How to build a $15 shipping pallet compost bin

This is what my current compost pile looks like. It’s an overgrown mess. It started out 5 years ago as a little tiny pile but because there wasn’t much in the way of a boundary around it, the pile just grew until it was an unwieldy mess. I can’t even really get at the compost at the bottom of the pile because of the size and spread of the pile. Not to mention that the compost pile attracts critters because the food we add to it is out in the open.

It is time for a change. I need a good size bin to keep my compost in. The compost bin needs to be able to dissuade animals from getting at the food in the compost. The compost bin also has to have ventilation so the compost can get the air and water it needs to break down. And last, and most importantly, it needs to be cheap. That way I can spend more money on plants and flowers in the yard.

The solution is a shipping pallet compost bin. And that is what I am going to build today.

What you will need for this project is 4 shipping pallets that are roughly the same size, 4 L brackets, 2 strap hinges, a latch and the screws to attach the hardware. You can get the shipping pallets for free from almost any warehouse that ships and receives product. They will be happy to give you some as most places throw the pallets out after they are done with them. The rest of the hardware will cost between $10 – $15.

Check the slats on the pallets and hammer in any loose ones. Decide now which pallets will be the sides, back and front gate. My pallets were all the same size, but one had a plywood solid top, I decided to make that pallet the back of my bin. You will want to consider these sort of things when deciding which pallets will go where.

Match up the back and one side of the bin. Decide the best place to put the top and bottom L bracket so that the two pallets will be securely attached. Try to choose a spot that goes into the frame of both pallets, rather than the slats. Mark the rough location that the L brackets will go.

Lay the pallets back down. Attach the L brackets to the side pallet first. The L bracket will attach to the inside side of the side pallet. Attach both the top and bottom L bracket to the side pallet.

Stand the pallets back up. The L brackets will go on the back on the back pallet (see picture).

Attach the L brackets to the back pallet.


Repeat the last 3 steps on the other side with the other side pallet.


The front gate will need to be raised up a few inches so that it swings open easily. Place some bricks at the front to keep front gate off the ground while you attach it.


Attach the strap hinges to the side of the compost bin, one at the top and one at the bottom. Try to put in as many screws as you can into the pallet’s frame.


Set the front pallet on the bricks and attach the strap pallet to the front pallet.


Once the strap hinges are attached, attach the latch on the other side. I put mine way up high because I have kids and this looks like a really fun place to play jail. But I want to keep the kids out of the compost bin, so the latch it up out of their reach. You can set yours where ever you feel comfortable.

And this is the finished product. We broke out one of the slats on the front so that we have a nice opening to dump in our food and yard scraps without having to open and close the gate.

Now you can move it to the location of your choice. If you want to hide your compost bin, you can plant some climbing vines on the outside. They will grow up nicely over the pallet slats and camouflage the compost bin. And, as an added bonus, you are being environmentally friendly as you are saving these pallets from the trash.

Happy composting!

28 thoughts on “How to build a $15 shipping pallet compost bin
  1. Hollis on

    I can’t wait to build the compost bin this weekend. Thanks for the great artice and the wonderful pictures.

    [Reply]

  2. That’s a fantastic idea. I wonder if using old bets or leather from old boots would work for the hinges. They wouldn’t be as sturdy but once latched it should hold fine.

    I’ll build one next week when it’s warmer. Got lots of pallets already.

    birdoasis.com

    [Reply]

  3. Darla on

    Thanks for the idea. I was taken to your site via the “What kind of flower are you?” (I am a Daffodil! Yay!)and found this post. We have just been talking about composting more, and this may just be an answer. Any suggestions for composting in Wyoming? We live in the high desert here. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  4. Pingback:   12 Creative Ways to Recycle Wooden Pallets by The Life Hackery

  5. Amber on

    I’ve wanted to make a compost bin for sometime, and these instructions/pictures are incredibly helpful. Thank you.

    [Reply]

  6. Pingback: 12 Creative Ways to Recycle Wooden Pallets | Life Hackery

  7. Biologist K on

    Do you just leave th top and botom open? how do you get the compost out? I wonder if making the door in two parts that swong open independently of each other would work as well.
    Thanks for the great “how to” description and photos!

    [Reply]

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  10. $15 too much on

    There is no need to spend any money for a pallet bin. You don’t need any hardware and you certainly don’t need hinges. Just wire the corners together with any old scrap wire or coat hanger. If you need to open the bin up with a hinge, just unwire one corner and open it up. The wires will serve as hinges.

    [Reply]

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  14. Tellus on

    I have a friend who has 6 pallets laying around and wanted me to get rid of them for her! Now they have a home! Thanks!

    [Reply]

  15. Pingback: How to Build a $15 Compost Bin : TipNut.com

  16. Kim Clark on

    This awesome! I have been wanting a bin for sometime but didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on one. Thanks

    [Reply]

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  27. I don’t want to poop in your pancakes, but…

    Alot of old pallets have been treated with copper chromate arsenic, which, when wetted can release the arsenic into your compost.

    a cool idea, but you might want to reconsider the use of CCA or other treated wood for compost. or at least be aware of this fact when choosing your lumber.

    [Reply]

  28. David on

    I like your idea of using hinges and a latch with a raised pallet as the door. Adding a 2×4 as a brace along the top would strengthen the doorway when the door is open.

    Also, if you have a lot of small items for compost, such as grass clippings, the wide slats in the pallets will allow this to fall out. Have you considered stapling some type of mesh or metal hardware cloth to the inside to keep everything in?

    [Reply]

    Wire not needed Reply:

    If those bits fall out, they will fall DOWN, where they will be readily available. I have composted with pallets for over 20 years and it is a non-issue. Very little falls out.

    [Reply]

  29. Charlotte on

    I am going to try this. One thing to think about; I’ve found that if you put your compost near a tree, the roots will grow right up into the compost! I think I’m going to put a piece of plywood or something under the bin to stop this. Thanks Hanna!

    [Reply]

  30. robert on

    My question is in an area that rains like wa state what is the best type cover to use.

    [Reply]

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  35. quasihip on

    I built this compost bin on Saturday (3/26/11) and am super proud of my work. Finding free pallets was easy on craigslist.com (the place even loaded them on my truck for me). I built my bin a little differently than the one shown here (the door completely covers the ends of the side pieces), so I couldn’t use the hinge pictured here. Instead, I opted for a hook and eye latch. Overall, I’m thrilled with the bin and have my whole family (including my grandmother) saving all of our scraps. Cannot wait for the “gold” payoff! Thanks for the easy to follow instructions!

    (Two minor comments: I recommend including sizes of the corner braces and hinges. Guessing was tricky. Also, make a note that you added an extra piece of wood to make attaching the latch easier.)

    [Reply]

  36. Tim on

    Thanks for this article. I have 12 wood pallets and am planning to build a 2-3 bin compost bin, but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing it. This article is very, very helpful. Thank you.

    [Reply]

    David Reply:

    You have that many think about taking them apart and using the wood. Lot more work but a much better product!

    [Reply]

  37. Pingback: reusing wooden shipping pallets « saving chicago

  38. David on

    Another alternative is to dissasemble the pallets for the wook, if you have the time and energy! Get several free wood pallets from a number of places that give them away. The wood is not all that good and taking them apart is a job but worth the end product. I made my compost bin 3′ wide so instead of trying to take the nails out of the ends of the pallet I ran my skillsaw up both ends freeing all but the center support then carefully pried up each of the good slats and discarded the damaged ones. I also kept the 2″X4″s. Lots of work and you need to take these apart in an area that you can clean the extracted nails up.
    I had a lot of other scrap wood around so these salvaged pallets served as side slats and door framing. I built a 6′ wide by 3′ deep by 4′ tall bin with a center divider. I spaced the slats 3/4″ on the bottem and 1 1/2″ on the sides. I have not used it much yet but if too much falls through I will just tack wire mesh over the slats.
    Lots of work to use scrap lumber but if you make it 6′ wide and 3′ deep it seems you can usually find lots of scraps to build one cheap. I just used anything I could find and when it rots, I will build another. The wood and nails would have cost at least $300 so I am ahead no matter what. The only downside is there is lots of work sorting, measuring, planning and cutting from scraps, not to mention the work taking old nails out of pallets etc.
    Get as much wood and sort it before you start, might need to make some adjustments on size!

    [Reply]

  39. Debmom4ca on

    A friend of mine has had a pallet bin for years. She has run re-bar through it part way up. As the material breaks down it falls through the grid and is easier to get at.

    [Reply]

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  41. Dear Hanna,
    This is a lovely article! I’ve linked it to our UK website in recognition…We were lucky enough to have pallet boxes which I turned upside down on scrap bricks, made a lid out of what was the base, lined the inside with scrap plastic sheet and…it seems to work in soggy northern England. Thanks for the article, it brightened up the day….

    [Reply]

  42. I have a question – won’t the compost damage the wooden bin? I mean, most compost bins are made of non-biodegradable materials for a reason, right?

    I use an old bottom-cracked water tank as a compost bin – I cut off the bottom half of the front (it’s a cube-like thing) and made some snaps and channels to slide the ‘door’ side-wise. And painted it black to absorb more heat. It works fine.

    [Reply]

    $15 too much Reply:

    Yes, in 5 to 10 years the pallets will rot. When they are no longer serviceable, add them into the compost bin made with new used pallets!

    [Reply]

    Cathy Reply:

    Nice plan, ha! A bio-degradable bio-degrader! A decomposable composter! Me likey. :) But they’d last as long as 5-10 years? Well I guess it all depends on the wood in question…

    Come to think of it, this could be a nice title for a new article — would you mind if I share your info in one of my posts? With credits of course.

    [Reply]

    Hanna Reply:

    Sure, feel free. :) Happy gardening!

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