The Best Countertop Compost Bins

We did the smell test so you don't have to.

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compost bins

Vicky Wasik

One of the many problems associated with food waste is getting rid of it. According to the FDA, food waste represents the largest category of materials in landfills, which contributes to methane gas emissions.

One way you can contribute less to this growing problem is by composting your food scraps, like coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable peels, and apple cores. Instead of throwing these items into trash bags destined for landfills, you can collect them and either compost them on your own or handing the scraps off to a community or municipal composting program.

The first thing you'll need if you want to get into composting at home is a bin to collect those scraps. To be clear, this is not a review of backyard composting setups that actually transform your scraps into compost and are also, confusingly, sometimes referred to as "bins." This is a review of scrap-collection bins that are typically kept in the kitchen and used to hold onto the scraps until you take them to a place where they can be composted.

Which bin is best for you depends on what your plan is for those kitchen scraps, how much space you have on your countertop, the amount of scraps you're going to produce, and how often you’ll be emptying it. After a variety of tests measuring smell, capacity, and even fly attraction, there were four bins that stood out from the rest. You can read more about them below.

Our Favorites, at a Glance

Best Stainless Steel Compost Bin: Enloy Stainless Steel Compost Bucket

The Enloy bin won top marks in two out of the three major tests we performed. Over the course of two weeks, the bin never smelled from the outside and I didn’t observe any fruit flies or bugs. And with a 1.3-gallon capacity, it’s bigger than most of the other stainless steel models I tested, which is important if you cook a lot or have more than one or two people contributing to the bin. The Enloy bin’s main compartment is simple to clean; however, cleaning the lid is a little more difficult, since it houses two charcoal filters for smell absorption and it isn't intended for the dishwasher.

Best Plastic Compost Bin: OXO Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin

OXO's compost bin is dishwasher-safe and has an easy-to-open lid that can even be flicked up and down with the wrist of an otherwise food-covered hand. Plus, its 1.75-gallon capacity is more generous than many. (This particular bin is used by Daniel and has his seal of approval.)

Best Large Capacity Compost Bin: BioBag Ventilated Compost Bin

This bin by BioBag can hold three gallons of scraps, which is ideal if you have lots of cooks in the kitchen, a big family, or you know you won't be able to empty the bin very often. It didn’t emit any smells until the last few days of testing, and it’s dishwasher-safe. Since this bin is ventilated—open on the sides and top—you'll need biodegradable bags to go with it. 

Best Compact Compost Bin: Minky HomeCare Food Caddy

Of all the filter-free bins we tested, the Minky was the best. It only started to emit odors toward the end of the testing, and I didn’t find any bugs. If you live on your own, have a small kitchen, or don't cook very often, this compact, 0.9-gallon bin is perfect. Its plastic body is very easy to clean and is dishwasher-safe. 

Minky Homecare Food Compost Caddy

Why You Should Trust Us

I performed rigorous tests on these compost bins for a total of two weeks, adding the same amount of new food scraps approximately every other day. I tested a total of 12 bins; they were chosen based on recommendations from experts, user reviews, and competitor research. 

I’ve been composting my whole life. It started as a child when I would shuck corn directly into a compost pile in my rural Connecticut backyard. In college, I dropped off food scraps at the campus farm. When I moved to Brooklyn, I collected scraps in my tiny kitchen and dropped them off at markets and community gardens. I’m committed to this practice, and I want to make it easy for you to be, too!

What Is Composting?

Scraps in a compost bin

Vicky Wasik

Put simply, composting is the process by which food scraps and other organic materials like twigs, leaves, and paper are broken down and converted into nutrient-rich soil. For these items to decompose, a few elements are needed, namely time and heat. 

After collecting your food scraps at home, the next step is to bring them to a drop-off site like a farmer’s market, community garden, or farm, or to add them to your own compost pile. Depending on where you live and your lifestyle, one of these options will be right for you. For more information on composting and how to do it, read our in-depth guide to composting.

Why Should I Compost?

Composting is sometimes referred to as “food scrap recovery” by experts and advocates because the process of composting cuts down the amount of organic materials that enter the waste stream. And that’s something we can all get behind.

This process contributes to a healthier planet by allowing organic material to decompose and become soil amendment instead of rotting in a landfill and producing methane gas. In other words, “you are positively affecting our atmosphere,” says Marisa DeDominicis, executive director of Earth Matter NY, a composting organization in New York. 

“Keeping your scraps out of the landfill means less methane released,” said DeDominicis. “We like to say it’s the most basic way that people can feel that they’re affecting climate change.”

Criteria: What We Look for In a Good Compost Bin

Not all compost bins are alike. Important considerations include size, appearance, price, and functionality. Depending on how you plan to use the bin will dictate which bin is best for you, but here's what we think is essential: Each bin must be able to contain smells so that composting isn’t a process you regret! For example, if you add onion skins and banana peels on Sunday and by Tuesday you can smell them, the bin isn’t doing its job.

The same is true for bugs. A fruit fly here and there isn’t a deal breaker because, let’s face it, you are dealing with edible plant matter and fruit flies are good at finding it, but the last thing anyone wants is to have to deal with a lot of pests. You can avoid pest problems by selecting a well-sealed, low-odor bin and by following basic home composting rules.

In major cities that have city-wide composting programs, like San Francisco and New York, more items are accepted in compost bins, like meat and dairy. But for the home composter or someone who drops off food scraps at collection sites in smaller towns and cities, meat and dairy are a no-no. They attract insects and animals, and break down at a far slower rate. 

“You want things that are going to smell less,” explained DeDominicis. “Just think about it, a putrid piece of meat? When in doubt, keep it out.”

Another tip for your counter-top bin: keep the very wet materials to a minimum, or be sure to add some dryer materials alongside them. This will prevent leaks, minimize smells for at least a couple of days into collecting, and insects. 

Size

compost bins

Vicky Wasik

You'll need to consider the size of your bin from a number of angles. The ideal compost bin size for you is going to depend on how much storage space you have on your counter or elsewhere in your kitchen. The number of people in your household and the frequency with which you plan to drop off collected material will also affect how much capacity you need. 

If you have a compost pile or system at your residence, you may be planning to dump your bin every day or so and consequently will require a smaller size collector than a person who will be dropping off a small family’s worth of compost at a community garden once a week.   

Filters

Compost bin filter

Vicky Wasik

In general, compost bins are available in either stainless steel or plastic. All the fully stainless steel bins we tested came fitted with lids with holes at the top for air filtration and space inside for charcoal filters, which absorb odors. While some manufacturers suggest replacing the filters every three months, others say filters can be washed or put in the dishwasher and reused. DeDominicis says she routinely puts her filter in the dishwasher and that it lasts for about a year. 

Some manufacturers send extra filters with each purchase, but down the line filters will be a small additional cost. Most of the lids that hold filters are also difficult to clean (and not dishwasher-safe) because of the lip that holds the filters in place.

Bags

Biodegradable bags are only a necessity for ventilated bins like the BioBag bin we tested, but many composters choose to use them in order to keep their bins clean and to make it easier to take their material to drop-off sites. Made out of compostable resins, they decompose because microorganisms eat and digest them.

There are a few considerations to keep in mind though. First, does your compost site of choice accept biobags? While the bags should break down in about a week’s time, some sites don’t want them commingling with the rest of their organic materials. Second, depending on which bin you’re using and how often you plan to empty it, the biobags may not work for you. In a closed container like a stainless steel or plastic bin, the bag will start to break down much sooner than in a ventilated bin because they are designed to do just that. So if you want to use a closed bin and empty your scraps once a week, the bag may degrade in spots and tear, rendering the bag useless. 

Lastly, if your goal with composting is to truly have an impact on the environment, your good deed is diminished if you use a biodegradable bag. That’s not because they don’t break down, but because there's an additional carbon footprint associated with the bag production. In the case of BioBags, they're manufactured in California with a starch-based resin product from Italy. 

Appearance

Aesthetics are subjective, but a bin’s appearance will undoubtedly influence your choice. This relates back to size as well; a smaller bin will blend into a kitchen with less space than others, for example. 

Functionality

Compost bin in the dishwasher

Vicky Wasik

For the purposes of compost bins, functionality refers to how easy they are to use and clean. Food scraps can be messy and they can be hard to handle, literally! In our testing we considered if the bins were a challenge to clean after being emptied, and if they were simple to use in the first place. 

For many, easily opening a bin with one hand while grabbing scraps to toss in with the other is a major bonus. Some of the bins allowed this and others required two hands to open. And when it comes to cleaning the bins after emptying, some are dishwasher safe—a huge plus for some folks who don’t like to get their hands too dirty scrubbing old onion peels. As noted already, bins with lids that hold filters can be difficult to clean, and this is especially true if the lid can’t go in the dishwasher. 

Price

Every household and individual has a different price point they’re comfortable with for kitchen items like this. We tested bins that range in price from $15-$50. 

The Testing

Over the course of 14 days I tested for smell, leaks, and bugs. All the bins were kept on the same table in my eat-in-kitchen and temperatures were checked in order to maintain the environment for each bin. I recorded a range of 65-68°F during the day. 

Because organic materials break down at a faster rate when it's warmer, it’s important to consider where you're storing your compost bin. A compost bin stored in a dark spot under your sink will be cooler than a bin kept in direct sunlight on your counter. 

Test 1: The Smell Test

Scraps in a compost bin
Vicky Wasik.

Most of the concerns around collecting food scraps come down to one thing: smell. Our smell test was conducted over the course of two weeks, which is longer than most people will keep compost in their kitchen, but we wanted to really push the limits of these bins. Here’s how we did it: 

First, we needed to establish a baseline for each bin, so I designated a spot in my eat-in-kitchen as the compost testing area. I set up a card table and put each bin in a designated spot. Then I prepped the exact same amount of scraps for each bin. The bins started out with a good amount of compost and then over the course of the testing I added more materials; the same amounts and types to each bin. The reason is that if you’re collecting compost scraps you will be adding to the bin on a near-daily basis if not everyday. We wanted to replicate that.

Here's what I added:

 Day 1 1 banana peel from a medium sized banana
1 egg shell
¼ cup warm coffee grounds
Carrot peelings from 1 average-sized carrot
130 grams of honeydew melon skin and seeds
1 sprig of parsley
Onion peels and scraps from 1 medium-sized onion
 Day 3 2 teaspoons of warm coffee grounds
3 large grapes, cut in half
 Day 4 2 teaspoons of warm coffee grounds
Potato peels from a medium-sized potato
½ an egg shell
2 radish leaves/sprigs
 Day 5  3 baby spinach leaves
 Day 6  1 teaspoon warm coffee grounds
 Day 7 6 pistachio shells
¼ an avocado peel
½ a banana peel
2 teaspoons warm coffee grounds
 Day 9 20 grams honeydew melon
8 grams ripe avocado
2 teaspoons warm coffee grounds
 Day 12  2 teaspoons of warm coffee grounds

I then tested each bin for smell on days 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 14. Since all the bins were kept together in one place, in order to accurately gauge whether each bin was emitting any smells I took each one to the powder room. I smelled each bin from 6 inches away and recorded my observations. 

Test 2: The Bug Test

On the same days I conducted the smell tests, I also looked inside each bin and inspected for fruit flies or other insects. The most common insects to see in or near a compost bin are fruit flies, just like you may see some near a bowl of ripe fruit on your counter. That’s because they are attracted to the fermenting alcohols found in fruit and other produce as those materials biodegrade. 

A few fruit flies in your bin is no big deal, just empty it and rinse your bin out. Sometimes infestations can occur, especially in bins with charcoal filters if the lids and filters aren’t cleaned well enough. This is something to consider if you choose a filtered bin. 

Test 3: The Capacity Test

Compost bin with scraps

vicky wasik

The quantity of food scraps each bin can hold served as the basis for the last test. Over the course of one full week, I collected the food scraps produced by my family of four (two adults and two kids ages 3 and 5). I conducted this test as a way to show which bins may be best for you if you have a family or roommates, or if you just produce a lot of food scraps.

We cook and eat a lot in my house, and at the end of the week I weighed my scraps. The total was 4 pounds, 4 ounces. I collected the scraps in a regular grocery store plastic bag, so that I could then shove the bag brimming with apple cores, cucumber peels, coffee grounds, and garlic skins into each bin to see what would fit. Only two out of the 12 bins we tested were large enough to hold all of my scraps, which is an important consideration. If you plan to empty your bin more often than once a week, one of these smaller bins could serve your needs, but if you drop off weekly at a community site, you’ll need to go with either the BioBag or the Exaco. 

It’s important to also note that food scraps are not of a uniform shape. That complicates the comparison of the weight of food scraps to the volume of space available in each bin. But this measurement can still be used to roughly determine if the size of the bin will be suitable for your compost needs. 

How We Chose Our Winners

I chose the bins to recommend based on how each one performed in my tests. If a bin was smelly early on, it was disqualified, and if a bin never smelled it shot to the top of the list. I also lightly considered user experience, from how easy they were to clean to functionality and aesthetics. Lastly, price was a factor, though it’s important to remember that, like size and the way they look, the importance of the price is subjective.  

The Winners

Best Stainless Steel Compost Bin: Enloy Stainless Steel Compost Bucket

Enloy Compost Bin

Vicky Wasik

The Enloy bin performed perfectly in both the smell and bug tests. Over the course of two weeks it never emitted any odor and I didn't see any fruit flies or bugs. This is likely due to the fact that this bin uses two carbon filters to absorb odors instead of one. In terms of appearance, it’s a traditional stainless steel composting bin with a lid with holes on top to allow air to pass through. It looks fine on your counter, though if you have space beneath your sink, that’s where I'd store it. It’s also a bit bigger than the other stainless steel bins, with its 1.3-gallon capacity. One downside is the lid is tough to clean, but the price is on the lower end, at $21.95. 

Best Plastic Compost Bin: OXO Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin

OXO compost bin

Vicky Wasik

The OXO bin has a clean, sleek appearance, and with its 1.75-gallon capacity, it's bigger than most of the bins I tested. It’s super easy to use, which is a bonus for the home cooks who want to quickly flip open the lid and add materials as they prep ingredients. It’s also easy to clean (dishwasher-safe, no filters). My testing showed it started smelling by day 9, which may not make this the best choice if you're not going to empty it very often. 

Best Large Capacity Compost Bin: BioBag Ventilated Compost Bin

Biobag compost bin

Vicky Wasik

The BioBag bin is the only bin I tested that requires the use of a plastic bag liner. In my case, I used the BioBag brand biodegradable composting bag that breaks down alongside the food scraps. The bin, completely ventilated and with an appearance similar to a hand-held grocery basket, allows air to circulate around the bag, which keeps it from decomposing too quickly and also keeps smells at bay. This isn’t a cute or attractive bin by any stretch of the imagination, but aesthetics aside, it was also one of two bins that was big enough (3 gallons capacity) to hold a week’s worth of scraps. I did not notice any smells until day 11, and it’s also very easy to clean and is dishwasher-safe. At $14.99, it’s very affordable, but bio bags are required and cost about $20 for 100.

Best Compact Compost Bin: Minky HomeCare Food Caddy

Minky Compost Bin

Vicky Wasik

 Of all the filter-free bins we tested, the Minky was the best. It only started to emit odors toward the end of the testing on day 11 and there were no bugs. This bin is small, with its 0.9-gallon capacity, so it's not a good choice for someone who creates a lot of food scraps or who won’t be emptying the bin every couple of days, but it’s a cute option for a small kitchen. It’s also extremely wallet friendly at $14.99.

Minky Homecare Food Compost Caddy

Competition

Bamboozle: The Bamboozle is probably the most aesthetically pleasing of the bunch, and it’s made out of biodegradable bamboo fibers, but it’s on the smaller side and had a slight smell from the beginning of testing—despite having space for one charcoal filter. It's also one of the only bins where I found fruit flies. This bin is easy to open and is dishwasher-safe.   

NorPro: The NorPro almost made it into the top three; it didn’t smell at all or have any bugs. It lost points because it was difficult to use and clean, and it's pricey at $40. The lid has two charcoal filters, which do a good job absorbing odor, but they're difficult to remove. They also make the lid harder to clean. The nail in the compost coffin: It's small (one-gallon capacity).

SimpleHuman: The SimpleHuman compost caddy is directed to a very specific consumer: a SimpleHuman garbage can owner who produces very few food scraps. While it holds 4 liters, the bin is very narrow and difficult to fill with more oddly shaped scraps. The bin started smelling right away and by day 9 the scent was strong. A few benefits though: The plastic insert is very easy to clean and use, and doesn't require filters.

RSVP International Endurance: This stainless steel bin’s capacity is small (1-gallon capacity) and despite having two charcoal filters in the lid, it began to smell at the beginning of testing, which got stronger as the days passed. On the plus side, this is the only stainless steel bin that’s dishwasher safe. 

Utopia : This bin smelled very slightly throughout testing and only has one charcoal filter. On day five, I found fruit flies. This bin was also difficult to use because the lid was sticky and tight; it required two hands to open.

Exaco: The Exaco is one of the two largest bins we tested, with a capacity of 2.4 gallons. It’s tall, at 12 inches high, so it may not work in cramped kitchens. It had a slight smell from the beginning of testing, which got more pronounced on day 14. The Exaco has a small charcoal filter in the simple plastic lid, and is simple to clean.

Gran Rosi Stylish Farmhouse: This cutesy design-forward take on the traditional stainless steel bin gives off country vibes, but a slight odor was detected at the beginning of testing that got stronger over the following days. The bin has one charcoal filter and a difficult-to-clean lid.

iTouchless: This stainless steel bin is made out of titanium, according to the marketing, and fingerprint proof, which I did not find to be totally true. This bin is larger, with a 1.6-gallon capacity, and has a plastic liner that can be taken out for simple cleaning, though it’s not suitable for the dishwasher. The bin is designed with a small, battery-pack looking compartment for a small odor-absorber, which comes with the bin, but it started to smell early on in the testing.