Compost Tumbler Vs. Bin (All Your Questions Answered)

compost tumbler vs bin

Compost tumblers and compost bins are both excellent options for establishing compost production in your backyard. 

However, each method has its strong points and eventual shortcomings. 

I guess if you’re reading this, you’re considering one of these compost options. 

So which one should you choose?

In the following article, I’ll compare these two systems in detail to help you confirm which method will be best for your needs.

Compost Tumbler Or Bin – What’s The Difference?

A compost bin is a static container that produces compost in situ in the garden. Compost bins are open to the ground. Compost tumblers are not open to the earth and require manual rotation. Compost material for each type differs, as does the time to produce compost and the space required.

Compost tumblers and compost bins have the same end goal;

To produce nutrient-rich compost for the gardener, utilizing organic waste from the household and yard.

And without a doubt…

Both methods produce a great end-product!

But there are some differences between the two methods, from an ingredient point of view, the composting method, the size of the units, and the time needed to produce compost.

As we compare these two familiar composting favorites, you’ll get a better understanding of the main differences between them.

This should let you decide which method suits you best and how you can apply these tools in your gardening process.

What is Tumbler Composting?

compost tumblers

This method uses a “tumbling composter” named this way because of the rotating drum containing the compost materials. The organic waste is more evenly mixed, and air is introduced, improving the decomposition process by spinning the drum.

These compost containers are generally placed on a stand to make access easier without bending over, so you can easily spin the drum.

Many different designs and mechanisms exist, but all compost tumblers work on the same concept. 

What makes compost tumblers a favored option for some gardeners? 

Let’s look at some of the advantages they offer and their limitations. 

Compost Tumbler Pros And Cons

Compost tumblers are relative newcomers in the composting arena. Still, they have become popular for many gardeners due to the benefits they offer. However, some gardeners find the limitations of compost tumblers reduce their application in some cases.

Pros for compost tumblers:

  • Fast composting. Many manufacturers make outrageous claims regarding the speed of the composting process. While the process is more rapid than some other methods, it will still take 6 to 8 weeks to produce fully decomposed compost.
  • Aesthetically pleasing. Compost tumblers look like a piece of high-tech garden equipment and do not detract from the garden’s beauty.
  • Compact. Compost tumblers take up less space than compost bins, which allows for greater versatility in placement for these units.
  • Portability. Compost tumblers can be more easily moved around the garden to more appropriate locations as the seasons change.
  • Fewer odors. Compost tumblers produce fewer odors, and any odors produced are contained in the closed container.
  • Restricted access for rodents. Rodents cannot enter the compost tumbler to search for food scraps or make nests.
  • Range of sizes. Compost tumblers come in various sizes, offering versatility for many people with space limitations.

Compost tumblers also have a few limitations, which for many gardeners are seen as significant drawbacks for these systems:

Cons for compost tumblers:

  • Limited capacity. Even though compost tumblers come in various sizes, their capacity is limited compared to other composting methods. Once the composter is full, no more new material can be added until the composting process is complete.
  • Limitations in material for composting. Not all ingredients are suitable for composting in a compost tumbler. Certain ingredients cannot be composted in a tumbler because they take too long to break down or produce unpleasant odors.
  • No access for earthworms and soil microbes. Since a compost tumbler is a closed system, beneficial microbes and earthworms do not have access to the decomposing material. They cannot assist with the composting process.
  • Cost. Compost tumblers can be relatively expensive in comparison to other composting methods.

Do Compost Tumblers Work?

Yes, it’s true… Compost tumblers work well and offer a measure of convenience for gardeners to produce good quality compost in a reasonably short time and with relatively little effort.

Types Of Compost Tumblers

Compost tumblers are available in various sizes and designs based on their intended application. For example, some are for small volume production in apartments or with limited space. In contrast, others can be pretty large for higher volume production.

Apart from size, there are two main compost tumbler types; single container and dual container composters. Single container composters have a single compartment drum where composting material can be deposited.

Dual containers have two compartments to receive organic material. When one side is full, it is left to mature while new material is deposited in the second compartment.

Best Compost Tumbler?

The best compost tumbler is the dual compartment tumbler because it increases the capacity for receiving compost material. You can also cycle compost making between one side and the other for a more steady supply of compost.

An excellent example is the Maze Compost Tumbler which has a good capacity for an average household.

​Related: full guide on how to begin composting in tumblers

What Is Bin Composting?

compost bin

Composting in a bin uses a container with no bottom where organic waste material is dumped to produce compost over time. These no-turn systems do not require the compost to be turned during the composting process. Compost bins are typically large, static containers.

Compost bins have been a composting favorite in gardens for many years. They have been around for longer than the compost tumbler. They are a proven method for producing homemade good-quality compost.

A compost bin usually stands in a designated spot in your garden and is typically seldom moved from that location. Instead, it is tucked away in the corner of the garden to limit pests and odors.

Compost bins are often preferred because of their advantages in certain circumstances for compost production. 

Like most systems, they have limitations that may cause some gardeners to use alternative composting methods.

Compost Bin Pros And Cons

Compost bins are generally considered by those with a reasonable amount of space in their garden. Compost bins are typically large, bulky, and require a relatively permanent location.

Let’s take a look at the main advantages and limitations of compost bins:

Compost bin pros:

  • Greater capacity. Compost bins have a higher capacity compared to compost tumblers. The bin capacity is typically between double to 3 times the size of larger compost tumblers.
  • Access for worms and soil microbes. Most compost bins are open-bottomed, allowing access for earthworms, beneficial microbes, and even specialized composting worms to be used as part of the composting process.
  • Continuous cycle. Some compost bins are designed to be added to all the time. This means you can add fresh material at the top while accessing completed compost at the bottom of the unit. There is usually a hatch at the bin’s base to access finished compost.
  • A greater variety of materials can be composted in bins. A more comprehensive range of compost material can be added to the bin, including material that takes longer to decompose. Consequently, materials that cannot be composted in a tumbler can be composted in a compost bin.

Compost bin cons:

  • The composting process can take longer. Compost bins usually take longer to produce compost than a compost tumbler. Still, they typically take less time than an open compost pile.
  • Compost bins can harbor rodents and pests. Rodents can burrow into the compost bin from below and become a problem in your yard. 
  • Compost nutrients can be lost to the soil below. Some of the valuable nutrients in the compost can be lost to the earth directly below the compost bin.
  • Compost bins are less convenient. Compost bins are typically located further away from the house, making it inconvenient to dispose of kitchen scraps in the compost. Their size and attraction of fruit flies and other pests generally require that compost bins are located in a little-used part of the garden.
  • Require a permanent location. Compost bins need a permanent spot in the garden, taking up too much space in a smaller backyard.
  • Less durable than compost tumblers. Compost bins do not last as long as compost tumblers. The pressure from the compost material on the inside can crack and warp the plastic structure over time.

Do Compost Bins Work

Compost bins work well as a composting method. They are often preferred over an open compost pile because they are neat and tidy. In addition, the compost is contained in a smaller area, and heat is retained in the bin to aid the composting process.

Types Of Compost Bins

There are various compost bin types manufactured from a range of materials. The most common types are manufactured from plastic, but some are made from durable woods such as cedar.

Best Compost Bin

The best compost bin should be made from robust, durable material that will have good longevity outdoors.

A heavy-duty, mid-size compost bin such as the Aero Quick Compost Bin offers a 77-gallon capacity. It is made from a durable polypropylene copolymer and contains up to 40% recycled material.

Which Is Better – A Compost Bin Or Tumbler?

The compost bins and tumblers both have their merits

The method you choose will largely depend on your circumstances and available space.

If you can, get the best of both worlds!

Many gardeners employ multiple compost manufacturing processes since each has its benefits and drawbacks. 

And with multiple systems, you are more likely to have finished compost when you need it from one approach or another!

Often, gardeners with extensive gardens use compost tumblers, compost bins, and compost piles to make the most of all the options and have a range of compost types for their gardening.

Smaller gardens could benefit from both a compost tumbler and a compost bin.

You may find that a compost tumbler is all you need in confined situations.

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