One of the most important trends in all of home design – and especially kitchen design – for 2013 is going green. That means thinking about how much water and energy your appliances use, what materials your cabinets, flooring, and counter are made of, and even what kind of lightbulbs you’re using. But I’d like to caution you not just to think of your kitchen’s sustainability in terms of consumption, but also in terms of output. While you might be able to build the most efficient, most earth-friendly kitchen, you still need to consider your use of that kitchen, especially in terms of garbage. Regular kitchen use can add up to a whole lot of garbage, but installing a trash compactor is a good way to start reducing the impact of your trash.
What You Need To Know About Kitchen Waste
There are all kinds of (slightly-scary) statistics out there about kitchen waste: that Americans throw away on average half the food they buy, or over $2,000 worth per year for a family of four. A smaller refrigerator can sometimes help, but combined with heavily packaged food, napkins, and so on, a large family can produce a whole lot of trash – even as much as a full garbage bag worth a day. Now, trash compactors won’t reduce the amount of waste you produce – that’s between you and your lifestyle choices – but something like this Black Nutone Compactor can reduce the volume of your weekly garbage by as much as 80%.
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Why Is Compact Better?
Now, many suburban and rural areas have recently been equipped with three massive waste buckets per household: one for garbage, one for recycling, and one for lawn waste. With such large canisters, you probably don’t feel like you’re exactly swimming in garbage. But a trash compactor like this Stainless Steel Compactor can cram six garbage bags worth of trash into a single bag. That means taking out the trash less often, not having trash sitting around to smell up your garage, and even using fewer bags to transport your garbage.
Where Does Your Garbage Go?
I think we Americans have a tendency to think that garbage pickup trucks are magical, that they take our garbage away from us and then evaporate them into thin are. We don’t like to think of our moldy casserole and discarded paper plates being piled up in a big hole in the ground, but that’s exactly what happens. Now, I won’t say that investing in a trash compactor like this Tile Inlay Compactor will dramatically reduce your landfill impact, because a lot of compacting happens along the way (in the back of your garbage pickup truck, at the landfill itself, and with special machines that tromp down trash). But I will say that it certainly doesn’t hurt – especially in terms of the impact of transporting your trash to the landfill in the first place.
What You Should Know
If you’ve never owned or even used a trash compactor there ARE a few things you should know before you buy. First, while a trash compactor can condense up to six bags worth of trash into one bag, it doesn’t magically make the trash lighter, so make sure to empty it while the trash is still light enough for you to lift. As well, trash compactors can be a little noisy while they’re working, but only for maybe a minute when you turn the compacting on. Finally, while trash compactors can be used for things like cans or glass bottles, you do need to keep anything that might crush into sharp edges away from the plastic, and never ever put anything under pressure (like a bottle of vegetable spray) in, as they can actually explode. Most trash compactors, like this White Nutone, can be easily disassembled for cleaning, but it helps to put a folded newspaper on top of your garbage before compressing, to keep the crushing arm from becoming coated in trash.
A Note About Upkeep
One of the main drawbacks of trash compactors is that they do require special bags like these Compactor Bags, as well as deodorizing cartridges which need to be replaced periodically. After all, the bags have to hold up to the added abuse of 3000 pounds of pressure as well as the extra weight of 6x more garbage, and food that’s left for a long time will start to smell, even in an air-tight canister. That said, the bags typically are priced proportionally to the number of regular trash bags you’d be using, and the odor-blockers tend to be pretty long lived (about 6 months, in the case of Broan Nutone models).
Make It Match
One of the nicest things about trash compactors – especially those from Broan’s Nutone collection – is that they can easily be designed to blend in with your existing kitchen appliances or even your cabinetry. Ones like this Wood Overlay Model can have a custom wood panel affixed to the front face, allowing them to blend seamlessly in with your existing decor. Of course, this also means that installing an under-counter trash compactor should be part of a larger project, but the customizability allows them to fit in regardless of your personal kitchen design (and even change if you remodel).
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
A trash compactor like this Programmable one can be an incredibly convenient addition to your kitchen – not only will you not need a big, bulky trash can, but you’ll be able to keep your garbage hidden and your kitchen odor-free. That said, if you really want to green your life (as well as your home), a trash compactor should be used as only one part of a larger lifestyle change – reducing packaging on products you use, buying only food you need so it won’t go to waste, reusing what you can, and recycling what you can’t. Combined with a good recycling program and an indoor or outdoor composting project, a trash compactor can make your kitchen feel almost trash-free.
What efforts are you taking to green your kitchen?