Why It Doesn’t Pay to Buy a Cheap Trash Can

published Apr 9, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Trash cans feel like the forgotten accessory of the kitchen. Which is fine, because they’re the kind of thing you don’t really notice as long as they’re not horrendous and get the job done. But the wrong one — a banged-up, dingy one, or one that’s super frustrating to use? Just no. 

I say this because, back when we were renovating our kitchen, I spent an inordinate amount of time picking out a trash can. When you start reading reviews of trash cans, you’re at a particular stage of life that’s, well, interesting.

Actually, though, I consider that time well-spent. Think about your trash can: It’s one of those things that probably gets a reasonable amount of use. It only does one thing, so you want it to function well. You certainly don’t want to have to buy one again in a few months. And while a fancy trash can might not make a kitchen, a bright white plastic one could stick out like a sore thumb.

I knew I wanted a sleek black number, and what I really wanted was a simplehuman. But oof, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend $140 on something you literally put garbage in. So after some scrounging around online, I found one with a similar look at Target. This one was by Hefty and was a whole hundred bucks less at $40 (it’s even less now). I could swing that. 

And it was fine. Step on the pedal, it opens; deposit waste, lid closes. There’s honestly not that much more you could ask for. Yes, it was plastic, not black stainless to match my fridge, but whatever. I didn’t give it another thought. Until. 

Until less than six months later when the flimsy lid wouldn’t open properly when I stepped on the pedal, and would even fall off. The description said “Tested to last at least 22,000 steps” and I’ve never counted how many times a day I open the trash can, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the 120+ it would take to wear it out in six months! 

It’s definitely not just me, though — when I looked back at reviews of the trash can, several people mentioned a faulty lid. One purchaser said, “One of the latches that keeps it connected is extremely easy to get stripped out. We can not press down on the lever to open the top of the garbage, without the lid of the garbage falling off onto the ground.” 

And yeah, that’s about it. I can promise that if every time you want to throw away something and the lid falls on the floor, you very quickly lose patience. 

So back to the drawing board. And by “drawing board” I mean reading trash can reviews. Ready to make a purchase, I decided I’d learned my lesson and went with the highly rated simplehuman in black stainless steel to match my appliances. And I got lucky because it was available as an Amazon warehouse deal for $89. That’s a still a lot of money for a trash can (and yes, in total, I spent $129 because of my first mistake!), but if it’s possible for a waste receptacle to make you happy, this does it. 

Credit: Dana McMahan

Here’s what I like: It’s sleek and unobtrusive. It works like it should every single time. And it has a nifty little pocket inside for storing the special trash bags that fit the opening perfectly. (The high cost of those bags is another topic for another day, but I will say they hold up.) Best of all, the lid has never fallen off — not once.

Meanwhile, we moved the janky trash can to the laundry room, where it continues to make my head explode every time the lid falls off.

Do you have strong opinions about trash cans? Share them in the comments below!