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Composting and compost bins

Composting is one of the best opportunities to reduce our trash — about 25 percent what we throw away is organic materials like food scraps and compostable paper that could be put to better use as compost. Composting involves collecting food scraps and non-recyclable paper to be turned into compost in a bin in your yard. This process creates a nutrient-rich material that can be used in gardens and landscaping projects.

Free backyard composting webinar

Learn how to set up your compost pile, what materials you can compost, how to get the mix right, and more from Composting & Recycling Specialist, Kira Berglund. 

Online webinar

There is no charge to sign up, but space is limited, and registration is required.

Watch the recording of the spring backyard composting webinar (YouTube).

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About the bins

Compost bin frame

Hennepin County offers compost-bin kits for sale to help you start composting. The kits are made of cedar and wire mesh and are sold with all materials, hardware, and assembly and composting instructions included. Some assembly required.

Kits are about 3’ x 3’ x 1’. Assembled bins are 3’ x 3’ x 3’.

Bins cost $60 each. Some assembly is required. Lids are available for an additional $15 each.

Bins are built by Productive Day Program crews, which is an on-the-job carpenter training program for low-risk offenders.

Cities have varying backyard composting ordinances; check with your city recycling coordinator about your local ordinance.

Purchase bins at our drop-off facilities

Compost bins are for sale at the Hennepin County Drop-off Facilities.

Brooklyn Park

Map: Brooklyn Park facility
8100 Jefferson Highway, Brooklyn Park, MN

Loading instructions: Residents are responsible for loading the bin into their own vehicle. If you need help loading it, please bring along a member from your household.

Bloomington

Map: South Hennepin facility
1400 West 96th Street, Bloomington, MN

Loading instructions: Staff will load bins into trunks or flatbeds of vehicles. Follow staff directions.

Hours

  • Tuesday – Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Closed Sunday and Monday.

Obtaining your bin

Have a space cleared in the trunk of the vehicle, bed of truck or in a trailer before you visit.

Kits are about 3' x 3' x 1'. Assembled bins are 3’ x 3’ x 3’.

Payment

  • Bins cost $60 each. Some assembly is required. Lids are available for an additional $15.
  • Cash, check or credit card (Visa, Discover, Mastercard) accepted.

Refund policy

Our policy is not to offer refunds for compost bins. However, if you have a question concerning your payment or wish to inquire about a potential refund, please call 612-348-3777.

Take the following steps to start successfully composting in your backyard.

Get a compost bin

Hennepin County sells compost bins at distribution events and at the drop-off facility in Brooklyn Park. Many lawn and garden stores also sell compost bins, or you can search for options online to make a compost bin.

Assemble your compost bin

If you purchased a Hennepin County compost bin, see the following resources for assembly instructions:

Find a place for your compost bin

Place your bin in a convenient location for easy access. An ideal spot gets some sun, has good drainage and is easily accessible.

Each city has its own ordinances about composting, so check with your city recycling coordinator for details concerning your local laws.

Add materials

Many people understand what can be composted in backyard bins but can get confused about what not to compost.

Do compost

  • Yard waste, including grass clippings, plant trimmings and leaves
  • Kitchen waste, including fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells
  • Small amounts of sawdust, wood chips, wood ash, and small sticks
  • Non-recyclable papers: paper towels, napkins, egg cartons

Don't compost

  • Meat and dairy
  • Fats and oils
  • Pet waste
  • Weeds with seeds
  • Large pieces of wood

As a general rule, add three parts of dry, brown materials to one part of wet, green materials. Brown materials include dried grass, leaves, straw, sawdust and twigs; green materials include coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, green leaves and plant trimmings.

Home composting systems typically don’t reach high enough temperatures to break down meat, dairy, grease and oil. These materials can also attract critters to your compost bin and cause foul odors.

Feces from pets may carry pathogens that could cause health problems.

Large pieces of wood do not compost quickly and require a lot of energy to decompose, so wood should be chipped or shredded and used minimally.

Maintain your compost pile

Follow these tips to maintain a successful compost pile:

  • Keep your compost pile at the right moisture level. If your compost pile has a bad odor, it lacks air circulation or it may be too wet. Try turning the pile and/or adding dry, brown materials to the pile.
  • If your compost pile is not heating up, it may need more nitrogen or "green" material. Add grass clippings to the pile.
  • Bury kitchen scraps at least 8 inches deep in the compost pile to discourage critters.
  • You can keep adding to your compost pile as it is composting. However, you may want to start a second pile if you have enough materials.
  • Continue adding materials to your compost pile in the winter. It will thaw and continue breaking down in the spring.
  • The best pile is made up of a variety of materials.
  • The smaller the bits of compost material, the faster the pile will decompose.

For more detailed instructions on composting in your backyard, see the how to compost in your backyard flyer (PDF).

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