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Compost bottle bin hero image
Home composting is a great way of dealing with kitchen and garden waste and turning this into nutrient-rich soil to grow things.

This article looks at how you can take an ordinary plastic drinks bottle or other container and turn it into your very own DIY composter!

A wonderful process takes place in a compost bin. Organic waste such as vegetable and fruit peelings, weed foliage and other plant material, cardboard and ripped up newspaper are converted by millions of bacteria and micro and macro-organisms such as worms into a crumbly compost. Here we explain how you can convert a plastic drinks bottle into a simple compost bin.

  • A useful way of using up food and garden waste and recycling plastic drinks bottles
  • A great activity for all to get involved in to learn about compost and lifecycles
  • An activity which can be done all year round as and when suitable materials are available
  • Children love mud and getting messy - so this is a great activity to do with them at home
  • Encourage them to watch and photograph the composting process over several weeks
  • Task them with monitoring and recording the growth of a plant in the compost they have created once it's ready
  • 2-litre plastic drinks bottle
  • Sharp scissors (handle with care!)
  • Small pieces of cardboard or ripped up newspaper
  • Materials for different layers - see section below
  • A packet of ‘compost maker’ or ‘accelerator’ from a garden centre for quick compost
  • Water spray
  • Sellotape

Below are some suggestions of the materials you can use in your compost bottle:

  • Browns: Straw or twigs, used coffee grounds or teabags, small pieces of paper or cardboard or ripped up newspaper
  • Greens: Dry grass, soil, leaves, fruit and vegetable peelings, chopped up banana skins

A mixture of ‘greens’ (nitrogen rich) and ‘browns’ (source of carbon) are required for the composting process to work effectively. It’s good to have a mix of colours at the start of the process so that the layers can be seen clearly in the bottle.

1. Cut off the water bottle top but not completely − leave a small section to act as a hinge (NB If doing this activity with children, make a slit in the bottle first for the children to then cut around the bottle. Be careful as this can be tricky)

2. Place 2−3cm of soil in the bottom of the bottle

3. Add 2−3cm of vegetable peelings. Make sure they are cut up quite small

4. Cover with a thin layer of soil and compost

5. Add another layer of vegetables and cover with soil

Compost bottle bin 2
Cut off the water bottle top but leave a small section to act as a hinge

6. Add a layer of shredded newspaper and/or bits of cardboard and cover with soil

7. Repeat layers until the bottle is filled nearly up to the cut. The final layer should be soil sprinkled with ‘compost maker’ or ‘compost accelerator’

8. Spray with water

9. Close the bottle and seal with sellotape. It will now take several months for the material to break down into compost

10. When it has broken down into compost, cut the bottle to 2−3cms above the level of the compost

11. Plant a seed and watch it grow! You will need to water it but not too much

Compost bottle bin plant seeds
When the materials have broken down into compost, plant your seeds and watch them grow!

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Chris M and Rebecca H pulling trolley