Composting: Never A Bin Easier

I’m one of those “crunchy-granola” types. I clean my bathroom with baking soda. I bring my own shopping bags. I drink soy milk. It’s a radical lifestyle—except that it isn’t, of course. My day-to-day, like most people’s, is ruled by practicality. I like cheap and easy just as much as the next guy, and when those intersect with health and sustainability, well, don’t mind if I get on board.

Which brings me a delightful, dirty, little-known secret: If you live in Phoenix, you can snag a compost bin for $5 or less… I may have just soiled myself.

Cities across the Valley repurpose their damaged recycle and trash bins by cutting the bottoms off and drilling holes in all sides, turning them into compost bins. I took a 15-minute drive to a Phoenix disposal facility and picked one up for five bucks. Depending on what area of the Valley you live in, you may be able to get one just by making a phone call. (More info below.)


According to the City of Tempe website, roughly 25% of all waste taken to our landfills is some type of organic waste. In a landfill, these materials can’t get the air and water needed to decompose, so they remain as they are, taking up space.

Composting, on the other hand, turns those materials into nutrient-rich soil, meaning fewer trips to Home Depot, and plants that require less water, fertilizers and pesticides. And it’s easy-peasy to do.

This is the tin I store my kitchen scraps in—found at Goodwill. I keep in my fridge, then empty it into my compost bin when it’s full.


Which doesn’t take much—it’s a small tin. As you can see, I lined it with an old Gladware container.

Have you never composted before? No sweat, I hadn’t either. Here’s a crash course:

Layering a fairly equal mix of green and brown material in your bin will make for the best pile. Large pieces should be broken down to speed decomposition. If all goes as planned, you should expect your first batch of compost in about two months.

Brown Material

  • dead leaves
  • chopped twigs, branches
  • saw dust, wood chips
  • shredded newspaper, cardboard

Green Material

  • vegetable and fruit scraps
  • bread, pasta and rice scraps
  • crushed eggshells
  • coffee grounds (with filter), tea bags
  • fruit juices

*Cover any food scraps with a layer of brown material—keeps pests away.


  • glass
  • plastic
  • meat
  • pet feces
  • lard, butter
  • cheese, milk
  • cooking grease, oil
  • oily or greasy food, paper
  • herbicide-treated grass or other clippings
  • diseased plants

Turn the material every week or two. If the material seems dry, add water as you turn it. Watch this guy for proper form.

The pile should be kept damp, similar to a wrung-out sponge. Add water as you add to the pile, and as needed during the summer months.

Smelly bins need more oxygen. Make sure your pile has enough brown material and is mixed thoroughly.

The hotter the pile, the faster it will decompose. Decomposition happens between 110 and 160 degrees.

Full instructions from the City of Phoenix are available here.

Ready to get on the five-dolla bin bus, Phoenicians? Here are the deets:


  • Free bins
  • Available for pick up at the Recycling-Solid Waste Collection Center
    Thursday – Monday, 8 AM – 4PM
  • Residents must provide a copy of their City utility bill showing city-provided solid waste service and photo ID
  • Free backyard composting workshops available
  • For more information, call 480-782-3510


  • Free bins
  • Delivered to your door
  • To request a bin, call 623-930-2660


  • $5 refundable deposit for bins
  • Delivered to your door, may take up to a week
  • To request a bin, call 480-644-2221


  • $5 bins
  • Available for pickup at a disposal facility
    Monday – Friday, 5:30 AM – 5 PM and Saturday, 6 AM – PM
  • For more information, call 602-262-7251


  • Free bins
  • Delivered to your door, may take up to two weeks
  • To request a bin, call 480-350-8265

…Next thing you know, you’ll be printing double-sided and timing your showers. It’s so easy being green!


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