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Are compost bins rubbish?

Compost bins
Many design faults – slatted bin and ‘Dalek’ variety

Why do so many of us not make our own compost? I blame poor bin designs at the bottom end of the market.

In an attempt to save money, I ended up buying several compost bins that weren’t fit for purpose.

For years, I didn’t make compost, as the awkward layout of the garden meant it was difficult to put a bin anywhere.

However, when I started to revamp everything, I bought a black plastic ‘Dalek’ from the council. It was reasonable, had a good capacity and fitted in the small space I had.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t great. You need a large open area around it to turn the compost, by lifting the whole bin up, which I didn’t have. The lid kept blowing off, meaning the contents either dried out or got too wet.

When any compost did form at the bottom, you had to faff about digging it out of the tiny access hole with a trowel. It’s like an endless task in hell.

Slatted bin

Fed up with it, I bought another ‘bargain’ – the square wood slatted type. Easy to put together and fine to begin with, but the whole thing has to be dismantled before you can get to the compost. It sat unemptied for two years.

My last hope was The Chamberlain Easy-Load wooden compost bin (Primrose, small 449 litres).

It has slats you can remove from the front, so in theory, you don’t have to dismantle it, making it easy to fill straight from a wheelbarrow or dig out from the bottom – with a spade, not a trowel.

It’s also available in different sizes – I bought two of the smallest.

I kept the Dalek for front garden waste (there’s a hidden alcove where it isn’t seen).

Chamberlain Easy-Load trial results

So, how did the bin building go? It took five hours of graft (including moving the compost) and is definitely a two-person job.

First, making the bins. Get an electric screwdriver – there are no pre-bored holes.

Also, the screws are a little elusive – we ended up using our own until we saw the small packet taped to the end of the second-last piece of wood.

The wood is unfinished, so use gloves. Some of the pre-cut slots aren’t a great fit, so you’ll need a rubber mallet.

Apart from this, they are quite easy to fit together but are heavy and you need space to make them, which we didn’t have.

The new bins do the job, they’re cheap, compost is easier to access and turn.

On the minus side, they aren’t pretty (hit-and-miss green preservative) and after a year, they started to fall apart.

The wood is very rough – there were a couple of chunks in vital areas missing on one of ours. Also, they’re so cock-eyed it’s very hard to get the compost out – unlike the press illustration.

The hots for Hotbin

Hotbin composter
Hotbin composter

Smart and shiny – and delivers mature compost 32 times faster than a conventional cold compost bin.

It superheats food and garden waste to 60°C, so you get rich, mature compost in 90 days, with no tumbling or rotating required.

The only downside is the price – at £185, but I’ve already spent half that on items that weren’t much good for my purpose, www.hotbincomposting.com.