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Trash Can / Recycling Bin Buying Guide

In any business, cleanliness is a priority to keep your staff and guests safe and happy. Choosing the right trash cans or recycling bins for your establishment is imperative in order to maintain a high level of cleanliness.

Trash Can and Recycling Bin Purchasing Considerations

When choosing a trash can or recycling bin pay close attention to the material, size, and shape. At a glance, trash cans and recycling bins may just look like any other container, but without looking more closely at some particular qualities of your cans you could be choosing one that doesn’t suit your needs at all. Choosing the wrong trash can or recycling bin could turn your purchase into a waste of money for you and your business as it may not work in the area you need it to.

Trash Can and Recycling Bin Material

Trash cans are primarily either made of plastic, metal, or concrete. Plastic cans include materials like resin and polyethylene. Metal includes stainless steel, steel, and aluminum cans. When considering concrete trash cans, this also includes polymer concrete cans which use stone as well as concrete in their construction. There are a few outlier cans that do not fall into these categories and have their own benefits, but they are not as common.
Plastic Metal Concrete
    • Not affected by weather
    • Stackable storage (when applicable)
    • Malleable; dents pop out, scratches don't show easily
    • Durable
    • For medium to heavy use
    • Can be safely used in healthcare facilities
    • Clean, stylish appearance
    • Easy to clean
    • Fire safe (steel primarily)
    • For light to medium use
    • Not affected by weather
    • Can be used as a barricade
    • Wipes down easily with soap and water
    • For medium to heavy use
  • Practical application takes precedence over style
  • Shows wear faster
  • Can be difficult to move

Trash Can and Recycling Bin Size

Carlisle 34505023 Bronco 50 Gallon Gray Rolling Container
With trash and recycling cans, the size, or capacity, is determine by how much it can hold when filled to the max.
  • There are no designated uses for trash cans based on size.
  • Base your size on what you need it for. For example, a glass recycling bin tends to fill faster than a paper recycling bin.
  • Looking at the capacity of trash cans can be confusing, especially when using both liter and gallon measurements. Here's a quick cheat sheet for converting these measurements and a general range (small, medium, large, etc.) they fall into.
Gallons 4 8 13 18 23 28 32 40 44 55 95
Liters 15.1 30.2 49.2 68.1 87.1 106 121.1 151.4 166.6 208.2 359.6
Clipper Mill by GET SSTB-6 4 3/4 inch x 7 1/2 inch Stainless Steel Tabletop Trash Can with Flap Lid
  • The step-on trash cans for indoor use typically do not exceed 40 gallons because the type of waste in an office or bathroom (their most likely placements) usually does not take up an extraordinary amount of room.
  • To remain inconspicuous, space saving cans stay under 28 gallons and a majority of decorative trash cans stay around or under the 40 gallon size. By their uses, space saving and decorative cans are meant to blend in, and that means keeping the size small so they are less noticeable.
  • However, there are certainly exceptions! If you are looking for larger decorative cans for your venue, you can find one to suit your needs. Gauge what capacity you need by the number of people using the trash cans, the placement of the cans, as well as the amount of foot traffic they may get.

Trash Can and Recycling Bin Shape

The shape of your trash can determines how you will use it and in what capacity. Cans with any flat edges can be pushed against a wall, while rounded or oval cans are better for remaining in an open area. Shape can also be used to add visual appeal or match the style of your venue.
Rubbermaid FGST12ERBRD The Defenders Steel Square Red Medical Step Can with Retainer Bands 12 Gallon
Carlisle 341044REC14 Bronco 44 Gallon Blue Recycling Trash Can
Rubbermaid 2006842 Resist Shield Dual 23 Gallon Umbra Gray Metallic and Pearl Mouse Gray Metallic Wastecan
There are commercial and medical cans that are square for convenient placement. The square shaped cans are easily tucked into a corner while able to hold as much, or more, than a similarly sized round trash can as they maximize their space.
These are more versatile in where they can be placed. They can be moved around an open area, put in the center of an area, etc. Great for cans that need to frequently change location and still blend in.
There are some cans with unusual shapes, like oval or hexagon. These are ideal for use in the middle of a room, not pushed into a corner. The shape makes them an attractive addition to your venue, and most of these are decorative trash cans with shiny, sleek exteriors.
Expert Tip

Question: What color recycling bin should I be using? There is currently no system in place to designate what colored trash cans or recycling bins are for. So create your own! Attach signs to your colored cans to indicate specific waste for a specific colored can. Pretty soon, everyone around you will be following it, making your waste management more effective.

Types of Trash Cans

Rubbermaid FG264300RED BRUTE 44 Gallon Red Trash Can
Commercial Trash Cans: These cans are ideal for industrial settings or large events where there tends to be either a large amount of trash, large pieces of trash, or both. Commercial recycling cans are also great for collecting large amounts of paper, bottles, or cans in public areas likes schools or arenas.

Disposable Trash Cans: These cans are perfect for your outdoor event! The cans are low cost, allowing you to place as many receptacles as you need throughout the venue. The disposable cans are easy to clean up, too. If you're worried about the waste, many of these cans are made with recycled materials making them a great choice for the environmentally conscious.

Outdoor Trash Cans: Made of heavy-duty plastic to last in any kind of weather and boasting covered tops, these cans are great for keeping your outdoor areas clean. Most of these have a hood or flap to keep the elements out. Some even have weights or anchors to prevent them from blowing away or being stolen!

Rubbermaid FGSO810PLBK European Black with Brass Accents Half Round Steel Waste Receptacle with Rigid Plastic Liner 9 Gallon

Space Saving Trash Cans: Coming in wall hugger, half round, or corner designs, these are great for areas that are low on space, like a crowded kitchen or busy lobby. All of these cans boast at least one long, flat side that can be pushed against a wall. They have less than a 28 gallon capacity.

Decorative Trash Cans: These cans come in a variety of styles and colors to blend into your venue for inconspicuous waste management. You can choose between indoor and outdoor, and whether you want a decorative trash can or a decorative recycling bin.

Step-On Trash Cans: With less than a 40 gallon capacity, these hands-free cans are ideal for sanitary situations like kitchens and bathrooms.

Medical Trash Cans: Also less than 40 gallons, these are step-on cans with a metal construction that are approved and safe to use in medical facilities.

Wheeled Trash Cans: Usually with two wheels, these cans help your janitorial or maintenance staff transport several bags or large loads of trash to a dumpster or across your property without breaking their backs. Tilt trucks should be used when transporting a large amount of trash across your property.

Countertop Trash Cans: These are small trash cans that are usually made of metal and fit easily on a
counter or table for small waste like straw wrappers and empty sugar packets.

Rubbermaid FG9W3400AGBRNZ Infinity Aged Bronze Ultra-High-Capacity Free Standing Smoking Receptacle

Ash Tray Cans: Ideal for use outside your business to efficiently collect cigarettes waste, these come either stand alone or with a larger compartment for regular trash as well.
Expert Tip

Question: Can I use my outdoor trash can indoors? Of course! Indoor and outdoor specifications should be seen as suggestions for appropriate use due to their features and construction. Just be careful, leaving indoor trash cans outdoors may lessen the product’s life and cause issues for your staff in inclement weather.

Types of Recycling Bins

Continental 5914-1 Blue Curbside 14 Gallon Recycling Bin
Multi-Stream Recycling Cans: Great for keeping recyclables organized, multi-stream cans provide multiple openings and at least two separate containers to efficiently sort recyclables.

Curbside Recycling Bins: Use these to easily hold a large amount of recyclables, and due to its short height it is ideal for leaving at the curb for recyclables pickup without being blown over by the wind.

Recycling Wastebaskets: The 7 gallon or smaller size makes these ideal for office or classroom environments where there may only be a few items recycled a day.

Trash and Recycling Can Lid / Top Types

There is a wide variety of lid types - each with a different purpose. The lid you need depends on the can, venue, and usage. These are the most common lids that you will come across.
Best Uses
Best Uses
Carlisle 34101189 Bronco 10 Gallon Purple Flat Trash Can Lid

Flat Lid

Completely covers trash can to seal
in odors in kitchens and public areas.
With food safe containers, these lids can seal in freshness.
Continental 5550RD Huskee 55 Gallon Red Dome Top Trash Can Lid

Dome Lid

The rounded top of dome lids lets the elements roll right off while a hinged opening keeps the elements out. Great for use at playgrounds or outdoor venues.
Rubbermaid FGMT22PLABZ Americana Series Open-Top Architectural Bronze Round Steel Waste Receptacle with Rigid Plastic Liner 24 Gallon

Open Lid

With a large round opening in the center
these are ideal for lobbies and open areas for people walking by.
Rubbermaid FG1100SBS Metallic Series Satin Brass Stainless Steel Round Waste Receptacle with Ash Tray and Rigid Plastic Liner 3.5 Gallon

Sand-Top Lid

Best placed outside by an entrance, these ash tray tops can extinguish cigarettes and cigars.
32 Gallon Black Funnel Top Trash Can Lid

Funnel Lid

Boasting a hole in the center with sloping
edges, use this lid at arenas and public events to catch trash from people in a hurry. The small hole size also prevents large, unwieldy
piece of trash from overfilling your cans.
American Metalcraft TIM1 6 5/8 inch Brushed Stainless Steel Swing Waste Bin

Hinged Lid

A flap usually rotates on an axis to allow for waste disposal, then reverts to a closed position to trap in odors, making it ideal for offices and breakrooms.
Continental 3201-1 Huskee 32 Gallon White Recycling Trash Can Lid with Hole

Recycling Lid

These lids have a paper slot or bottle opening and are great for offices and schools with a lot of recycling products.
Carlisle 34405705 56 Gallon Red Square Trash Can Lid

Tall Square Lid

For use outside, these high lids have an opening on two sides for easy disposal. With or without protective flaps, these lids work best at playgrounds and outdoor venues.

Additional Features for Trash Cans and Recycling Bins

Not all cans have these particular features, but they are nice perks when you come across them.

  • NSF Listed: NSF is a third-party organization that tests and determines whether products meet the demands and standards to be safe to public health.
    The primary advantage of NSF listed trash cans is to store bulk food products in the kitchen. You can safely use these as large storage bins for bulk ingredients like potatoes or pasta. Plus, NSF listed cans can be worked into a color-coded food storage system to help prevent cross-contamination.
  • Rubbermaid BRUTE 20 Gallon Yellow Trash Can with Lid and Dolly

  • Liner Cinches: It holds bags in place so they don’t fall into the can. This prevents messes and extended cleanup for the janitorial staff. Usually it is some kind of crevice in or near the handle you pull the bag through to secure it (easy to use for every employee).
  • Retainer bands: It secures can liners so they don’t fall in, but also folds the bag out of sight to promote a professional appearance.
  • Vented Channels: These channels allow air to get around and under a liner while removing, thus preventing the suction that usually occurs and making trash removal a less strenuous process.

Trash Can and Recycling Bin Parts & Accessories

San Jamar KA3244 KatchAll Flatware Retriever for 32 and 44 Gallon Trash Cans - Red
  • Dollies: These protect the bottom of trash cans from damage due to dragging on floors/concrete. It is great for use in kitchens or for janitorial staff where the cans are regularly moved around. Some even have lock features to secure the can to prevent spills.
  • Flatware Retriever Lids: A magnetic component on these lids catches metal flatware when accidentally thrown away by guests, saving you money in the long run.
  • Caddy Bags: These wrap around a can to provide easy storage for janitorial staff.
  • Signs: Turn ordinary trash cans into specific trash/recycling containers with clear symbols to indicate various waste options.
  • Kits: A way to bring accessories together in a practical way, kits like can and lid sets or can, lid, and dolly sets ensure you get exactly what you need.
  • Build-Your-Own: This option has a variety of frames and panels so you can mix and match colors and styles together to get just the look you are going for.
  • Rigid Liners: A rigid plastic construction fits nicely into a trash can and won’t tear. It guarantees safe disposal with no mess.
  • Can Liners: Otherwise know as garbage bags, these thin bags protect the inside of your trash can from getting messy and allow for easy trash removal. Use our Can Liner Guide to discover what kind of can liners your business needs.

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