Trash Can: Which is Right for You? A Comprehensive Guide

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  September 30, 2022
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What is a trash can? It’s a container for trash, right? But what does that mean?

Trash cans come in all shapes and sizes, from small bins for your office to large containers for public areas. They’re made of different materials, have different features, and are used for different purposes.

In this guide, I’ll explain what a trash can is, how it’s used, and why it’s important to have one in your home or office.

What is a trash can

Everything You Need to Know About Trash Cans

A trash can is a container used for storing waste or garbage. It is designed to keep the surroundings clean and hygienic by providing a designated place for waste disposal. Trash cans come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, and can be manual or automatic. They can have lids or be open, and can be operated by foot or hands.

The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Trash Cans

There are several types of trash cans available in the market. Here are the pros and cons of some of the most popular ones:

  • Manual trash cans: These are the most common type of trash cans that require manual effort to open and close the lid. They are affordable and come in various sizes and shapes. However, they can be unhygienic as they require touching the lid to open and close it.
  • Swing-top trash cans: These have a lid that swings open when pushed and closes automatically. They are easy to use and hygienic, but can be difficult to clean as the lid is attached to the container.
  • Touchless trash cans: These have sensors that detect motion and open the lid automatically. They are the most hygienic option as they don’t require touching the lid. However, they can be expensive and require batteries or electricity to operate.
  • Automatic trash cans: These have a motorized lid that opens and closes automatically. They are easy to use and hygienic, but can be expensive and require electricity to operate.

Recycling and Trash Cans

Trash cans can also be used for recycling purposes. Recycling bins are designed to store recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, and metal. They come in various sizes and shapes and can be manual or automatic. Recycling bins are an essential part of waste management and help in reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfills.

Tips for Using a Trash Can

Here are some tips for using a trash can:

  • Always throw waste in the bin and not on the ground.
  • Use a separate recycling bin for recyclable materials.
  • If using a manual trash can, use a foot pedal or a paper towel to open the lid to avoid touching it.
  • Always close the lid of the trash can to prevent pests and insects from getting inside.
  • Clean the trash can regularly to avoid bad odors and bacteria buildup.

The Trash Can’s Humble Beginnings

Trash cans may seem like a modern invention, but the concept of waste collection dates back thousands of years. In ancient civilizations, people would dump their garbage in designated areas outside of town. These areas were often located near bodies of water, making it easy to dispose of waste.

The First Trash Bins

The first modern trash bin was invented in the 1800s. It was a simple container made of metal or wood with a lid to keep animals out. These bins were often used for household waste and were collected by horse-drawn carts.

Evolution of the Trash Can

Over the years, trash cans have evolved to meet the needs of modern society. Here are some notable changes:

  • The introduction of plastic bins in the 1960s made trash cans more durable and easier to clean.
  • The addition of foot pedals in the 1980s made it easier to open the lid without touching it.
  • The development of separate bins for recycling and composting has become more common in recent years.

Legislation and Provision

As waste collection became more organized, legislation was put in place to regulate the disposal of garbage. In the United States, the first municipal garbage collection service was established in 1875 in New York City. Today, most cities have laws that require households to use a designated trash receptacle for waste collection.

Household Trash Cans Today

Today, trash cans come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Some common features include:

  • Wheels for easy maneuvering
  • Separate compartments for recycling and composting
  • Automatic lids that open with motion sensors

Despite all the changes, the basic function of the trash can remains the same: to provide a container for dumping waste.

Trash Can Types: Which One is Right for You?

Trash cans come in different types, shapes, and designs. Depending on your needs, you can choose from a range of options that include:

  • Metal trash cans: These are commonly used in outdoor areas and are built to last long. They come in different sizes and shapes, and you can find them with or without a cover. Steel trash cans are popular in fast-food restaurants and other areas where food is served.
  • Plastic trash cans: These are lightweight and easy to clean. They come in different sizes and shapes, and you can find them with or without a cover. Plastic trash cans are popular in kitchens and other areas where you need to dispose of small amounts of trash.
  • Wooden trash cans: These are special and can be used to add a touch of elegance to your home. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be used to store other items besides trash.

Choosing the Right Trash Can

When choosing a trash can, you should consider the following:

  • Size: Depending on the area you want to place your trash can, you should choose the right size.
  • Quality: You should choose a trash can that is made of high-quality materials to ensure it lasts long.
  • Shape: Depending on your preference, you can choose a trash can that has a round or rectangular shape.
  • Cover: Depending on the area you want to place your trash can, you should choose a trash can that has a cover or not.
  • Design: Depending on your preference, you can choose a trash can that has a simple or fancy design.

The Many Materials of Trash Cans

When it comes to trash cans, steel and metal are some of the most popular materials used in their construction. These types of cans are sturdy, strong, and can store a large amount of waste. They come in a variety of different models, shapes, and sizes, making it easy to choose the perfect one for your needs. Some models even include double containers, which are convenient for separating different kinds of waste, such as food and paper. Steel and metal cans are also easy to clean and can prevent odors from escaping.

Plastic Containers

Plastic is another popular material used in the construction of trash cans. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, making them a convenient choice for those who need a smaller or more lightweight option. Plastic cans are also excellent for storing water or other liquids, making them an essential instrument for certain needs. They are also cheaper than metal cans and can be easily replaced if they become dirty or stuck.

Wooden Designs

For those looking for a more special and aesthetic option, wooden trash cans are a perfect choice. They offer a wide variety of shapes and designs, making them a good addition to any room. Wooden cans are also excellent for storing additional items, such as cleaning supplies or other essentials. They are perfect for those who prefer a more natural look and feel.


When it comes to choosing a trash can, the material you choose is essential. Each material serves a different purpose and offers its own set of advantages. Whether you prefer a steel can for its strength or a plastic container for its convenience, you can rest assured that you will find the perfect trash can to meet your needs.

Choosing the Perfect Trash Can for Your Needs

When looking for a trash can, the size is one of the most important factors to consider. You don’t want a can that’s too small and fills up quickly, but you also don’t want a can that’s so large it takes up too much space in your kitchen. The ideal size for a kitchen trash can is around 13 gallons or 50 liters. However, if you have a larger family or produce a lot of waste, you may want to consider a larger can. Remember to check the dimensions of the can to ensure it fits in your designated space.

Material and Structure

The material and structure of the trash can are also important factors to consider. You want a can that is strong and durable enough to hold all types of waste, including food scraps and liquids. Stainless steel is an excellent choice as it is strong, lightweight, and easy to clean. If you prefer a cheaper option, plastic cans are also available, but they may not be as strong or durable as metal cans. Additionally, consider the structure of the can. A can with angled sides or a ring around the top can prevent the trash bag from slipping down into the can, making it easier to remove.

Convenience Features

Trash cans come with a variety of convenience features that can make your life easier. Some things to consider include:

  • A foot pedal or hand sensor for hands-free opening
  • A cover to prevent smells and keep trash contained
  • A double or multiple can for sorting recyclables
  • A dedicated can for composting food scraps
  • A locking or tight-fitting lid to prevent animals from getting into the trash

Style and Design

While the functionality of the trash can is important, the style and design can also be a factor. Trash cans come in a variety of shapes and styles, from traditional vintage pieces to modern, sleek designs. Consider the overall aesthetic of your kitchen and pick a can that fits in with the decor. Additionally, some cans come with wood or metal accents that can add a little bit of flair to your kitchen.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Finally, remember to consider how easy the trash can is to clean and maintain. Look for cans that have removable filters or are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Additionally, if you’re going to be placing dirty dishes or sticky food scraps in the can, consider a can with a special coating or lining to prevent odors and make cleaning easier.

In conclusion, choosing the perfect trash can depends on your specific needs and preferences. Consider the size, material and structure, convenience features, style and design, and cleaning and maintenance when picking out a can. With so many options available, you’re sure to find a trash can that is worth the investment and makes taking out the trash a little bit easier every day.


So there you have it- all you need to know about trash cans. 

They’re useful for storing waste and keeping your surroundings clean and hygienic. You should look for a trash can that suits your needs and fits your budget. 

So, don’t be shy- go out and get yourself a trash can today!

Also read: these are the best trash cans for your car reviewed

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.