A beginner’s guide to building a home compost bin from start to finish

Saving the earth

  • 24.06.2021

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For decades, we abused the earth – deforestation, pollution, and using way too many single-use plastics. In recent years, activists and world leaders have banded together to fix environmental issues that are leading us to our doom, in about 50 to 60 years. People around the world have also adopted zero-waste or greener lifestyles, such as urban farming and recycling, in hopes of minimising their carbon footprint.

However, we are still contributing to a huge amount of food waste that ends up being burnt in our landfills. In 2019, Singapore generated 744 million kg worth of food waste – now imagine how much smoke, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases are produced because of this? Hello, global warming.

Although we can’t possibly fix this issue overnight, we can take a small step forward by making our very own compost bins in our homes. Here is everything you will need:


  • Hand-held power drill
  • Spade
  • Plastic bin (medium to large)
  • Nutrient-rich soil
  • Straw or hay
  • Clay pots (Four of them to prop up the bin)
  • Newspaper
  • Composting worms (optional)
  • How to assemble a normal compost bin

    Step one: Drill holes

    A large component of composting requires oxygen to break down the food, hence airflow is very important. Start by drilling about eight to 10 holes on the bottom of the bin – this will help drain out the liquid that is produced from the decomposition process. Next, drill holes on the sides of the bin with at least two to three inches worth of space between each hole.

    Step two: Prop the bin up (skip this step if you have a garden)

    Trust us, you do not want the excess liquid to leak out everywhere – the smell is horrid. Place the bin over a drain or a canal leading towards the drain in your house or along your corridor. Use four small clay pots to elevate the bin so that it doesn’t block the drain entirely.

    Step three: Begin composting

    Using the spade, start with a layer of soil – it contains all the microorganisms that will eat away at your leftovers. Follow up with a layer of shredded newspaper to absorb and control the flow of liquids. Dump in your food waste and cover it with another layer of soil – the ratios should be 1:1. Top it off with some dry hay to reduce unpleasant odours and to stop flies from laying eggs in your new bin. Cover it with a lid and voilá, you’re helping to save the earth. Note, do not compact the layers that you’ve made because the little pockets of space will be useful for trapping air.

    How to assemble a worm compost bin

    Step one: Drill holes on the top

    A little different from the previous one, drill holes on the lid of the bin to allow the worms to breathe – they look weird but they are living things too. Also, these holes will allow the gases from decomposition to escape easily.

    Step two: Fill the bin up

    Pour in a substantial amount of soil – occupying at least one-third of the bin’s capacity. Next, add the worms in, don’t worry about mixing them into the soil because they will burrow down by themselves. Throw in your leftovers or your unwanted veggies and watch the worms rise to the top and nibble away.


    The contents of both bins will need to be moved around every two to four weeks to ensure that everything is decaying properly and to top off the bin with more soil or hay. As the worm bin does not have holes to drain the liquid, you will need to do this manually – just tip it to one side and pour it away or use it as fertiliser for your other house plants.

    Types of food that do not belong in a compost bin

    Not all organic material should be composted due to pests and the creation of toxic byproducts that are harmful to the environment.

    • Meats, poultry, and fish
    • Greasy food
    • Dairy products
    • Plants that died of disease
    • Vegetables and fruits that were grown with pesticides
    • Pet waste