-gallon bucket from the hardware store for compost drop-offs. And they liked that its stability, durability, and leakproof lid made driving with a big bucket full of stinky garbage feel secure.

However, if you go too long before emptying a bucket, it may get very heavy to lift. The 5-gallon size also means all that waste can get gross in hot weather, and washing a bucket of this size in a kitchen sink can be awkward and annoying.

Preston found an easy way to cut down on odor. “Every time we dump in a batch of scraps, we cover them with shredded, unbleached paper (from items like brown paper bags or cardboard egg cartons). This seems to neutralize everything successfully.” A tight-sealing lid also helps keep bugs and stink at bay.

A compost pail is something you’ll be looking at and using every day, especially if you cook at home a lot. So a vessel that’s well designed will make the task more pleasant, and it may ensure that you stick to the habit.

Not too big, not too small. Most households need vessels that can hold about a gallon. But you could go bigger or smaller, depending on how often you cook, how much space you have, and how often you want to empty your pail.

A bin with 1-gallon capacity is large enough that even a produce-happy home cook won’t find it overflowing after making one salad. And you’ll be able to slide scraps directly into the vessel from a cutting board or counter.

At the same time, a pail this size is also small enough that you’ll be forced to take it out semi-regularly (anywhere between every night to once a week). This is a good thing! It means your pail will develop less odor and attract fewer bugs, New York Times columnist Melissa Clark said. And a smaller-size vessel will also be easier to lift, empty, and clean.

Simple and smooth, with a removable lid. Look for a pail with smooth surfaces made of a single material, like stainless steel. This makes it easy to deep clean. And a removable lid makes it more likely that the pail will fit in your dishwasher or sink, no matter the design of your faucet.

Filter optional. There are a few ways to minimize smells, like keeping your compost in the freezer or emptying it more often—especially if you’re collecting leftovers from meat, fish, or dairy. But if those approaches aren’t working, you may want to look for a pail with a charcoal filter, which can be hand-washed or eventually replaced. Ali Greer and Eric Tomassini, who run Avenue 33, a regenerative farm in Los Angeles, suggest this if you’re not emptying your bin more than once a week or your kitchen gets really hot. That said, Clark told us that even through New York City’s humid summers, she’s never changed the filter on her bucket.

And, no, you don’t need to line your food-scrap bin with anything. If you want to, though, experts recommend using plain paper bags, rather than those so-called compostable liners that look and feel like plastic. If you do want to use those bags, double-check with your composting program to make sure it accepts them in its systems, and look for the BPI logo from the Biodegradable Products Institute.

This article was edited by Marilyn Ong and Christine Cyr Clisset.

Anna Perling

Anna Perling is a former staff writer covering kitchen gear at Wirecutter. During her time at Wirecutter, she reported on various topics including sports bras, board games, and light bulbs. Previously she wrote food and lifestyle pieces for Saveur and Kinfolk magazines. Anna is a mentor at Girls Write Now and a member of the Online News Association.

Katie Okamoto

Katie Okamoto is the lead editor of sustainability at Wirecutter. She’s been studying, working in, and writing about the complexities of sustainability since 2005. Among other things, she’s been an editor at Metropolis, where she focused on the intersection of environment and design; a manager at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection; a designer; and a freelance writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, as well as a master’s in architecture, and has covered the overlaps between sustainability and other topics for publications including The Atlantic, Newsweek, and Catapult.

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