best in class

The 14 Very Best Kitchen Trash Cans

No more wasted space for your waste.

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

Kitchen trash cans are a lot better-looking than they used to be. Brands like Simplehuman and Umbra have made an effort to design models that are both attractive and very functional. Some cans on the market are downright charming — take the bright-red, commercial-grade Rubbermaid owned by designer Nick Poe, or Brabantia’s leggy styles that look more like furniture than a garbage bin. To come up with a list of kitchen trash cans to assess, I talked to interior designers, food professionals, home organizers, and fellow Strategist staffers about the ones they use and recommend, then tried many of them myself to see how they fared in my own kitchen. I looked for trash cans that kept smells at bay, opened and closed easily, and were not a complete eyesore. I took note of sleek top edges designed to hide unsightly garbage bags and played around with sensors that let you open the lid with the wave of a hand, all while keeping price in mind; turns out there are a lot of very expensive trash cans on the market these days.

What we’re looking for

Capacity and dimensions

The capacity of a trash can is twofold: how much it can hold (the gallons or liters listed) and how much space it takes to do so (the overall dimensions). The standard gallon size is around 13, and you’ll see that number on most trash-bag boxes. But you might need more than that if you cook a lot, while less is probably a better bet if you rely on takeout.

Even though most of us leave our trash cans out in the open, dimensions do affect the look of your kitchen. “If it’s too big, its bulkiness will detract from the rest of your space, while adding unnecessary clutter,” says professional organizer Caroline Solomon. In contrast, a small one could be out of proportion when placed next to a two-door fridge, while a tall trash can can’t easily sit underneath the sink if you prefer to tuck it away. Accordingly, you’ll see both the gallon size and general measurements (formatted in width by length by height) for each pick mentioned below.

Material

With a kitchen trash can, functionality tends to triumph over form. That’s why plastic is particularly popular. It’s budget-friendly and easy enough to clean — and if you need a specific size, plastic trash cans generally come in odder ones (as opposed to the standard 13-gallon container), explains professional organizer Elsa Elbert of Composed Living. But while plastic trash cans do the rubbish-collecting part reasonably enough, they (usually) aren’t the prettiest to look at. That’s why several of our experts prefer durable stainless steel, which is just as utilitarian but offers an aesthetic and olfactory advantage — the material makes it more difficult for odors to linger, Elbert says. Solomon is another stainless-steel advocate, saying that “should any icky garbage spills appear, it’s incredibly easy to wipe down.” (Some even come with a smudgeproof finish.) On the design front, it’s sleeker and more sophisticated compared to its plastic counterparts, says Allison Dunn, founder of Neat Rules. Or you could opt for a plastic-coated metal trash can if you’re in need of a pop of color, Solomon recommends, as these are rust-resistant and just need a swipe of soapy water to clean.

Compartments

One-compartment trash cans are common. But a multi-compartment trash can might make more sense if you are short on floor space, Elbert mentions. Solomon agrees that a compartment for trash and another for recycling helps manage waste in one place. (Keep in mind: Your local municipality might have specific recycling regulations, including an extra bin for paper or plastic, she says.) If you’re the composting type, an additional compartment could be used for scraps (instead of buying one of those mini-bins).

Closures

This has happened to me more than once: hands full of garlic and onion skins or browned banana peels and no way to open the trash can. Here’s where lids and pedals make all the difference. A lift-top requires a free hand, while a step pedal can be operated by foot. If you go the swing-top route, it’s all about the timing, while a thoroughly modern motion-sensor trash can is ready whenever you are. Then there’s how it closes: Does it have an open top? Or an automatic soft-close lid? When open, a butterfly lid (usually used in multi-compartment designs) only takes up a few inches versus other cans that can pop up to almost a foot, Elbert explains.

Price

Allow me to complain for just a second: One of the pettiest injustices is that trash cans — cans for trash — can be expensive. So, based on what our experts recommended and what I’ve seen on the market, I ranked each as $, $$, or $$$, for under $100, under $150, and $150 and up, respectively.

Best kitchen trash can overall

Capacity and dimensions: 10.6 gallons, 10.4 by 23.3 by 26 inches | Material: Brushed stainless steel with recycled-plastic inner buckets | Compartments: Two | Closure: Butterfly lid, step pedal | Price: $$

I heard lots of praise for Simplehuman while reporting this guide — the brand is an established leader in the trash-can-scape, known for bins that are nice-looking, hard-working, and long-lasting enough to warrant their higher price tags. But I named this model the “best overall” based on careful consideration of the criteria outlined above, as well as firsthand testing. It comes with dual compartments for trash and recyclables in the form of two removable plastic buckets, one blue and one black. Before buying hers, content creator Carrie Carrollo would have brown paper bags cluttering her kitchen with things that needed to be recycled. This can holds everything without being “a roadblock in the kitchen,” she says.

Its slimness is a big part of the appeal — it can sit next to an island, be tucked away into a corner, or be placed beside a cabinet. You can choose between 18-, 30-, 40-, and 45-liter sizes. I have the largest of these, and it easily swallows value-size Softsoap bottles, stacks of Coffee-Mate creamers, and the discards from a home-cooked dinner of four. I use a standard 13-gallon Glad bag without a problem, though you could spring for Simplehuman’s to get a tighter fit (the brand’s bags are color-coded and lettered so you get the right one for your can size). There’s also an opening on the black bucket (though not on the blue) to secure any excess liner. Both buckets are easy to take out and clean if there’s a spill.

The trash can is undoubtedly an investment at $170 (the smaller sizes start at $100). But it’s a splurge worth making — especially for the butterfly-style lid, which is arguably its standout feature. The “wings” go straight up, and won’t bang into anything close by. It’s also more likely to fit under a counter or inside a cabinet: “When the lid is open, it only takes up a few inches, versus some cans, when the whole lid pops up, it’s almost a foot tall,” Elbert says. The lid slowly and silently shuts on its own once you release the pedal. And when the can is closed, it contains all smells — I forgot I had garlic bits and banana peels in mine even after a few days.

Several other models from Simplehuman were also recommended — including a rectangular recycler from Dunn and a columnar style that Taryn Williford, former lifestyle director at Apartment Therapy, says “soothes both the aesthetic and functional parts of my brain.”

A peek at the Simplehuman’s capacity. Photo: Ambar Pardilla

Best (less expensive) overall kitchen trash can

Capacity and dimensions: 8 gallons, 15 by 11.54 by 26.7 inches | Material: Steel with plastic interior bucket | Compartments: One | Closure: Soft-close lid, step pedal | Price: $

The biggest difference between the Newicon from Dutch brand Brabantia and our top-pick trash can from Simplehuman comes down to size. The smaller, slimmer model has only one compartment instead of two and is a little larger (eight gallons) than a single compartment of the Simplehuman’s (five gallons). It takes up a bit less floor real estate and is easier to move around the kitchen. A hinge on the back keeps the lid from banging into a wall, and as with the two buckets on the Simplehuman, the Newicon’s single bucket is simple to lift out.

In the year since mine arrived, it has been covered in egg whites, salad dressing, and rogue spaghetti. You almost wouldn’t know it, as the steel surface is easily wiped down. It wasn’t until recently, when a friend accidentally nicked the surface with a fork, that the can got its first real scratch. Really, the finish is durable against everyday plate-scraping — just don’t go too wild with the silverware.

The Newicon also comes in unusual shades of sky blue, cherry, and pine green (as well as classic white and matte steel). Architect Ming Thompson, who recommended it at our sister site Curbed, likes to use two of the cans in different colors for trash and recycling, making the otherwise “mundane function” a little more spirited. Alessandra Wood, former vice-president of style at Modsy, says it creates “a design moment for trash” without trying to hide that it’s a trash can. And while retailers like West Elm will have it priced starting at $119, a place like Wayfair will mark down some shades for under $100.

Best trash can with a recycling bin

Dimensions and capacity: 10.6 by 10.6 by 23 inches, 16 gallons | Material: Stainless steel with plastic interior buckets | Compartments: Two |Type: Soft-close lid, step-pedal | Price: $$$

Songmics’ dual-compartment can holds more trash and recyclables than our best-overall Simplehuman, split between two eight-gallon inner buckets. It also has two step pedals and lids that operate independently: “So if there’s a big mess, you won’t have to worry about it falling into the other side,” explains Naeemah Ford Goldson, owner of Restore Order Professional Organizing. Even though both interior buckets are the same color, unlike the blue and black split of the Simplehuman, she color-codes them with different garbage bags so her sons know which is which. Each bucket also has convenient handles for easy lifting.

Best-looking kitchen trash can

Capacity and dimensions: 9.5 gallons, 21.3 by 12.3 by 26.8 inches | Material: Steel with plastic interior buckets | Compartments: One | Closure: Soft touch, hinged lid | Price: $$$

The Bo Touch from Brabantia was applauded for its easy-on-the-eyes appearance. “It doesn’t even look like a trash can,” according to Wood. The container is elevated on slim legs and “looks like it could be a vintage icebox or a mysterious piece of stereo equipment,” Thompson says. The legs snap into place, each fitting into a corner on the bottom of the bucket to create a surprisingly sturdy base. The top of the Bo Touch opens with a light tap — there’s no step pedal (or sensor) — so this isn’t the trash can for those who always have their hands full while in the kitchen. I got the 9.5-gallon model to test, which has only one compartment. There’s also a nine-gallon, two-compartment version with a six-gallon bucket for trash and a three-gallon bucket for recycling, or a 16-gallon version that stands taller and thinner and contains two eight-gallon buckets. Because of its shape, this style of trash can will take up more space than the more svelte models above. But it’s as nice looking as promised, and because of the legs and the inset lid design, it can stand quite flush against a wall. It’s easy to clean and use — the entire lid of the can can come off and you can pull the inside bucket out for switching out the garbage bags (Brabantia also includes a set of its own in the box).

Best touchless kitchen trash can

Capacity and dimensions: 18.5 gallons, 21.34 by 12.99 by 26.42 inches | Material: Stainless steel | Compartments: Two | Closure: Motion-sensored opening | Price: $

For what you get with this motion-activated trash can, it’s a true bargain. (For context: Interior designer Jessica McCarthy’s favored voice- and motion-activated model costs $250.) Solomon thinks so, too, especially if “easy trash-tossing” is a concern (looking at you, pro home cooks). Instead of a step pedal or a lift-top lid, the bin features a motion-sensor opening. (This requires three D-cell batteries to function.) There are separate “open” and “close” buttons on top of the lid (which soft-closes as you step away) if you’d rather use it more manually. Once open, it has the same dual-compartment structure as the Simplehuman can above. Comparatively, the Nine Stars holds more — with a total capacity of 18.5 gallons, or 9.25 gallons on each side — and comes with a removable ring liner to keep trash bags in place. But what kept it from taking gold is really down to its practicality. This is a trash can that’s going to take up space — and in a way that recalls school cafeterias (see the magnetic labels, which are thankfully removable if you don’t like the look). But if you are looking for a touchless opening on a budget, it’s a good bet.

[Editor’s note: This trash can frequently goes in and out of stock. But when it’s sold out, you can sign up to be emailed once it’s available again.]

Best step-pedal kitchen trash can

$140

Capacity and dimensions: 13 gallons, 16.8 by 13 by 26.4 inches | Material: Steel with plastic interior liner | Compartments: One | Closure: Step pedal, lid locks in place | Price: $$$

Kohler is known for its plumbing products. But Strategist kitchen-and-dining writer Emma Wartzman discovered that it also makes an excellent trash can. Although it costs more than $100, Wartzman believes the buy was worth every penny. You don’t need much pressure on the pedal to open it, and it’s outfitted with a quiet-close lid that won’t slam shut. Wartzman highlighted the can’s “liftable edge,” which sits over a raised, removable inner bucket and locks into place to hide the upper edge of the trash bag. Wartzman warns that “you have to get the bag tight enough down the sides,” but once you figure this out, it’s quite easy and well worth the extra effort. Capacity-wise, the can is three gallons larger than the Simplehuman — useful for someone who cooks as often as Wartzman does — without being cumbersome. This can is also available in a much smaller 1.6-gallon size that’s meant more for bathrooms (and doesn’t have the same liftable edge), but the slim, streamlined profile might also be a good option if you’re especially tight on space.

Best (less expensive) step-pedal kitchen trash can

Capacity and dimensions: 8 gallons, 12.4 by 15.1 by 25.6 inches | Material: Steel with recycled-plastic interior bucket | Compartments: One | Closure: Silent close lid, step pedal | Price: $

Simplehuman’s eight-gallon round can is another solid step-pedal to consider. It has the same capacity as the Newicon and looks similar, though it isn’t available in any fun colors, only silver. The round lid is an important feature for Sara Losonci, founder of Shelfie. Because most Manhattan apartments don’t have garbage disposals and composting can get complicated, Losonci likes how the opening is wide enough to scrape a plate of scraps into — just note that the lid requires more clearance than the butterfly lid of our best overall pick.

Best slim kitchen trash can

Capacity and dimensions: 11.8 gallons, 10.19 by 19.88 by 26.5 inches | Material: Stainless steel | Compartments: One | Closure: Step pedal, lid locks in place | Price: $

In small spaces, the shape of a trash can is all-important. Shallower, more rectangular models tend to be easier to scoot into corners and narrower spots. This pedal-operated model from Target’s Brightroom line comes recommended by Strategist associate editor Jenna Milliner-Waddell. There was really only one spot she could put the trash can in her studio apartment’s kitchen — against a cabinet — and it’s flat enough on all sides that she can put it flush against the wall, she says. And even after “two years of stomping” on the pedal, it hasn’t failed her yet. It helps that it’s reminiscent of sleek Simplehumans with a similar glossy, fingerprint-resistant finish. “If you want a large, relatively inexpensive stainless-steel trash can, this one won’t give you anything you complain about,” Milliner-Waddell says.

Best open-top kitchen trash can

Dimensions and capacity: 2.5 gallons, 9.45 by 7.68 by 12.6 inches | Material: Plastic and wood | Compartments: One | Closure: Open-top, built-in handle | Price: $

I’m not a big fan of open-top trash cans for a kitchen — I don’t need to see what was for dinner yesterday or what went bad in the fridge a week ago. But they can be useful if you don’t have a lot of trash to deal with or if you just need a small bin to collect recyclables (and don’t mind having your empty soda cans on display). In those cases, I’d recommend the Como Trash Can from Japanese houseware label Yamazaki. This is a bucket that’s best left naked — the garbage bags I had for it kept falling off (which is why I eventually started to use it as a storage bin). I do think it’s better for items that aren’t sticky or wet, like empty pasta boxes, but it’s easy enough to scrub the plastic body if you need to. It stands about a foot tall and can easily collect a 12-pack or a few wine bottles before it fills up. The handle makes it especially convenient to tote around or to dump it into a larger bin when it needs emptying.

Best lift-top kitchen trash can

Capacity and dimensions: 4 or 11 gallons, 12.63 by 13.38 inches or 20.13 by 16.13 inches | Material: Steel with powder coating | Compartments: One | Closure: Completely detachable lid | Price: $

The Ikea Knodd is the cheapest trash can on our list at under $20. It’s a favorite of Caroline Lange, a freelance recipe tester and food stylist, who actually prefers smaller, under-five-gallon trash cans for day-to-day kitchen tasks. And for her, trash cans with removable lids are better than step-open ones for one simple reason: When kept lid-less during cooking, “I don’t have to fuss with opening and closing every time I have to toss something in the trash,” Lange says. The Knodd is a favorite because it’s lightweight enough to move around, especially when taking out the trash or cleaning something that’s spilled inside. (There are handles on each side of the can, too.) When lidded, the Knodd looks more like a storage bin than a traditional trash can, a big bonus in our books. And if you like the look but are set on a step pedal, Thompson suggests this similar (but pricier) House Doctor garbage bin that she describes as “Oscar the Grouch but make it design-y.”

Best touch-up kitchen trash can

Brabantia Touch Top Trash Can
$136
$136

Capacity and dimensions: 16 gallons, 15.8 by 15.8 by 28 inches| Material: Stainless steel | Compartments: One | Closure: Touch-top lid | Price: $$

This Brabantia trash can’s versatility makes it a favorite of Jessie Sheehan, author of Snackable Bakes. The front of the lid flips open with just one touch — or, if your hands are in a sticky situation, a tap of the elbow will do. You can even remove the top completely if you suspect there are going to be lots of scraps involved in your dinner-party prep. The angled top “makes it easy not to spill on the sides of the can or the top itself,” Sheehan explains, which in turn helps prevent smells. Sheehan says the bin’s odor containment is so effective her pets don’t loiter around the can anymore in hopes of catching morsels.

Best pull-out kitchen trash can

Capacity and dimensions: 9.2 gallons, 9.8 by 17.7 by 19.1 inches | Material: Steel frame, plastic bins | Compartments: Two | Closure: Pullout | Price: $

If you believe a trash can is best when out of sight (and have the cabinet space to conceal one), consider this Simplehuman bin. Three experts — Elbert, Solomon, and Lisa Zaslow of Gotham Organizers — raved about it. Elbert even installed it in her last apartment, where it required “just four small screws to mount the frame in place, then you pop the bins in.” Solomon says that the two-part pullout “holds much more trash than you might think.” The black bin is a little bigger width-wise, which probably makes it better for waste rather than recyclables. Zaslow praises the size of this bin, as it’s “large enough so that you don’t have to empty it every day and small enough to fit in most apartment trash chutes.” (It also comes in a one-compartment version, if that’s your preference.)

Best (less expensive) pull-out kitchen trash can

Capacity and dimensions: 8 gallons, 10.38 by 15.74 by 19.5 inches | Material: Steel frame with plastic bucket | Compartments: One | Closure: Soft-close lid, Step pedal | Price: $

Those with even less cabinet space can turn to chef and Simply Julia author Julia Turshen’s pick from the Container Store — the trash can holds around a gallon less than the Simplehuman above and has one compartment as opposed to two. It slides in and out easily “rather than needing to be picked up, pulled out, and put back into its hiding place,” Turshen says. Plus it offers some self-reflection as “it’s small, which means it fills quickly, which means it forces you to consider how much waste you’re producing.”

Best in-cabinet trash can

Capacity and dimensions: 2.6 gallons, 11.75 by 8.75 by 14.25 inches | Material: Steel frame with plastic bucket | Compartments: One | Closure: Flip-top lid | Price: $

This under-$30 trash can from Simplehuman has a lift-top lid and can be attached to the inside of a cabinet door in one of two ways: by mounting it directly or by hanging it from the top of the door if you don’t want the commitment. (All the hardware you need is included in box, no matter how you plan to install it.) Beth Penn, founder of Bneato Organizing, previously recommended this can in our guide to the best trash cans and says it’s been a favorite with her clients — it’s easy to set up and particularly renter-friendly. It could also be an alternative to produce “dump bowls” before transferring scraps to another, bigger trash can.

Some more kitchen trash cans we’ve written about

Our experts

• Alexa Battista, public-relations specialist
Carrie Carrollo, content creator
• Allison Dunn, founder of Neat Rules
• Elsa Elbert, founder of Composed Living
• Naeemah Ford Goldson, owner of Restore Order Professional Organizing
• Simone Kitchens, Strategist senior editor
Caroline Lange, a freelance recipe tester and food stylist
• Liz Lipkin, interior designer
• Sara Losonci, founder of Shelfie
• Jessica McCarthy, interior designer
• Jenna Milliner-Waddell, Strategist associate editor
• Beth Penn, founder of Bneato Organizing
Lauren Ro, Strategist writer
• Jessie Sheehan, author of Snackable Bakes
• Alexandra Shytsman, recipe developer and blogger at The New Baguette
Caroline Solomon, professional organizer
Ming Thompson, architect
• Julia Turshen, chef and author of Simply Julia
• Emma Wartzman, Strategist kitchen-and-dining writer
• Taryn Williford, former lifestyle director at Apartment Therapy
• Alessandra Wood, former vice-president of style at Modsy
• Lisa Zaslow, owner of Gotham Organizers

Additional reporting by Karen Iorio Adelson and Emma Wartzman

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The 14 Very Best Kitchen Trash Cans