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Trash Compactors.... love 'em or hate'em?

Midlife Mar 3, 2007 11:36 AM

We've had a trash compactor in the last two homes we've owned (a total of 20 years). The latest home is a new one in a tract by a very large builder, here in Southern California. When we opted for the trash compactor the design center person mentioned that they do not install them in the vast majority of their homes. Where we are the new homes pretty much start at $800K or so, suggesting this is not a financial issue for buyers. Usually the compactor goes in a space that would otherwise be for a standard trash receptacle, so it doesn't appear to be a space issue either..

Whenever the subject happens to come up in conversation, most of our acquaintances seem to have a whole host of reasons why they don't want a compactor. They range from the most common being odors, to the weight of the full bag, or the difficulty in extracting the bag from the unit compared with the relative ease of just removing a standard trash bag from it's container.

What are your feelings about trash compactors?

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  1. s
    Sherri Mar 3, 2007 12:26 PM

    My husband and I built a house 4 1/2 years ago. Having had one before, he wanted a trash compactor and I thought "why not?" so we put one in the kithen in addition to double trash can pull-out bins. (NB: our architect was not in favor of our decision, but it was not going to be his kitchen .......) We are built into the side of a hill so getting trash upstairs and up, out to the street is an issue for us.

    We only use the compactor for clean paper so odor has never been an issue although I imagine it could be. I'm happily surprised at how much I use this and enjoy having it. Yes, if we wait a long time, the bags are pretty heavy but it beats trekking up to the street every day with lightweight, bulky items.

    It is a "Do Again" in my book with one caveat -- buy a high quality machine. We saw some that were very flimsy. This workhorse crunches anything we've given it and keeps humming along.

    In another forum, I'd take issue with your statement "Where we are the new homes pretty much start at 800K or so, suggesting this is not a financial issue for buyers".
    Midlife: everything is a financial issue for buyers. Living beyond one's means in a house that is barely affordable does not financial stability make.

    1. r
      rtmonty Mar 4, 2007 09:46 AM

      We had a compactor for 11 years in one house. We then designed and built a new house and opted to not have a compator, instead we had a large "trash drawer" built in as part of the custom cabinets. It was just our preference.

      1. c
        ClaireWalter Mar 4, 2007 10:10 AM

        When I bought my house 18 1/2 years ago, it had a trash compactor -- my first-ever. I moved from urban NJ, where for years trash was collected 6 days a week(!) and later "just" 3 days, to Boulder, CO, where it is picked up just once a week. Boulder has an aggressive curbside recycling program for paper, plastic, glass and metal. We compost produce trimmings and other organic plant waste. The house also came with a garbage disposal. Still, for everything else, the compactor is useful. Our trash charges depend on the size of the bins we select, and with a compactor, we are able to use the smallest available size.

        So it's "difficult" to remove a compacted bag from the device. Big deal. Difficult is not the same as impossible. Odor? Depends what you put into it. If we are having, saw, fish a day or two after trash day, I put the wrapper and trimmings into a plastic bag, twist-tie it and put it into the refrigerator or freezer till trash day. Again, no big deal. And if something is really stinky or you an't abide the notion of refrigerating or freezing pending garbage, there's no law that says just because you have a compactor, you can't put something in the trash between collection days. If wildlife (esp raccoons or bears) is an issue, you can't put that stuff out in advance where the critters can get to it, whether or not you have a compactor.

        1. jfood Mar 4, 2007 04:03 PM

          Trash compactor owner since 1987 and LOVE them. We live in an area where trash pick-up is once per week plus we have a disposal. The odor issue is non-existent. We also recycle cans and paper.

          So after dinner, scrape the crumbs into the sink, rest goes into compactor. Lickety-split.

          The bags are a breeze to take out, have NO idea what people are referring to.

          My biggest complaint was the cost of the bags. Buying them in the market was ridiculous. I found a distributor 20 years ago and have them shipped to my house. They are half the price of the Glad store boughts. Can post the number if anyone wishes. Word to te wise is that it is a high probability that it will nick the sides of the cabinets it is installed next to.

          1. Bill Hunt Sep 29, 2013 07:08 PM

            Midlife,

            I know that this thread is VERY old, but it IS getting closer to Halloween, went zombies arise and walk the earth, so here goes:

            About to launch into a major kitchen remodel, and this has become a point of contention - the trash compactor.

            Which way did you go?
            Are you happy with your choice?
            What would you recommend, or do again?

            Our architect and kitchen designer say NO WAY! We have friends, who are almost split down the middle on the question of "Compact, or Not To Compact."

            The cost of a $1K unit is not really a consideration for us - in the grand scheme of things, that will disappear into the dust of adding 450 sq ft too the kitchen, and then the Miele appliances.

            Still, this is our last kitchen, and we are shooting for perfect.

            We are a family of two, but do entertain frequently, so potential usage would be weeks of little, followed by a few days of heavy usage.

            For us, there are a dozen steps from the kitchen, up to the garage (where trashcan & recycle can are stored), then a steep driveway, where I must roll the trashcan, for weekly pickup.

            While I have no problem fighting through the protestations of my architect and my kitchen designer, I could easily spend the $ elsewhere, and be just fine.

            Thanks for thinking about this, as it will be helpful.

            Hope that you see this older thread.

            Hunt

            12 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt
              c
              calumin Sep 29, 2013 09:42 PM

              We just finished a kitchen remodel. Instead of getting a trash compactor, I'd consider using that space in the kitchen on other types of waste. We put in two pull-out drawers -- one with two cans for trash and recycling, and one for compost. We also have another inset compost can in our countertop.

              About 30% of our garbage now is actually trash - the rest goes in either recycling or compost. One standard 13 gallon bin easily lasts us the whole week.

              1. re: calumin
                Bill Hunt Sep 29, 2013 09:54 PM

                Thank you for that recommendation.

                As of now, we have two waste bins, and each is well divided. This is what the kitchen designer, and the architect, both recommend, and in a big way.

                Before I "pull the trigger," I just wanted to get an update, and maybe some personal observations.

                Greatly appreciated,

                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt
                  f
                  ferret Sep 30, 2013 09:44 AM

                  Having just moved into a home with a compactor, it's taken a little adjustment but I'm glad it's there. We use it for all kinds of food waste and there's no odor when it's sealed. We use recycling bins for recyclables which are located in the garage, just a few steps away.

                  Count me in as a pro-compactor person.

                  One other thing. The poster above can last a week with a 13-gallon bin. That's not us. Even though it's just the two of us now we have guests periodically and entertain most weekends in the summer. Without the compactor, we'd fill a bin every two days during the week and probably 2 a day on the busier weekends.

                  1. re: ferret
                    Midlife Sep 30, 2013 10:21 AM

                    Wow! That's a lot of trash for two people. We could go 10 days easily.

                    1. re: Midlife
                      f
                      ferret Sep 30, 2013 10:29 AM

                      2 people live in the home permanently, but kids are stopping by or friends pop over. It's rarely ever just the 2 of us.

              2. re: Bill Hunt
                Midlife Sep 29, 2013 11:50 PM

                Pretty good comments from others so far, Bill. We still own the home with the trash compactor but are leasing it out and live elsewhere (sans compactor). We really liked having it but that may have been because I didn't like having to take trash out as frequently as is necessary without it. The downsides to the compactor are two IMHO: 1) compacted trash is pretty darned heavy....... much heavier than the same volume of uncompacted trash obviously; 2) there can be an odor issue, depending on what you put in the compactor and how often you remove trash from it. Part of the decision may related to how sensitive you are to odors. Compactors DO have deodorizer features, but they don't prove all that effective for everyone. With just two of you, there could be a tendency to delay emptying............ and with the weight it can reach it can be a 'guy thing' to do.

                Then, too, I have begun to think that if you live in an area that allows or even requires recycling and separation of certain types of trash, a compactor is likely less and less of a useful addition.

                So.................. I'm not sure that I would have one again if I had the choice. I AM curious, though, as to why your architect is against your having one. I noted that yours was not the only one against it............ see post from Sherri.

                1. re: Midlife
                  Bill Hunt Oct 2, 2013 06:46 PM

                  Midlife,

                  Thank you, and all others, who came back to this old thread, with great insights.

                  As for both the architect, and the kitchen designers, you touched on both of their concerns:

                  Weight
                  Odor

                  Both are very much against a compactor.

                  While I am not trying to go against either, we will only do this kitchen once - never again, so I want to "get it right" the first time, and not think later, "I wish that I had done ____ ."

                  Appreciated,

                  Hunt

                2. re: Bill Hunt
                  firecooked Sep 30, 2013 10:49 AM

                  Assuming that you will be hauling 1 can to the curb weekly, the compactor doesn't really make a difference... its the same weight. Clearly if you need more cans or wouldn't take the trash out some weeks then it would....

                  1. re: firecooked
                    Bill Hunt Oct 2, 2013 06:49 PM

                    Our average week is 2 - 3 bags in the garbage, up to the curb. When we host smaller parties, that might go up to 4 - 5, but seldom above. For larger parties, the caterer hauls off the trash.

                    As we recycle, as well as possible, no cans would be in the compactor.

                    Thanks for the comments,

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                      DuffyH Oct 2, 2013 09:09 PM

                      Hi Bill,

                      Our trash accumulation is much like yours. We've been with and without compactors. We also recycle. Odor has never been an issue. Nor has weight, but then, that's what my Dude is for.

                      I come down on the side of being a fan. We've enjoyed having them whenever space permitted. If there's something else terrific that you'd put in that space instead, then do that. However, if you've got everything else you want, by all means, carpe compactus, sieze the compactor!

                      If I had the cash, I'd install a free-standing unit in my current kitchen. That may partially be about me hating having a trash can in sight. :(

                      1. re: DuffyH
                        Bill Hunt Oct 3, 2013 06:09 PM

                        Thank you for that reply.

                        My wife will probably pour over all, and have some additional questions, which I will post here. [Where's the Expand All button, from older CH forums?]

                        I completely understand "your dude's" role in things. I get to lift the heavy and reach the upper levels. My station in life...

                        As for space, we are adding 450 sq ft to the kitchen, so that should not be an issue - but maybe she has some "stuff," that I do not know about yet?

                        Appreciated,

                        Hunt

                  2. re: Bill Hunt
                    Midlife Oct 5, 2013 10:20 AM

                    Bill, I hope you've been able to come to a conclusion about a compactor. I've thought more and can tell you that those 'bricks' (as someone called the filled bags) can be REALLY heavy. If you have to take them a long distance, or up any stairs, I'm going to argue against the unit. Sounds like you want to retire in this house, and those things can push 40 lbs or so sometimes. Not much fun as you push into years when you should be careful about such things.

                    FYI - I checked my profile and there was a typo in the email address, which explains why it wouldn't go through.

                  3. firecooked Sep 30, 2013 10:47 AM

                    Previous home had a compactor... so I can justify my "hate" stance. Mostly odor.. we eat a lot of bananas, melon, etc that gets stinky quick, plus it had a tendency to jam (or the bag got caught or something). We pulled out the compactor and put in a wine fridge that was designed to fit the hole... much better use of the space!

                    1. r
                      rainey Sep 30, 2013 10:55 AM

                      I don't love or hate them. I just don't understand the point. It certainly isn't something I'd spend money on.

                      I have a simple roll out fitted for a regular trash container and a separate one for recycling. On top of one I have a lidded stainless hotel pan that I peel my veggies directly into. I also use that for other compostables like coffee grounds, etc. It's a system that works well for me without the expense or (rather pointless in my opinion) use of electricity.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rainey
                        f
                        ferret Sep 30, 2013 11:11 AM

                        The use of electricity is pretty minimal - about 15 seconds daily.

                      2. m
                        mike0989 Sep 30, 2013 11:12 AM

                        Form me, it's like the pot faucset over the cooktop. You wonder why until you've had one. Then you can't see not having it. As an aside, in our community trash compactors are required on new construction.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mike0989
                          f
                          ferret Sep 30, 2013 11:55 AM

                          While I would never go out of my way to add a pot-filler over the cooktop, it's easy to see their usefulness.

                        2. kaleokahu Oct 3, 2013 06:47 PM

                          Hi, Bill:

                          I had one, once. Never really got the appeal. It was long enough ago that the model needed special heavy-weight bags (read, expensive). It made noise and it was quite small. It made alarming noise when it collapsed something that didn't want to be collapsed. And then the "brick" of trash: (a) was a pain to extract; and (b) never seemed to fit neatly in the *real* trash.

                          I got to the point where, every time I took the brick out to toss, I'd ask myself: "Why am I doing this?" And the only answer I found with staying power was: "Because you have a trash compactor."

                          You might also check to see if your waste utility has any weight limits. In Seattle (at least for my size container) we have a 60-lb total limit. I'd hate to see you buy a TC only for it to mean nothing.

                          Truth be told, I've never missed that thing. So IIWY, I'd spend my remodel money elsewhere.

                          Aloha,
                          Kaleo

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: kaleokahu
                            Bill Hunt Oct 4, 2013 06:41 PM

                            Greatly appreciated.

                            Lot's of options to explore, and we're meeting with the architect tomorrow AM.

                            Mahalo,

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                              kaleokahu Oct 5, 2013 05:23 PM

                              'Ole Pilikia, Hunt.

                              Aloha,
                              Kaleo

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