Where To Place A Garbage Can In The Kitchen

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The kitchen garbage can is an essential item, but its placement is often overlooked when designing a kitchen layout. The location of the trash receptacle greatly impacts the functionality and flow of the space. Placing it in an inconvenient spot turns a simple task like throwing away food scraps into a chore. However, putting some thought into the ideal position can transform your cooking and clean-up routines.

Follow these tips from designers to find the optimal trash can location in your kitchen:

  • Position near the sink, dishwasher, and prep area to cut down on steps and enable easy food scrap disposal while cleaning and cooking.
  • Install under the sink or in a tilt-out cabinet to keep trash discrete but accessible when the door/drawer is opened.
  • Incorporate into a pull-out drawer for seamless integration that hides the trash when closed.
  • Locate near the kitchen exit door to minimize odor spread when taking the trash outside frequently.
  • Size the indoor bin appropriately for household needs and empty daily to prevent trash buildup.

Consider the Kitchen Work Triangles


The work triangle concept focuses on the relationship between the three busiest zones: the sink, stove, and refrigerator. These areas should form a triangle shape with convenient access between each station.

When deciding where to put a garbage can, make sure it falls within this key triangle. The trash bin should be readily available from the food prep zone, sink, and dining area without requiring excess movement.

According to Lucy Searle, Global Editor in Chief at Homes & Gardens, positioning the trash can near both the sink and dishwasher creates an efficient workflow. Scraps can be discarded while chopping ingredients or rinsing dishes before loading the dishwasher.

Installing it within the clean-up area of the work triangle minimizes steps and promotes a seamless process from start to finish.

Under the Kitchen Sink

An out-of-sight garbage can is an out-of-mind garbage can. Under the kitchen sink is a convenient and discreet choice recommended by designers. Mounting the trash bin inside a base cabinet keeps the unsightly trash out of view without sacrificing accessibility.

Select a base cabinet near the prep and clean-up areas so the receptacle is always within arm’s reach. Then install a garbage can with a flip-up lid or mount one directly onto the cabinet door for easy access when opened.

If the kitchen sink has a cabinet immediately underneath, this is the most logical location. The trash will be hidden away but close by when washing dishes or peeling produce. For a smaller footprint, choose a slim, vertical trash can.

According to Alessia Lamonaca, owner of New Mode Home, a lidded garbage can is best for containing odors and maintaining a clean kitchen. Closed bins are also less likely to attract flies or other unwelcome pests.

In a Tilt-Out Cabinet

For a trash can that’s hidden away but easy to access, a tilt-out cabinet is the perfect choice. Specialized cabinetry can be installed with a garbage can on the interior of the tilted door.

Simply open the door to reveal the trash bin inside. The tilt-out cabinet can be seamlessly incorporated next to the sink, dishwasher, or prep area to make tossing waste simple while cooking or cleaning.

Interior designer Artem Kropovinsky recommends choosing a tilt-out trash cabinet in stainless steel or wood. Opt for a style that matches existing cabinetry for a cohesive custom look.

The tilt-out design provides extra storage space in addition to housing the garbage can. Use this space for trash bags, cleaning supplies, or kitchen items like cookbooks.

In a Pull-Out Drawer

Installing a garbage can in a pull-out drawer builds it seamlessly into the cabinetry. This creates a hidden, unobtrusive place to store the trash out of sight.

Position the pull-out trash drawer in the cleanup zone of the kitchen near the dishwasher and sink. When closed, the drawer is discreetly tucked away. Pulling out the drawer allows for quick access when discarding food scraps, empty packages, or other trash when cooking or doing dishes.

A drawer-style garbage cabinet should be fitted with full extension slides to allow the can to be pulled fully out of the cabinet for easy removal and replacement of trash bags. Select a garbage can that is not too tall to avoid blocking the drawer above when extended.

For a custom look, choose a drawer front that matches the existing cabinetry. A pull-out trash drawer works well with other pull-out cabinets and drawers incorporated throughout the kitchen.

Tucked Into a Nook

Take advantage of the unique dimensions of your kitchen by tucking a small trash can into an out-of-the-way nook. This could be near the pantry cabinet, at the end of a peninsula or island, or in an empty corner space.

A round or oval garbage can will fit seamlessly into a curved nook area. Or place a narrow rectangular trash receptacle in a tight gap between cabinetry or appliances. Look for areas about 18 inches wide to accommodate a slim can.

The key is positioning the nook near enough to the main prep and cleanup zones to take advantage of the existing flow. Measure the space to select the ideal size and shape can.

A freestanding garbage can works well for a nook location. Opt for one on a small base with wheels to easily roll it out for trash removal as needed. Just be sure to select a spot with enough clearance.

Consider Proximity to External Trash Storage

The location of external garbage storage should play a role in deciding where to place indoor cans. Think about the path the trash will take when disposed of from the kitchen to the outdoor bins.

Ideally, the outdoor garbage and recycling receptacles should be located close to the home’s exterior door which provides the most direct access to the kitchen. This creates an efficient and logical route to take the trash outside, minimizing spills, messes, and odor spread through the home.

Lucy Searle recommends situating outdoor bins near the kitchen door without obstacles like steps or landscaping in the way. If the bins must be located farther away, choose an indoor kitchen trash spot that minimizes the distance the garbage has to travel through the interior spaces.

No matter where you place the trash and recycling bins outdoors, develop a habit of taking kitchen waste directly outside on a daily basis. This prevents odors in the kitchen and home.

Accommodate Your Household Size

The needs of a single resident or couple vary drastically from those of a large, busy family. When deciding on a garbage can set up for your kitchen, consider your household size and trash output.

For a single person or two, a small bin with daily emptying is likely sufficient. Larger families generating more waste may need multiple indoor cans or cans with a bigger capacity. In that case, a two-bin system separating dry trash from wet food waste can be useful.

Those who cook frequently or regularly deal with lots of food scraps when preparing meals should size up their kitchen garbage cans accordingly. Allow enough capacity to avoid constantly taking out a small overfilled receptacle.

Regardless of household size, establishing a habit of taking out the trash regularly prevents odor buildup in the kitchen.

Incorporate Recycling Stations

Kitchens generate a significant amount of recyclable waste from glass, plastic, paper, and aluminum. Make recycling convenient by planning space for separation bins near the trash can.

Lucy Searle recommends three dedicated bins for paper, plastic, and glass if space in the pantry or near the trash zone permits. However, even a simple separation of trash and recycling in two bins helps divert waste from landfills.

For larger kitchens, incorporate bins directly into cabinetry like with pull-out drawers or tilt-out doors. Multi-sort recycling centers can be installed to neatly tuck bins away while keeping sorting easy. For smaller kitchens, utilize vertical space by mounting bins on the wall or cabinet fronts.

If a separate recycling collection is not available in your area, plan a weekly drop-off of sorted materials at a local recycling center.

Consider Composting Food Waste

Composting food scraps like vegetable peels, eggshells, and coffee grounds reduces waste while benefiting your garden. Dedicate a small countertop crock or under-sink bin to collecting compostables while cooking. Then empty it regularly into an outdoor compost bin.

This saves on municipal waste fees, keeps food waste out of landfills, and provides free homemade nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants. Even urban dwellers can compost using indoor electric composters that create finished compost quickly and without odor.

Strategic trash and recycling organization tailored to your kitchen layout and household habits keep day-to-day tasks running smoothly. A cluttered, inefficient garbage zone detracts from the joy of cooking and cleaning up. But implementing these tips from designers transforms the heart of your home into a high-functioning, beautiful kitchen.