simple stuff: a kitchen trash can.

January 21, 2021

I have purchased a kitchen trash can. It’s a 4-gallon can that may or may not be considered the proper size for a family of five, but it’s clocking in at about 4 times the size of what we had before and sometimes I don’t quite realize how difficult I’ve made a simple task until I improve it.

In the scheme of things, finding a suitable trash can sounds—and is—a very small victory. But having a clean and functional spot to dispose of the day’s literal garbage, I’ve found, is actually rather impactful. (If only I had such a perfect place to put the figurative garbage.) With a slightly bigger can, there’s been a reprieve from cleaning up after a four- and six-year-old who overshoot the tiny trash basket six or seven times a day. And in a sea of kitchen trash cans that appear to be over-designed and under-performing, I was glad to find something so simple.

From a design perspective, the trash can is a classic beauty in a just-plain-fancy kind of way. It’s made of powder-coated stainless steel and solid as can be, with a removable galvanized steel bucket on the inside. The whole thing is satisfyingly slim on plastic and feels built to last a lifetime. (It also meets OSHA standards for safe disposal of blood borne pathogens, in case that is something you’re looking for in a trash can!) A cursory look into the manufacturer, Witt Industries in Ohio, tells me the company has been churning out this kind of practical workhorse since the late 1800s. No surprise, I especially like that it complements our vintage stove. It doesn’t do anything to improve the tacked on vinyl floor or the stained formica countertops, but it holds its own in making the whole kitchen feel a whole lot better and what more could I ask of a trash can?

From a trash perspective, it feels like a more manageable size in terms of family output and frequency of emptying but it’s not so large that things get gnarly. Pandemic budget cuts continue to lay waste to our city’s composting efforts, but collections have resumed at our local greenmarket and so despite the fact that in a moment of weakness—or maybe just exhaustion—we emptied our indoor compost bin into a patch of garden out front, we’re still collecting our food scraps in the freezer. When there’s the time and stores of energy, we bring them to the farmer’s market collection site.

And that’s that. One simple thing that’s improving life around here a bit. If a retro, barebones, step-on trash can is something that would improve your life, here’s the one I found: 2-Piece 4-Gallon Witt Industries Step On Trash Can*.

* I won’t pretend that I understand how Wayfair operates, but it seems to me like the price changes daily and it was a full $10 less expensive when I bought it, so do with that what you will! And! If you don’t care about trash cans but you do like smart podcasts, don’t miss this excellent episode of You’re Wrong About.)

What about you? Any examples of very simple stuff making life a little easier for you these days?


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  • Reply LN January 21, 2021 at 6:09 pm

    Great find! Simple stuff making life easier: swedish dish cloths replace paper towels for 90% of what I used to use paper towels for… brilliant! Obviously it’s better for the environment, but it also means fewer reaches to the top cabinet where I keep other paper towels and fewer trips to the store to buy more. MUCH bigger fan that I thought I would be when I was gifted it 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 21, 2021 at 9:40 pm

      I feel like I should give them another go! We’ve been on the rag train for so long now that I forget it’s possible those might be an option that makes for less laundry!

      • Reply Sophia January 22, 2021 at 4:49 am

        Not sure whether you can find them online as easily in the US as here in Germany, but we reuse our flanel baby-washcloths for practically everything. They‘re super durable, easy to wash and maybe the most practical think we’ve ever bought since becoming parents.

        • Reply Mullica January 22, 2021 at 12:58 pm

          Lots of online plastic free shops in the US sell Swedish clothes. BUT my favorite ones are from Kana goods. The designs are so pretty. You can run the clothes in the dishwasher to disinfect them or I will put them in a bowl of water with a little bit of lemon essential oil and microwave it for a minute.

      • Reply LN January 22, 2021 at 9:39 am

        Right – I think one difference from rags (also good) is that it is quite quick-drying so I can tuck it into a drawer relatively soon after using. One of my more silly complaints about my reusable items (cloth coffee filter, etc.) is that they have to take up space/look a little messy on my counter while drying.

        • Reply Cussot January 23, 2021 at 7:13 pm

          Just had a thought – what you could do is find some utterly beautiful way to dry your things. Like one of those racks with pulleys that you winch up to the ceiling or a little clothesline in the window with clips you love (I have some aluminum ones that make me happy).

          • LN January 26, 2021 at 3:15 pm

            That is a lovely idea. I’ll brainstorm how to hang something cute by the window. Thanks for the thought!

  • Reply Greta January 21, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I have been hunting for a trash can for months for our bathroom, and this is perfect. Needs to be large to hold medical supply waste from my husband (he has a spinal cord injury), covered, sturdy, simple…this totally fits the bill and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg like some of the other medical waste cans.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 21, 2021 at 9:39 pm

      Ah, I’m so glad!

  • Reply Abby January 21, 2021 at 8:26 pm

    I love that episode!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 21, 2021 at 9:39 pm

      So good/disturbing!

  • Reply Rebecca K Ringquist January 21, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    That shelf that’s leaning with all those utensils on it makes me feel anxious.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 21, 2021 at 9:38 pm

      Because you’re afraid they might fall?

    • Reply Kylee January 27, 2021 at 10:45 pm

      Me too. Because it’s not straight, and I’m uptight, and I’m afraid everything will slide off. But I love the yellow!

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 28, 2021 at 8:44 am

        Gravity my friends! Nothing is sliding off of a table pitched at an 85 degree angle except, perhaps, a marble!

  • Reply Emily January 22, 2021 at 6:37 am

    What kind of container do you use in your freezer? I have been trying to find the right thing for awhile. We are working to get our backyard compost going, but for now we also take it to a collection place, so I need the container to hold enough that I don’t have to take it too often.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 22, 2021 at 8:01 am

      for a long time we used a large plastic bucket with a handle that we could tote directly to drop-off. when it finally cracked after years of use, i didn’t really want to replace with more plastic so we started using brown paper bags and/or compostable green bags. right this minute, the scraps are in a stainless steel mixing bowl, which is great but means i’m down my big mixing bowl…short answer: i’m still on the hunt for the just-right solution!

      • Reply Emily January 24, 2021 at 7:12 am

        This is the exact sequence of thoughts I have had about this, but you have now inspired me to just let it go and put a bag in the freezer until the perfect thing presents itself. It feels good to move on.

    • Reply Gerry January 22, 2021 at 11:00 am

      If this helps, I reuse food containers for storing compost in the freezer.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 22, 2021 at 11:46 am

        Fascinating! Are there big ones you like to use?

      • Reply Sara January 22, 2021 at 5:15 pm

        Additionally if this helps, I use our old bread bags. Then wash the bag and reuse. I’ve found for our small freezer that the bag helps me smush the compost into the shape I need it to be in order to fit and I’m not concerned with it leaking if say it sits out in a stroller for hours on a hot day on the way to the f market.

      • Reply Laurie January 22, 2021 at 11:03 pm

        I use an ice cream plastic container that fits perfectly on my freezer door that I got from a friend. When its full I dump the frozen compost onto newspaper, wrap it up, then put in into our big bin outside, ready for pick up.

  • Reply Maria January 22, 2021 at 9:01 am

    Wow, this is great! I love that the liner for this trash can is steel rather than plastic — we’ve gone through several plastic lined trash cans and have to keep changing them because the plastic ends up absorbing all the bad smells after a while. I would think that galvanized steel would not take up smells, so thanks for sharing this great find.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 22, 2021 at 9:11 am

      Yes, totally!

  • Reply Femicate January 22, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    It is actually quite difficult to find a good quality, eye pleasing trash can that doesn’t cost a fortune nowadays.
    I really like your choice: I hate huge rubbish bins in the kitchen. The style is simple and minimal, which is a bonus. I was considering buying a new one for myself and I would love to avoid plastic but at the same time I am scared a metal bin will become rusty pretty quickly.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 22, 2021 at 12:46 pm

      it is quite difficult! i’m not worried about rust at all! it’s totally coated in paint and the galvanized steel bucket on the inside will protect against rust even better than the paint!

  • Reply Cynthia January 22, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Whenever I read about trash I feel extra lucky to live in a green, progressive city like Seattle. The only trash we generate is used tissues and dental floss, bottle caps/jar lids smaller than 3 inches in diameter, and plastic wrap (sometimes unavoidable on packaged chicken or meat). All of our food waste goes into our Clean Green yard waste container which we roll to the street for weekly pick-up and composting. (We then buy compost from our city’s program for our large garden in the spring.) Our recycling is picked up every other week. Our trash can is the size of a boot box and while it is picked up weekly, we could easily go one month before it’s full.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 22, 2021 at 1:04 pm

      Definitely the reason why it’s so important to advocate for change on a government level. We had curbside organics recycling until it was suspended in May due to pandemic budget cuts and we’re so hopeful it gets reinstated sooner rather than later.

  • Reply Alex January 22, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    I also have a 4-gallon trash can and it’s the perfect size for me taking my trash out to the sidewalk three days a week— my apartment doesn’t have trash cans out front, which is great for me because I live on the ground floor and would hate for them to be the view out my window! What garbage bags do you use for this size can? Do you order online? I’ve had a hard time finding ones that aren’t too big and I hate the extra plastic.

  • Reply Maggie January 24, 2021 at 10:42 am

    Great find!! In a similar rabbit hole a few months ago, I was tempted by the industrial justrite oily waste cans (but only available in red or yellow), the rubbermaid defenders step on can (pricy, and a plastic liner), and the re.bin (no lid unfortunately, but great for use of the paper bags we amassed in the ‘no reusable bags’ early stage of the pandemic)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 25, 2021 at 11:55 am

      ha! yes! eyed both those oily waste cans and the rubbermaid before finding this one!

    • Reply Helen January 25, 2021 at 2:46 pm

      For anyone who doesn’t mind yellow or red, can confirm that oily waste cans are fantastic!

  • Reply Jay January 26, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    Trash cans are important! They’re generally used multiple times per day – anything used that much should absolutely be well-designed and easy to use. Thank you for the recommendation – I’m looking for the ideal trash can myself right now. The only thing I don’t love about your choice is that it’s round – I think a footprint that’s square or rectangular uses space more efficiently. Ah, first world problems……

  • Reply Heather February 17, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Would ur landlord pay for peel and stick tile you could install?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 18, 2021 at 9:00 am

      I don’t think they would pay for it, but I also really don’t want to buy it! It’s almost always made of vinyl which isn’t great for us our the planet so I wanted to try something different!


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