Build a Pallet Compost Bin

It's surprisingly easy to build a backyard compost bin on the cheap using recycled shipping pallets. Make your own with the help of our step-by-step instructions.

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Composting at Home

Composting breaks down organic materials like grass clippings, dead leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps, manure and many food scraps into a rich fertilizer that can benefit any garden while reducing the amount of materials thrown away in the average home by as much as 30 percent. Compost bins can be as small as a gallon, or house enormous piles and sometimes cost hundreds of dollars. Composting is a great way to live green, and the practice can be extended by using recycled materials to make your compost bin with little to no investment.

Learn More: Making Compost


A pallet is a simple wooden construction (4' x 4') that is used in shipping to stack goods to be moved by forklift. Pallets are inexpensive to produce and are often thrown away once stores have received their deliveries. Check with a manager at your local box or hardware store and they are usually happy to give them away free of charge. Four uniform pallets and a spool of baling wire or a packet of zip ties are all it takes to make a compost bin that is easy to manage, perfectly sized for most homes and will get you started with minimal expense.

Inspect Pallets for Damage

Pallets aren’t carefully crafted and can also take a beating as they are pushed around by forklift. Before getting started, inspect pallets for loose boards, splintered wood or protruding nails. Use a hammer to tap nails back into place or pull those that are bent to restore the sturdiness of damaged pallets and ensure no exposed nails will pose a hazard during the construction or use of your compost bin.

Scrub Pallet

Wipe pallets down with soapy water and scrub with a brush, if necessary, to remove any spills that may stain clothes or contaminate compost.

Baling Wire

Baling wire is a thin, flexible wire used for baling hay, but is a cheap material that is perhaps second only to duct tape in versatility for simple repairs around the house. Strong enough to hold our compost bin together, but flexible enough to bend to shape without tools, it’s a good choice for this project, although sisal rope, zip ties or even coat hangers can be used in its stead.

Select Location

Find a level, out of the way location to place your compost bin. Seek partial shade, but avoid trees with roots that may invade this rich soil. The bin should rest on bare ground for drainage purposes.

Attach Left Side

Place a pallet upright to serve as the rear wall of the compost bin and rest a second pallet perpendicular, with the corners butted together. Cut a piece of baling wire about 6 feet long and lash the top corners together, wrapping the wire around twice below the cross brace and twisting to tighten.

Secure Left Side

Use a second length of wire to lash the bottom corners in place. Sides should now be able to stand without tipping.

Attach Right Side

Repeat the attachment process with the right side of the compost bin.

Complete Structure

Once the sides are secure, adjust as needed to square the corners of the bin.

Add Door Hinge

Place the final pallet across the front of the bin to complete the box and again use baling wire to lash the “door” to a side at the top and bottom, this time more loosely to allow for movement. This corner is the hinge at which the door will pivot. The hinge may be established on either side, depending on which way you’d like the door to swing.

Secure Door

Wrap a final piece of baling wire at the top corner opposite the hinge. The door side should be wrapped below the cross brace, but wrap about the brace on the side so the wire may be easily released

Using Compost Bin

Your compost bin is ready for action. Feed the bin with relatively equal parts "green" materials like grass clippings, vegetable scraps or manure and "brown" materials like dead leaves or small branches. The open bin will usually get enough water from rainfall, but may need to be moistened occasionally if conditions are dry. Open the door as needed to add organic material or water to the compost bin or to occasionally stir with a rake or shovel. Otherwise, keep it closed to discourage pets or wildlife from entering.

Learn More: Composting Problems and How to Solve Them

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