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Trash Compactors Are One of the Best Kitchen Appliances

Updated on September 12, 2013

I Had Some Concerns About Owning A Trash Compactor

How cruddy would the gizmo that smooshes the trash become after a few uses? I could only imagine the accompanying stench if I didn’t clean it off after each smoosh. I also had no idea where to purchase bags for it. Plus, we recycle and we were told not to put ‘wet’ things in the compactor, so would we even fill it up? It all seemed like such an icky bother to me and just one more thing to deal with while adjusting to a different home.

Empty Your Trash Just Once a Week!

Turns out that after just one week, I was completely sold on having a trash compactor. The benefits by far outweigh any negative factors, particularly if you have a growing family. Even with recycling and composting, a family generates a fair amount of trash. Most families I quizzed about their garbage emptying habits said that they take the trash out about every other day or so. However, when I looked up how often compact owners empty their trash, the average was about every six days.

Trash Compactors are Not Dirty or Smelly

You may not think that every six days is a big difference, but it is very nice to only have to empty the trash about once a week. True, the bag is a little heavier and you still have to put some items, like chicken skin, in the outside trash bin (that stuff reeks no matter what your disposal system. I’ve always taken chicken skin directly to the outside trash bin). But, if you buy the right types of bags and have a compactor with a charcoal filter, then there is very little difference from emptying garbage in the usual way, except you don’t have to do it as often. Our compactor does not have a filter in it. Honestly, it has just been a rare occasion when the trash became smelly. I’m talking the air-conditioner broke during a 99° heat wave. That hardly ever happens.

Trash Compactors Yay or Nay?

Are trash compactors an under-appreciated appliance?

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Easy to Use

When first-timers use the trash compactor at my house, they gingerly step on the pedal that makes it automatically pop open. They aren’t sure what to expect. The auto-pop mechanism is similar to those found on regular trash cans, but I think the mechanization factor is what causes the hesitancy. After dropping something in and being instructed to simply push it close, they inevitably ask two questions. “Is that it?” and “Do you like it?”

Reduces Landfill Bulk

Yes, trash compacting is as simple as just tossing your item into the bin, just as you would with a regular trash can. Most people assume that you need to compact it every time you throw something into it. At my house, we just compact it when it seems like it is getting full. With a regular trash bin you use your hand to push things deeper into it to make more room, but with a compactor, the metal plate does the work instead of your hand. If you lay a sheet of newspaper across the top surface before you compact, then nothing will stick to the plate. It is even less gross than using your hand.

Compacted trash can take up as much as 80% less space than non-compacted trash. That could go a long ways towards reducing the amount of space needed for landfills. Some would argue that compacted trash degrades more slowly, but in reality, most trash is compacted. Picture a garbage truck. See the giant compactor that comes down after the trash cans get emptied into it? Even at the landfill site, a certain amount of compaction occurs as the piles are leveled and covered.

Can Compact More Than Just Trash

One use for compactors that I can foresee myself employing after my children have grown and moved away is to switch from using the compactor for trash to using it for recyclables. Some retailers report that they have been selling two compactors at a time for people who want a separate one for recyclables. I think we will produce far less trash once the kids move out and it would be great to have something that automatically flattens the cans. True, glass containers cannot be placed in a compactor, but you wouldn’t want to squish those anyway.

Some people complain that they wouldn’t want to sacrifice the cabinet space to install a compactor. They are not that large and take up approximately the same amount of room as using a slide out, under-the-counter trash bin. Compactors are stand alone devices. There isn’t any tricky installation process. You just plug it in.

Safety isn’t an issue with home trash compactors. Current models can exert up to 3,000 pounds of force. The crushing process takes about 45 seconds. It is impossible to open the door and have the plate activated at the same time. Some models take it a step further and have a key that must be first inserted before crushing can occur.

Would I Buy Another Trash Compactor?

Purchasing bags, at first, was a conundrum. Naively, we ordered our first batch online. We carefully matched the serial number of the machine to the bags to make sure we ordered the correct type. The bags cost $1.24 each! We only ordered a pack of 8. They worked beautifully, but at that price, we thought we may have to quit using the compactor. Fortunately, we discovered that the big box stores carry compactor bags. Although they do not fit as nicely as the ones we specifically ordered for our device, they worked. The trick is the same with any trash can, just make sure you have a fair amount of bag to fold over the edge.

Keeping our compactor clean is not any different than cleaning a typical trash can. Sure, you have to wipe it down and disinfect it now and then, but the whole bin slides out easily and if you put a thin piece of newspaper in before you crush things, the plate stays clean.

Would I purchase a compactor if I were to remodel or build a new house? Absolutely. The trips it saves to the outside trash can are worth it. The space it saves in our outside trash receptacle makes it worth it. Reducing space needed for landfills by 80% is a great difference in the future us of our planet. All of this adds up to a kitchen appliance that has been undervalued for years.

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