Types of trash cans

25 April 2021 Shares

Home Recycling Bins Types of trash cans

By Recycling.com/ 25 April 2021 Shares

Types of trash cans

What type of trash can do you prefer?

Trash cans come with and without lids. When you prefer a trash can with a lid there is a lot to choose from. In what way do you want to open the lid of your trash can. By hand, by foot or by motion sensor?

On this page, we’ll walk you through the different kinds of trash can lid mechanisms, such as step-on trash cans and manual bins with a touch lid. We sum up the pros and cons for each instrument so you can find out what kind of trash can or recycling bin you want to get.


Lid mechanisms:

Recommended: Touchless trash cans are more hygienic in use

A trash can is a container to collect your household trash and recyclables. This makes it an object you rather don’t want to touch with your fingers.

Especially in the kitchen area, it is more hygienic to have a recycling bin that you don’t need to touch by hand at all. Therefore it is recommended to use an automatic trash can with a motion sensor. Or a step-on trashcan with a foot pedal. With these types of trash cans, there is no need to touch the bin with your hand.

What are the pros and cons of touchless trash cans?


  • Hygienic in use
  • Convenient to use with full hands
  • Less finger prints on the bin


  • Mechanism can break
  • Overall more expensive than touch or open cans

Open top trash cans without lid

The most basic trash cans have no lid at all, so the top is not covered. These types of open trash cans get used to throwing away trash easily and fast.

Think about a small paper bin under your office desk to throw away paper without even looking at it. Or an open trash can in a fast food restaurant where you can throw away your food wrappers and food containers without the need to touch the bin.


  • Easy to throw things away
  • Visible when the trash can is full
  • Don’t need to touch the bin


  • Odors are not contained
  • Not proof for pets and insects
  • Not recommended for organic waste
  • If it tips over it can become quite messy

Manual trash cans

A manual trash can has a lid that you manually open by hand. Trash can manufacturers come up with all kinds of ways to open the lid.

The most simple version of this type of trash can has a cover that you lift by hand. But more fancy manual trash cans have lids that open automatically after pressing the lid (press top) or pushing on a touch bar.

With these recycling bins, you can also use your hip or elbow to open the lid.


  • Easy to use
  • Relatively cheap


  • Not the most hygienic
  • Not convenient with full hands
  • Not dog-proof


It is very convenient when you have a trash can where the lid stays open by itself. Cheaper models tend to have lids that fall right after you remove your hand from the lid. We recommend having a trash can where the lid can stay open for kitchen use, so you have time to scrape your cutting board, for example.

Another thing to look for when you want a stainless steel trash can is that it has a fingerprint-proof coating. Because you and your family will touch the bin quite often, it will get fingerprints and smudges all over it. This special coating prevents most of the smears, so you won’t have to clean the bin that often.

Swing lid trash cans

A trash can with a swing top lid has a lid that you need to push by hand. So this is also a manual trash can. Some swing cans have lids with a spring, so it closes right after you remove your hand. Other swing lid trash cans have a cover that rotates freely, so you don’t feel pressure while using it.


  • The lid closes automatically
  • Perfect for ‘clean’ trash such as paper


  • Not hygienic
  • The swing lid can become dirty
  • Not recommended for kitchen use
  • Not convenient with full hands
  • Opening is relatively small
  • The lid can get stuck when can is full


Because you push the lid by hand, it will become dirty after a while, especially when it is a metal lid, because of the fingerprints. So it is recommended to choose a swing lid bin that has a fingerprint-proof coating.

Step-on trash cans

A step-on trash can is a touchless pedal trash can because you don’t need your hands to open the lid. You open the lid by pressing the pedal with your foot. This makes a pedal trash can a very hygienic bin to use in the kitchen, restroom, or bathroom. There are single, dual, and multi-compartment step-on recycling bins available.


  • Very hygienic in use
  • Have both of your hands free
  • Less fingerprints and smudges


  • Lid falls down after removing your foot
  • Foot pedal mechanism can break
  • Pedal works best when standing in front of bin
  • Some lids can’t be opened by hand


A step-on bin works best when the foot pedal is durable and sturdy. For kitchen use, we recommend a step-on trash can with a steel foot pedal.

The steel pedal is a more expensive option, but the trash can will last longer than a bin with a plastic foot pedal, which can feel flimsy when using it.

Please note that the foot pedal of a step-on waste bin works best when you stand in front of the container. So when you want to operate the pedal bin from the side, the lid won’t open most of the time smoothly.

Another thing to look at is that some pedal trash cans have lids flush with the bin’s top, which means you can’t open the cover with your hands.

Automatic trash cans with motion sensor

A sensor trash can is a 100% touchless recycling bin. This means that you don’t have to touch the trash can at all, not by foot and not by hand.

The trash can contains a sensor, when activated, automatically opens the lid. You activate the sensor by holding your hand in front of it, and a motor in the bin opens up the lid by itself. The sensor is designed to activate the cover when you walk by the trash can.


  • 100% touchless
  • Very hygienic and convenient
  • Makes recycling a fun experience


  • Motor makes sound
  • Replacing batteries
  • The lid motor may malfunction
  • Some models are not dog-proof


Batteries power an automatic trash can, and some models also get equipped with a wall adapter. If you want to completely rely on the wall adapter, make sure you have a wall socket near the location you wish to place the automatic trash can.

If you want to separate trash and recycling, we recommend a dual-sensor recycling bin.

Other things to look for

  • If you want to place the trash can flat against your wall, make sure the lid’s hinges are inside the bin. In this way, the lid won’t stick out at the back when you open the trash can. Otherwise, it might scratch your wall or damage the cover of your trash can.
  • It is convenient to be able to lock the lid so the lid can stay open. This is very convenient when you want to throw away a larger amount of waste.
  • To prevent the bin from scooting on the floor, we recommend looking for a more heavy trash can made of stainless steel. To prevent scratches on your (wooden) floor, make sure the bottom of the waste bin contains rubber. This rubber also precludes the container from moving when you use the trash cans, especially for step-on recycling bins and trash cans.

Single, dual or multi bin trash cans?

More and more people sort their trash and recycling at home. Therefore trash can manufacturers, such as Simplehuman, provide all kinds of multi-bin trash cans.

These trash and recycling bins have multiple buckets so you can sort any type of waste.

Trash can layouts

What kind of trash can fits your needs?

To find out what recycling bin suits you best we have compared the pros and cons for each type of trash can.

Single trash cans

Single-purpose trash cans have one bucket and can be dedicated for one type of waste. A single-purpose bin can be placed in the kitchen, but these bins are also ideal for the restroom or bathroom.

Some people prefer to have separate single-purpose trash cans for every type of waste in their household.



  • All kinds of sizes and capacities
  • Cheaper than multi bin variants
  • Perfect for collecting one type of waste


  • Only for one type of waste
  • For recycling you need 2 bins

Double trash cans

A double trash can is a side-by-side bin with two compartments. Most of these dual bins have two (removable) buckets with a different color.

This helps to remember what type of waste belongs to what bucket. Double trash cans come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.

Some of these bins have equally sized compartments, for instance, 8 + 8 gallons. But there are also trash and recycling bins with 2 compartments with one large and one small bucket.



  • One bin for trash and recycling
  • Makes recycling easier
  • You will recycle even more


  • Slimmer compartments
  • Dual bins are relatively expensive
  • Some bins require special liners

Multi purpose trash cans

A multi-compartment trash can contains at least three inner bins. This is ideal when you want to sort three or more streams of waste for recycling. For instance household trash, plastics, and organic kitchen waste.

Most multi-purpose recycling bins have three compartments. These 3-compartment trash cans are perfect for separating trash, plastics, and paper. It depends on local regulations what kind of recyclables you need to sort at home.



  • Separate multiple recycle streams
  • One bin for all trash and recycling


  • Not many models to choose from
  • Narrow compartments

Are the bins removable?

trash-can-removable-bucketsA trash can or recycling bin gets dirty after using it. As well on the inside and the outside. So your trash can needs some cleaning every once in a while.

The outside and the lid(s) are fairly easy to clean with some dish soap and a dishcloth. But cleaning the inside of the bin can be quite a hassle. That is when the inner buckets are not removable.

Some trash cans have removable bins, and we advise you to get a bin that has this feature. This makes cleaning your trash can a lot easier.

You can take out the bin, remove the trash bag and give the bucket a thorough cleaning in the kitchen sink or in the garden.

Check our recommendations for kitchen trash cans.

Recycling stickers for your convenience

trash-can-recycle-sticker-decal-vinylTo prevent that you or someone from accidentally throwing their trash in your recycling bin it is recommended to label each bin for trash and recyclables.

For instance, when you have a double recycling bin, you can label the bins with a sticker to make visible what kind of trash or recyclables belong to which bin. Because of the trash can stickers, it is visually clear for everybody which bin is dedicated for which waste stream.


Useful features for a convenient trash can

Besides the size, compartments and lid mechanisms there are a few other features to consider when buying a new recycling bin. On this page we tell you all about these trash can features, such as soft closing lids, fingerprint coatings and removable inner buckets.

Table of contents:

What material?

Most trash cans and recycling bins come in the materials: plastic or metal (often stainless steel). But you can also get a trash can made of wood or leather. But because most people will get a plastic or metal bin, we talk about that a little bit more below:


Plastic trash cans

A plastic trash can is a relatively cheap garbage can when you compare it with a stainless steel variant. Other than the price, a plastic trash can is lightweight and pretty easy to clean.

It is 100% dent-proof, but it is possible to crack or break the bin’s plastic. When getting a plastic trash can, the hinge, which connects the lid with the bin, is durable and won’t break after some (heavy) usage.

A trash can made of plastic is excellent to use in the restroom, bathroom, bedroom, or your home office. We recommend a more durable and stable trash can make of strong metal for heavy-duty kitchen usage. These tend to last longer.

Metal trash can with plastic lid

When you consider a more luxury waste bucket, you probably end up with a metal trash can. Most of these metal trash cans are made of stainless steel. This steel isn’t vulnerable to water so that it won’t corrode or rust.

Some of these metal bins have a metal bin but a lid made of plastic. This makes the container a little bit more price-friendly.

A plastic lid is often used with manual trash cans to use your hands to open the lid. Plastic won’t get finger smudges that easily.

A plastic lid can also be found on automatic motion sensor bins. These bins have a motor that opens and closes the cover, and a lightweight plastic lid is easier to handle for the motor than a top made of heavier stainless steel.

Metal trash cans made of stainless steel


A recycling bin made of stainless steel looks very nice. Especially when you place it in the kitchen where it matches other stainless steel kitchen appliances.

Stainless steel is a durable material, which is very useful for a trash can that will be used every day by you and your family. Not every metal trash can is evenly durable because there are differences in quality. This depends on the type of brand.

A metal trash can is recommended when looking for a heavy-duty step-on trash can with a foot pedal. The foot pedal must be made of strong steel, so it can handle heavy use by your family day in and day out without breaking.

A stainless steel trash can is recommended when you place the bin in a humid room like a bathroom. Because it is ‘stainless,’ it isn’t susceptible to water stains. And stainless steel is a material that won’t rust. Besides that, a stainless steel trash can is also great to use in the kitchen.

The disadvantage of stainless steel trash cans is that they are relatively expensive. And it might not be your taste. Besides that, a metal bin can get scratched or might get a dent.

Most of the metal bins made of stainless steel have a silver brushed metal look. But you can also get stainless steel recycling bins and trash cans in other colors.

This trash can is a recycling bin with double compartments. So you can use one for trash and the other for collecting recyclables.

Check Dual trash cans

Fingerprint coating

fingerprint-proof-coating-trash-canDo you like the look of a stainless steel trash can with fingerprints and smudges all over it? If not, then a fingerprint-resistant bin is what you want. Especially when you’re looking for a recycling bin with a manual lid, you need to touch the top every time you want to open it.

To prevent fingerprints on the bin, you need to look for a stainless steel trash can treated with a special fingerprint-proof coating. This coating ensures that the usual fingerprints won’t show up on the material. Though, when you touch the bin or the lid with visible dirty hands, it will also be visible on the bin, of course.

Another advantage of the fingerprint coating is that the bin is easier to clean. There lays a thin layer on the stainless steel, so it protects the metal also a bit.

Shape of the bin

The overall shape of the bin isn’t only a taste preference. It also has a practical use. First off, what kind of shapes are there to choose from:

  • Square shaped
  • Rectangular shaped
  • Round shaped
  • Oval shaped
  • Half-round shaped


A round-shaped bin might look great in your bathroom. But maybe a square-shaped bin is easier to fit in a tight spot. So the bin’s shape-type might be very useful to fit the bin in a corner or squeeze it between a cabinet and a wall.

When you want a dual recycling bin with two compartments, we recommend a square or rectangular-shaped trash can because around a trash can with two (half) buckets is less convenient to throw away your trash because there is less space for the bucket.

Besides a square or round shaped recycling or trash bin, you can also choose a tall, short, slim, or wide sized container. All these shapes and forms are especially convenient when available space is an issue, so you want to place the bin in a tight spot.

Soft closing or silent closing lid

trash-can-soft-closing-lid-silentA soft-closing lid is a neat feature that is not an essential requirement but makes a trash can or recycling bin more convenient and fun to use. When you open the bin and throw your trash or recycling away, you can walk away, and the lid will shut down very smoothly and (even more important) in a silent way.

So no loud banging or slamming lids anymore. Which makes the garbage can more discrete to use in the bathroom, restroom or kitchen.

Stay-open lids

For automatic sensor cans, step-on bins, and manual lid trash cans, it is recommended to let the lid stay open. This is useful when you want to throw away more trash than you can hold at once.

For instance, when you are preparing dinner and want to throw away your cutting board’s food packaging and scrape, a stay-open lid is very convenient to have.


Some bins have a button or handle to let the lid stay open. Other bins, generally manual touch bins, have lids that automatically stay open after you’ve opened the lid.

Hinge type (internal or external)

internal-hinge-lid-trash-canThere are two essential things to look for when talking about the hinge. The hinge is a crucial part of the recycling bin or trash can because it connects the bin with the lid.

So it needs to be sturdy, not flimsy, and durable. You don’t want to have a lid that wobbles around or won’t shut properly because the hinge gets made out of cheap plastic. So the hinge needs to be sturdy and, preferably, made out of metal.

The other important part of the hinge is where the hinge is installed. Is it mounted on the inside of the bin or the outside of the bin?

When you plan to place your new trash can flat against your wall, you need to have a bin with an internal hinge. Because of the inner hinge, you’re able to open the bin’s lid without it touching your wall and possibly leaves some scratches behind.

Example of a trash can you can place flat against your wall


Trash can flat against a wall


Removable buckets


A trash can or recycling bin gets messy after using it, that is perfectly normal. So it needs some cleaning every once in a while.

The ability to remove the inner bucket(s) is advantageous when you want to give your bin a thorough cleaning session. Removable bins are also recommended when you want to use the bucket for recycling or compost and don’t want to use a recycling bag.

Another advantage of removable inner buckets is replacing a full trash bag with a new one more easily.

Filters to eliminate bad odors

charcoal-filter-in-lid-neautralize-trash-odorsLastly, how can you prevent a bad-smelling trash can? Because no one likes the smell of trash in the house. Some bins come with standard filters that absorb bad odors from your trash.

The neutralizing filter is normally located on the inside of the lid. The filter contains charcoal, which absorbs the strong trash odors and neutralizes them so your trash can or recycling bin won’t have a bad smell.

After a while, you need to replace the filter with a new replacement filter you can buy at the store. In this way, you are assured of a fresh-smelling trash can, which is recommended for trash cans that stand in your kitchen, bathroom, or restroom.

bad-smelling-trash-canNot all trash cans have a holder for odor filters. Luckily you can also buy filters with a holder you can stick on the inside of the bin.

Besides a filter, the overall built of the trash can is also an important factor in containing bad trash can odors. A solid trash can with a sturdy lid that closes well enhances the ability to contain bad trash odors inside the bin.

DIY tip:

To eliminate bad odors you can also use cat litter, soda, or coffee beans. Just sprinkle it in an old sock or panty and place it on the bottom of the trash can.