Plastic Tumbler Compost Bins

Consider these important factors if you're planning on making a tumbling compost barrel.

Compost Tumbler

Compost Tumbler

Photo by: Getty Images/Maarigard

Getty Images/Maarigard

Many methods of composting require mixing the contents of a compost bin (“turning”) regularly. Stationary compost piles can be turned by mixing with a pitchfork. Specialized tumbling bins are enclosed circular systems that mix the compost as the bin turns along its side. Enclosed bins are great for hiding compost from sight and deterring bothersome rodents and raccoons.

There are some good tumbling bins that can be purchased online or from a local garden center or plant nursery, but these can be expensive. There are some plans available in composting manuals and online that detail how to make your own tumbling bin at home.These range in complexity. The most intricate tumblers rotate by a crank handle and gears.The simplest designs are for enclosed bins that can be rolled around the yard manually.


Moist compost is heavy – one cubic yard can weigh a ton! Compost needs to stay damp to support the organisms that help all the ingredients decompose. Rolling a DIY compost tumbler around the yard can be a good way to get exercise if you think you can handle mixing regularly. Otherwise, it may be better to build or invest in a crank operated tumbler or to build a stationary bin and turn with a pitchfork.


Whether your DIY tumbler is made from a modified trashcan or some other repurposed drum, there is a finite amount of space to add ingredients. The more full the bin is, the more difficult it will be to physically turn the compost barrel and adequately mix the contents (sort of like how a clothes dryer takes longer to finish if it’s filled to the brim rather than halfway). If your home generates a lot of green waste, you may need more than one bin or an additional pile.

Drainage and Ventilation

The designs for a tumbler should include adequate ventilation and drainage holes. Many of these systems are designed to stand upright with larger drainage holes on the bottom of the bin and have smaller air holes on the sides and top so smaller contents don’t escape when being rolled on the side. If you don’t agree with the drainage or ventilation holes specified in your favorite plans, consider experimenting with your own modifications.

Bin Type

Some of the simplest DIY tumbler designs repurpose a round metal or plastic trash can. Bungee cords keep the lid shut while rolling on the side or turning with a crank. If you live in an area where raccoons get into your garbage, consider leaving the bungees on when the bin is upright too. Other designs call for a plastic drum (often used for rain barrels) with special doors with hinges. 

Next Up

How to Build a Wood Compost Bin

Before you build a compost bin, check out these tips and tricks for getting it set up and started.

The Different Types of Compost Bins

If you choose the right design for your experience level and budget, making a homemade compost bin will be easy.

Compost Worms

Learn more about your wiggling workers, including which worms are best for composting and what scraps make the best worm food.

Ericaceous (Acid-Loving) Compost

Learn how to make special compost that is suited to acid-loving, low pH plants, such as azaleas and blueberries.

Vermicomposting 101

Reduce household waste and create plant food with composting worms. Learn how with basic information about worm composting for home gardeners.

Garden Compost Bins

Learn about the many options for wood or plastic compost bins that are easy to assemble and use in your garden.

Types of Compost

When it comes to composting, there are many ways to make and use these natural fertilizers.

How Choose Worm Bins For Garden Composting

For successful vermicomposting, you need a good worm bin. Find tips on how to choose the worm bin that will for your garden.

The Benefits of Composting

Discover the many reasons that compost is good for you and your garden.

Compost Bin Basics

Before you buy or build a compost bin, understand all the options in composters to make an informed decision.

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Consult Our A-Z Guide

Everything You Need to Know

Browse a full list of topics found on the site, from accessories to mudrooms to wreaths.  

How-To Advice and Videos

Get video instructions about kitchens, bathrooms, remodeling, flooring, painting and more.

Watch DIY Downloads Now

Watch DIY Network LIVE

Don't miss your favorite shows in real time online.