Best Trash Compactors of 2018
A trash compactor makes taking out the trash an easier, tidier chore. Our shopping guide is here to help you find out which trash compactor is right for you.
The Best Trash Compactors for Crushing Kitchen Waste
Who likes taking the garbage out? Nobody. A trash compactor that reduces your waste between 50 and 80 percent is a great idea. Instead of a daily chore, dealing with your trash could be a once-a-week task.
But take a close look at the trash compactors on the market, and you'll uncover a considerable amount of variety. To help you decide which trash compactor is right for your home, we put together the following guide. It covers the technical details and practical considerations you need to know before buying a trash compactor for your household waste.
Manual or Automatic: Which Trash Compactor Should You Choose?
Manual Trash Compactors
Manual trash compactors are designed to replace or stand alongside your standard kitchen trash can. They are often produced by the same manufacturers as trash cans and therefore look quite similar. Basic manual trash compactors have a separate plunger for pushing down the trash. You open the compactor's lid, drop in the trash, push down with the plunger, close the lid, and rinse off the plunger. Other manual trash compactors are a bit more sophisticated, with a built-in plunger mechanism that you activate after the lid has been closed.
But in either case, the amount of trash you compact depends on how much force you apply. For this reason, manual trash compactors are suitable for food, paper, and plastic—in essence, anything you could crush by hand. However, manual trash compactors struggle with cans and can't cope with glass bottles.
Most manufacturers of manual trash compactors predict that you'll reduce your waste volume by about half. That's pretty good for a device that doesn't cost much more than your typical steel trash can.
Automatic Trash Compactors
Automatic trash compactors are more hands-off. They can be fixed, freestanding, or mobile models. Fixed automatic trash compactors are designed to slide under your kitchen countertop, so they're a standard height and depth. Freestanding automatic trash compactors are often taller than your countertop. They're intended to sit alongside your built-in kitchen appliances.
Mobile automatic trash compactors roll on robust casters. These machines have a more industrial look and are often kept in the garage—a location that may actually be more convenient when it comes time to empty the bin.
The operating principle behind automatic trash compactors is the same as that of manual compactors, but a motor powers the machine rather than human muscle. An automatic trash compactor can exert tremendous force. Manufacturer figures range from 2,000 to 5,000 pounds, with compression ratios between 60 percent and 85 percent (depending on the items being crushed). That's enough pressure to completely flatten tin cans and reduce most bottles to small piles of shattered glass. The result: refuse that takes up as little as one-fourth to one-fifth of its original space.
In the past, automatic trash compactors were criticized for being noisy. Thankfully, today's automatic trash compactors use quieter motors and good sound insulation. As a result, most are only as loud as a dishwasher.
Key Features for Trash Compactors
Must-Have Features for Manual Trash Compactors
For manual trash compactors, look for a capacity between eight and 13 gallons.
Most have a foot pedal—like many ordinary trash cans—so you can open the lid when you have your hands full. High-end manual models open using infrared sensors, powered by batteries or a plug-in adapter.
Some have charcoal filters to control unpleasant odors. Soft-close lids are also common. Some manual trash compactors lock in an open position, which is convenient if you've got several handfuls of trash to toss out.
The warranties for manual trash compactors can cover up to 10 years.
Must-Have Features for Automatic Trash Compactors
For automatic trash compactors, capacity is normally quoted in cubic feet and ranges from 1.4 cubic feet (approximately 10.5 gallons) to an enormous 5.5 cubic feet (slightly over 41 gallons).
A kick-plate serves the same purpose as the foot pedal on manual versions, providing hands-free access for automatic trash compactors. Controls can be on the front or cleverly hidden behind a sliding door for a sleeker look.
Odor is managed by charcoal filters or air fresheners. A light gives a visual indication of when it's time to change the filter or freshener.
Jams aren't common, but many automatic trash compactors can identify when one is imminent and give an audible warning. These compactors can also sense if the load is out of balance or if the door isn't properly closed. Some models have a door lock with a key that can be removed, preventing inquisitive young family members from accidentally hurting themselves.
The best automatic trash compactors are complete waste management systems, offering not just compacting but also a specific crusher for cans, as well as drawers or trays for items that can be recycled.
How Much Do Trash Compactors Cost?
You'll find manual trash compactors in a variety of colors and styles between $100 and $150. Check the product description carefully, though, because many similar-looking recycling trash cans have twin compartments to separate items but don't actually crush the contents like a compactor.
Automatic trash compactors cost considerably more—anywhere from $800 to $2,000, depending on the model. Automatic compactors on the lower end of this range do a perfectly good job, and to some extent you're paying for the brand name at the upper end. However, top models do offer additional features like a separate can crusher and individual compartments for sorting out recyclables.
Q. Is a trash compactor better than a garbage disposal?
A. It's difficult to compare the two. A trash compactor is more versatile. You can put lots of different items in there—but decaying food can start to smell quite quickly if there's no odor control. You've also got to find space for a trash compactor. That's usually not difficult for a manual compactor, but automatic models are similar in size to other kitchen appliances. If your kitchen is already planned out, the garage is an alternative.
A garbage disposal hides under the kitchen sink and chops up food waste and flushes it straight down the drain. But you don't want to put anything other than food down a disposal.
Each device has its advantages. The ideal solution is to have both a trash compactor and a garbage disposal, of course. If budget is a consideration, a manual trash compactor might be your best option.
Q. Are trash compactors dangerous?
A. Not normally, because even the most powerful automatic models work with the door closed and the trash sealed inside. Safety locks prevent inquisitive children or pets from hurting themselves. However, there's always a chance that sharp edges from cans or bottles might have pierced the bag, so it's sensible to be cautious when removing the bag from a trash compactor.
Q. Can I throw everything in a trash compactor?
A. What you can throw in depends on the model. Manual compacting relies to a large degree on individual strength, and some items are more difficult to squash than others. Automatic trash compactors have a more powerful ram and can compact more items.
Nevertheless, there are a few things you should be careful with—or avoid completely—no matter which trash compactor you choose.
- Never crush aerosol cans; they might explode.
- Never crush batteries; they can leak acid.
- Never put hot ash in the compactor; you could start a fire. With the compartment closed, it might get out of control before you realize it.
- Juices and oils will cause weak spots in the bag, so rinse cartons, cans, and jars before putting them in.
- Wrap glass in thick paper to reduce the risk of it splitting the bag.