The Kitchen Trash Can: The Most Used Item In The Kitchen 

 July 31, 2022

By  Ryan

When we are redesigning our kitchen, we rarely ever give much thought to how our kitchen trash can fits into the overall design. Usually, it’s an afterthought and something we just randomly pick up at our local hardware or big box store.

Typically, we’ll end up with some plastic thing that doesn’t offer much more than a place to throw our waste in. Of course, that is what the trash can was intended for. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t treat it with a little more dignity, right?

As you read through this guide, we are going to pay the kitchen garbage can a little bit of respect. We’re going to talk about the history of the trash can and how they’ve evolved over the years.

The History Of The Trash Can

Ever since the beginning of Human-kind, there has been garbage. Over the centuries, there have been various methods that have been used to deal with the mess that we humans create. It wasn’t until 1875 when garbage collection became an official system in England. The first trash bins weren’t used to hold scraps of food, packaging, and dirty diapers like they do today.

No, they were used to store ashes that were left over from burnt waste. These ash bins were emptied on a weekly basis, and the British people were charged a fee—even if their trash can was empty!

It took a decade for the United States to pick up on the system and the first comprehensive waste management plan was formed in New York City.

When burning garbage became a typical practice in 1914, carts pulled by horses would be replaced by the motorized carts. Think of it as an old time trash truck!

Over the next couple of decades, inventions like plastics and disposable razors have been appearing all over.

By the late 1960s, people were sorting their trash. This created the need for more recycle and trash cans. No wonder there was a need for more bins!


The rate of which American’s consumed garbage skyrocketed and this is when we began to see articles in home magazines describing various ways to conceal the trash can or how to make a decorative kitchen trash can out of the generic one they had at the time.

By the 80s, people started painting and decorated them. Why, the garbage can even come in unique shapes like a dolphin if you were on the coast or bear-proof trash cans in the woods.

The traditional kitchen trash can didn’t start changing its look until the 80s when townships would have trucks driving through the town and picking up the garbage bins with the arm on the truck.

Today, we focus as much attention on recycling as we do on garbage collection, and it isn’t uncommon to see homes with recycling and trash cans out on the curb, ready for pick up. 

The Trash Can

When you look at garbage cans, you notice that there are two different types of trash bins that you could select—an indoor can and an outdoor can.

Outdoor trash cans are much larger and heavier than the kitchen trash can, and even if you have large trash cans in the home, you probably wouldn’t want to use it outdoors because it may not be strong enough to withstand the elements.

Indoor Trash Cans

When you are looking for a garbage can for inside the home, there are some things you’ll want to consider first before purchasing it. Naturally, you’ll want a trash container that is going to resist odor and is easy to clean so that it stays smell-free.


Some kitchen trash cans feature germ or odor resistant properties which can be a big selling point, especially if you or someone in your family has a sensitive nose and can pick up on the foul odors. We use plastic garbage bags to help cut down on the accumulation of odors, but if you’re using a wooden trash can, the odors can seep into the wood and stay there.

The most common places that need trash bins are the bathroom and kitchen. Although, you may want to have small trash cans in a nursery, a craft room, or office.

  • Bathroom - you’ll want a trash can that is easy to clean, and is in a coordinating design that will match your bathroom décor. If you’re going to leave the can out in the open, you might want to have a lid on it, especially if you have pets or small children who could get inside the bin and make a mess or eat something that could be harmful if ingested.
  • Kitchen – Most people who are looking for kitchen trash cans will have step cans. These trash cans have a lid on them and a pedal on the bottom so you can throw things away without having to touch the lid. The touchless garbage can is growing in popularity because they are convenient and keep the germs and odors contained.
  • Nursery – Folks who have small children that need diapers will often have a touch-free trash can near the changing table. With a small trash can in the nursery, you can dispose of the used diapers immediately without having to leave the stinky diaper in the kitchen trash cans, which could allow the odor to waft each time the lid is opened.
  • Craft Room – In a craft room, a recycle and a trash can would come in handy. Just imagine how much easier it would be to wipe all the remains from the craft you’re working on right into the trash bin, instead of trying to contain it and walk through the house to get to the kitchen trash cans.
  • Office – If you do a lot of paperwork in the office or shred a lot of stuff, you’ll want a garbage bin in your office to keep things neat and tidy.

Outdoor Trash Bins

In most communities, the waste management service will provide you with recycling and trash cans.

However, there are some communities that will not, and you’ll have to get your own garbage bins. For those who need to find their own trash cans for outside, you should focus on durability, how stable it is, and what type of material the trash can is made out of. Ideally, you’ll want either plastic or metal trash cans because they are able to take a beating.


Another important feature to consider when choosing a trash can for outside is that it will have a lid that fits securely on the can. This lid will prevent animals from getting in the garbage and making a huge mess.

How To Choose Trash Can Sizes

When you look at trash can sizes, you’ll see that they range from very small (often small enough to fit on your desk) to as large as 96-gallon (typically used outside or in a garage). Of course, if you’re looking for a kitchen trash can you’ll want something that will hold all of your garbage without taking up too much space.

To choose which size trash can you need, you first need to think about the size. You know how much space you have for the can, but you also want to think about your family’s trash habits.

Do you make a lot of waste, do you recycle, or do you try your best to minimize the amount of garbage you accumulate? When you are aware of your trash habits, you’ll be able to choose which size is right for you.

Typically, most kitchens do well with the standard kitchen trash can size, which ranges between 10 to 13-gallons. However, if you want to hide your garbage and use an under sink trash can, the can will probably be smaller, like around 7 or 8-gallons.

Combining Recycle And Trash Cans

Because global warming is a real threat, more and more people are interested in doing their part to reduce waste. So naturally, you’re probably going to want to have a separate can dedicated for recycling your goods.


You’ll want to take this into consideration as well as the amount of space that you have to dedicate for your garbage can. There are some double trash bins that allow you to use one side for garbage and the other for recycling.

Hidden Or Visible?

When choosing your kitchen trash can, you need to decide if you want the can to be hidden from view, or if you don’t mind it being out in the open. If you want the can to be hidden, you’ll have to either put them inside a cabinet or under your skin or build a drawer that is specifically designed to hold a trash can.

There is no right or wrong choice, as both have their merits. For example, if you want to hide the trash can, you’re freeing up floor space in the kitchen.

With that said, since you are dedicating cabinet space for the trash can, you’re losing out on precious cabinet space. Then again, if you’re going to redesign your kitchen, you may have already planned for this, and you aren’t losing much space at all.

On the other hand, if you’d rather not have the trash can hidden from view, you then have to worry about the look of the can and if it has a lid or not.

If the trash cans are going to be visible, it’s recommended they have a lid because you don’t want to see (or smell) the garbage, but you also don’t want pets or children getting into the garbage—both for sanitary and cleanliness reasons.

The Importance Of Solid Kitchen Trash Cans

You’ll notice that when you’re looking for a trash bin for any other room, they can be made from wood, wicker, mesh, or anything else that is not solid. This is fine because you probably aren’t going to be placing any type of liquid in those cans. In the kitchen, that’s another story.

Any kitchen trash can you choose, you want to make sure that it is made from a solid material, preferably metal or plastic. With these materials, at least if the bag leaks, it’ll leak into the trash bin and not all over your floors!

Types Of Kitchen Trash Cans

Once you’ve considered the amount of space you have for your trash can and where you’re going to store it, you then want to think about the type of trash can you want to have:

  • Pull Out Bins
  • Hanging Inside Cabinet
  • Unlidded Trash Bins
  • Lift Tip
  • Swing Top
  • Step Cans
  • Touch Free Trash Can

Pull Out Bins

These type of trash cans are custom built to fit under your counter and usually are something people will include if they are remodeling their kitchen. Sometimes if you’re moving into a modern or a newly renovated home, you’ll find this option.


If you’re fortunate enough to have enough space in your kitchen, you can easily create drawers for these trash cans on your own. These are really nice because you can use the cheap, plastic standard sized trash cans that cost no more than $10. They don’t have lids, but you don’t need them because they’re tucked under the cabinet.

Hanging Inside Cabinet

If you want to have your trash cans hidden, but you’re tight on cabinet space, the next best option you have is hanging the trash can on the door under your skin.

This will still allow you to use the space under your kitchen sink. With that said, the downside of using a hanging trash can is that it is going to be a smaller sized can. This means you’ll have to empty the garbage regularly and you may not be able to throw away large items.

Unlidded Trash Bins

If you don’t want to hang your trash can on the door of your cabinet, but still want to keep it hidden, you can opt for a small trash can and set it inside the cabinet under the sink.

We do want to point out that it isn’t recommended that you leave an unlidded garbage can out in the open because your pets and children can get into it, but it is also an unsightly distraction. Oh, and let’s not forget the odors and germs that go with that exposed garbage. Yuck!

Lift Top

All the rest of these trash cans are ones that you’ll leave out in your kitchen. Therefore they all have some type of lid. Lids on a trash can are more visually appealing than an exposed garbage can.

With this lid, you will have to think about how you’re going to open it. Sure, you can lift the lid manually, which is usually hinged to the top of the can. These trash bins are simple to use and quite affordable.

Swing Top

The next kind of trash can is one with a swinging lid. You know the type—they’re the ones that you see at fast food places that are generally caked with disgusting (and old) food. We don’t recommend these garbage cans for that very reason!


You would assume that all you have to do is drop the garbage on the one side and that’s it. Wrong. It never works out that way, especially if the trash is almost full. The lid gets stuck on whatever garbage is near the top, or like with the fast food places, it becomes so gross with food, juices, and other nastiness, it’s a pain to keep clean.

If ever you’re in need of a trash can and you think this one will do, we’d prefer you had a manual lifting top rather than this abomination!

Step Cans

Instead of using the swing top trash cans, we feel that the step to open trash cans is a far better option. These trash cans use a lever or pedal at the bottom of the can, which when pressed will make the lid pop up so you can throw your garbage away.

The beauty of these trash bins is that you don’t have to actually touch the lid to throw your garbage away. This can come in handy when you’re cooking, and you don’t want to touch the lid. Or if you’re carrying your child and you need to throw something out.

Touch Free Trash Can

The last type of garbage bins is what you call touch-free trash cans. With these cans, there is no lever or pedal to press to lift the lid. Instead, they use a sensor that can detect when you are about to throw something away.

Typically, these trash cans will require a battery change every now and then, plus they will be more expensive too. However, if you want a high-tech garbage can, then these are right up your alley!

Kitchen Trash Can Wrap Up

As we go through our daily lives, we are going to accumulate garbage—there’s no way around it. However, how we store that garbage is completely up to us. There are several types of trash bins that we could choose from that will hold our garbage without any problems.

However, as we discussed, not all trash cans are created the same. Because of that, some people choose garbage cans that are better left in the store (we’re looking at you swing top cans!).

When you are choosing which garbage can is going to be the best choice for your home, you’ve got to be mindful of how much waste your family creates and whether or not you recycle. If you recycle, you may not need a large trash can—you could do well with a 10 to 13-gallon bin, you know, the standard kitchen trash can size.

Not only do you want to consider the size of the trash can and how much waste you consume, but you want to consider where you’re going to put the can and whether it has a lid or not.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to store your trash can under the counter or in a drawer specially designed to hold waste bins, then you don’t need a trash can with a lid.

However, if you are short on cabinet space and have no choice but to leave your trash can out, then you’ll probably want a lid.

Of course, this gives you two other things to consider: the style of the can and how the lid opens.


For the style, you could choose a stainless steel trash can or a plastic option. Either is durable, but stainless trash cans tend to be more visually appealing. When it comes to how the lid opens, both materials have lidded options.

For this reason we have prepared a buying guide to help you with your choice of a trash can for your home.

You just have to decide if you want to touch the lid with your hand, open it with your foot on a pedal, or if you want to perform magic tricks and have the lid open by itself!


Your Signature

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!