Thursday, November 3, 2011

One Man's Trash...

The day that we moved our belongings out of our suburban condominium and into our new house, we were fortunate to have help from Stacia’s Mom.  She traveled down to Des Moines from the Minneapolis area and brought along a trailer to haul our bigger items across Des Moines.  We hauled all the furniture you'd figure we would have in a condo, plus a few other things that you might not expect.

Among the rest of our furniture, we loaded up a stack of four used shipping pallets.  These pallets had been collected from beside a dumpster, where they were likely bound for a landfill.  But we spotted them, and saw a new purpose in their future.  Stacia’s Mom didn’t even have to ask about the shipping pallets before we explained that they were to become our new compost bin.

Some parents might still be a bit confused after that explanation, but not ours. Both our families have had compost bins in their gardens since we were young, and they're definitely into the idea of creative recycling.  On top of that, Stacia's Mom is known for having plenty of “brilliantly crazy ideas” of her own.  If we had a plan to take something useless and create something of value, she was on board.

Just a few short days after our move-in we tackled the construction.  It was a pretty simple project, perfect for our level of woodworking skill.  We took our four shipping pallets (all approximately the same size), then added four L-shaped brackets, two hinges, a gate latch, and a caster.  We placed three of the pallets in a U-shape and used the brackets to hold them together.  The fourth pallet would serve as our gate, so we raised that a few inches off the ground to prevent it from dragging and attached it to one side of the U with our hinges.  We added the gate latch to the other side so that we could close it up.  The bin wasn’t quite rigid enough to hold the gate up, so we added a caster under the end of the pallet with the latch to stop it from sagging.  And here’s what we had created:

It had everything we needed in a compost bin.  It allowed us to contain a pile of decomposing material, provided needed air flow between the slats, and gave us an easy access through the "gate" to allow us to turn the pile.  We had just one problem; it was pretty ugly.  Go figure that a bunch of old shipping pallets don't exactly look like they came out of Better Homes and Gardens. So in an attempt to keep it from looking like something we snatched from a dumpster, we added a coat of paint.  And we were finished!

The color is just a bit more tropical pastel than we were expecting, but it lends a little brightness to the garden anyway. Now we’ll just fill it up with organic stuff and if all goes well, we’ll have rich compost to use in our garden next year.  It seems fitting to be turning what's essentially trash into a really useful material inside a bin that itself was saved from the landfill. We’ll keep you posted to see how it goes!


  1. Lol. I love how it looks painted!! At first glance I thought it was a picture from a magazine or something that you may have used as inspiration. Totally did not expect that you would paint it. And the color is just awesome.

  2. Love the color. Because if you can't go tropical pastel on a compost bin, when can you?