Wooden pallets are one of those common mass-manufactured products that have so many possible post-production uses. Nonetheless, once these jobs have been completed and the pallets delivered to their destinations, they're often discarded. This doesn't need to be the case, however, especially for high-quality pallets made from smooth, dense pine joined together by superbly tough crating SCRAIL® fasteners from BECK.
Instead, you can effectively reuse pallets of all kinds for many purposes. One of these is compost boxes. Let's look at how this is possible, as an excellent example of just how versatile pallets can be in their recycled afterlife.
From Pallets to Compost Boxes
There are few outdoor household items as useful as a compost bin. The sheer quantity of leaves in the fall, and other pruned or chopped plant matter that can accumulate in these months, can spend the cold season slowly turning into a perfect soil-enriching substrate of compost. Pallet-based compost boxes are cheap and perfect for creating and storing it.
To assemble your own compost bin, you should fasten together three fully complete pallets to set up the sides and back of the structure. You can do this by standing them upright with one of the wider sides of each facing top wise and then fasten them together with holding screws or nails as you place each against the other. The outer edges of your two side pallets should be flush with the inner edge of the back pallet.
Once these three pallets are in place, firmly complete their fastening with more nail screws. To give the box additional strength, screw metal brackets into each of the newly formed bin's corners at both the top and bottom ends of the box. You now have a three-sided box with pallet walls. It's time for a door.
Adding a Hinged, Locking Bin Door
To build the door, take a fourth pallet and cut off the bottom end of it right above the level of the lowest inner and outer slats. You should then remove these slats from the cut-away piece and nail or fasten them to the shortened end of the larger pallet piece so that they overlay the cut edges of reinforcing wood. This slightly shortened (with the slats running horizontally) door can then be hinged to one edge of one of the two full pallets that form the side wall of your pallet compost box.
When hinging your door, set the pallet slightly elevated above the level of the ground (this is why you cut a small part of its bottom off in the first place). Hinging it in this position with the top of the pallet flush with the level of the other pallets of your box will give you a door that's raised, and therefore doesn't get stuck along the ground. You can now also fasten a hook and latch or simple locking bolt and hole into the edge of the door and wall pallet opposite the hinged edge.
Going for a Toxin-free, Sustainable Three-Bin Compost System
Congratulations, you've just built your first pallet compost bin! It should last long if your compost box was nailed or screwed using strong fastening systems.
If you like, you can make things more elaborate by then assembling two more compost bins right next to the first one and fastening all three together with long 2x4s along the back of them for added sturdiness. This will give you a convenient three-bin system for moving compost along as it transforms from fresh green matter to fully decomposed garden substrate.
It's worth keeping in mind that not all pallets are created equal for this kind of DIY project. Though it's being phased out through regulations, there may still be pallets out there that are treated against rot with a toxic substance called methyl bromide. You generally don't want this leaching into the same soil compost that you'll be adding to any veggie gardens.
Instead, use heat treated pallets for your compost project. They're also resilient, but without being toxic. For even more sustainable pallet projects, try fastening your assemblies with wood fiber nails like LIGNOLOC® wooden nails.
Looking For Other Crating Tips?
Pallets and crates can be used for a number of projects once they’ve lived out their use—as long as the crating was well constructed from the start. To find out how you can build better crates and pallets, check out BECK’s eGuide to crate building. It’s full of ideas and available as a completely free download.