How To Build a Compost Bin Out of Pallets

Updated: Nov. 29, 2023

Turn your yard waste into gold by building this compost bin from recycled wood pallets!

Next Project

A day




Free (almost)


Living a waste-free lifestyle isn't easy and doesn't happen overnight. However, small changes can add up and help you and your family produce less trash that ends up in a landfill. Speaking of landfills, that's where most shipping pallets end up. So do Mother Earth a solid and double down by composting your food scraps and yard waste in this bin made from recycled pallet wood.

First, a note about pallet wood: Pallets can be contaminated by what was stored on them, where they were used or how they were treated. Skip pallets with suspicious stains or signs of pest infestation, especially if people or pets will be touching the wood or it will come in contact with a food source.

Once you've got the wood you need, you won't need many tools and this can be built in an afternoon. And while a compost bin is a great start, here are 10 more ways to cut down on the amount of trash you generate.

I designed this compost bin to suit a household of one or two people. At 42 inches square, it has ample room for turning and will produce enough black gold for a small raised garden bed. If you produce more compostable waste than that, simply scale up the size of the bin.

Remember, always wear the appropriate safety gear when making projects!

Tools Required

  • 12-inch F-clamps
  • Chisel
  • Circular saw or table saw or hand saw
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Safety glasses
  • Work gloves

Materials Required

  • 3 to 5 wood shipping pallets

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Disassemble the pallets

  • You will need between three and five pallets to complete this project, depending on the quality of pallet wood and how tall you make your bin.
  • Carefully remove the pallet planks using a hammer and a pry bar.
  • Remove the nails from the planks and discard them.

How To Build A Compost Bin Out Of Pallets Prepare For AssemblyJay Cork for Family Handyman

Step 2

Cut parts to length

  • Leave the boards the length they are or cut them down. Just make sure they’re all the same length.
  • The boards in this project are 42 inches long and 3-1/2 inches wide. Your boards may be different. Pallet boards are usually 5/16 inch thick, but some are closer to 3/4 inch.
    • Tip: You can also make this compost bin from store-bought cedar boards.

How To Build A Compost Bin Out Of Pallets Cut The PartsJay Cork for Family Handyman

Step 3

Notch the boards

  • The width of the notch should be the thickness of your pallet boards.
  • Make a 3/4-inch-deep notch 1-1/4 inch from the ends of the boards using a hand saw and a chisel.
    • If you have a table saw or router table and are comfortable using those machines to create notches, go for it
  • On four boards, only notch one side. These will become the bottom and top courses of the compost bin.

Once you’re done notching, you should have 14 boards that are notched on both edges and four boards that are notched on one edge only.

How To Build A Compost Bin Out Of Pallets Cut The NotchesJay Cork for Family Handyman

Step 4

Assemble the compost bin

  • Assemble the compost bin like a log home; adding one course at a time.
  • If the joints are tight, use a mallet or hammer to help seat the notches together.
  • This bin was designed to be assembled without mechanical fasteners, but if you wish to make it more permanent, feel free to use brad nails in the assembly.

How To Build A Compost Bin Out Of Pallets Assemble The BinJay Cork for Family Handyman