Is a specialised drawer under the kitchen sink for garbage & recycling bins a good idea?
December 5, 2010 1:35 PM   Subscribe

TrashFilter: Is a specialised drawer under the kitchen sink for garbage & recycling bins a good idea?

As part of a kitchen remodel, I'm looking at installing a drawer under the sink for bins.

A number of reputable-looking companies offer readymade solutions. For some reason, they all seem to be European, for whatever that's worth.

I have some issues with the designs & was wondering if anybody out there has experience with these kinds of things? Specifically:

1. Do smells stay in? The bins usually don't have lids, but slide in underneath a shelf *just* above them - not really airtight.

2. Are pests a problem? See above.

3. What are the chances of being able to replace a broken plastic bin, years down the track? The designs all rely on the vendor's particularly shaped & designed bins.

4. Most importantly: what do these solutions offer, that makes them any better than just having a normal drawer under your sink, and putting your own bins from K-Mart or Ikea in there?

There's obviously a market for these specialised designs, so what's the big appeal?
posted by UbuRoivas to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't answer your questions about bin construction, but my experience with a relatively small bin of compostables under my sink suggests that leaving the bin open instead of closed keeps it smelling less offensive. This may vary if you have a large bin and/or lots of waste from animal sources in it.
posted by maudlin at 1:39 PM on December 5, 2010

Response by poster: (here's a PDF link to a brochure with some examples)

Oh, and on preview: compostables go into a worm farm or bokashi composter almost immediately, so bins would be for "mixed stream" recycling, and general not *too* much organic waste.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:43 PM on December 5, 2010

The ones I have seen tend to have two bins of about the same size (a not particularly large size). I find that the recycling bin tends to be too small and since it has to slide underneath the shelf/lid you can't overfill it at all.
posted by ssg at 1:47 PM on December 5, 2010

I grew up in Trash Under The Sink family, but I notice that very few people in NYC do it. So I'm going to guess that it would probably work if you live in a newish suburban style house, but might have drawbacks if you live in an old multi-family building with a small kitchen.

Most apartment dwellers I know have cans with tight-fitting lids, the type with the foot lever, stored in a part of the kitchen which is further away from food storage and potential plumbing drippage.

My mom has this sort of platform built into the under-sink cabinet which is on drawer glides - this enables one to slide out the trash can for easy removal. If I was a little more handy (and didn't live in a tiny apartment in an old building), this is what I would do.
posted by Sara C. at 1:52 PM on December 5, 2010

Best answer: I built my own trash/recycling pullout drawer, but it's not under the sink. I think it's great having the trash can out of the way, as there's nowhere in our small kitchen to put a freestanding can. Smells stay pretty well contained, but we strive to avoid putting anything terribly smelly in there to begin with. Compostables are stored in the fridge until the container is filled, at which point I tote them across the yard to the pile. Meat scraps, bones, etc. are either taken to the outdoor can immediately or wrapped in a plastic bag before going into the indoor can. Recyclables, especially dairy containers, are rinsed.

No matter where it comes from, be it IKEA, KMart or a high-end cabinet company, a drawer designed to hold bins will do a better job than a drawer not designed to hold bins.

To your question#3, the cans in our pullout were recycled from an IKEA under-sink pullout which we bought about 10 years ago. The IKEA pullout disintegrated long ago, but the cans were still good. Those cans were not made by IKEA, but by Sterlite, and are still available through Amazon.
posted by jon1270 at 2:04 PM on December 5, 2010

The advantage is that it's difficult/impossible to tip the bins over since there's a wire frame holding on to them.

I've known a few people with this sort of system and haven't noticed any unusual smells when in their kitchens. That said, your mileage will vary, as any trash can will smell if it has putrid things in it, lid or no.
posted by wierdo at 2:05 PM on December 5, 2010

We have our waste receptacles in a dedicated pull-out cabinet next to the dishwasher. It's completely enclosed on three sides and houses recycling and trash (compostables go in a separate, small container elsewhere). The tops are not closed. It looks just like any other drawer/cabinet in our kitchen. The smells stay mostly contained; sometimes we'll notice a slight garbagy smell but it's never awful. The cans are on drawer glides like Sara C. described, but they're full size (12 gallon?) instead of smaller, under-the-kitchen-sink size. I like that they're full size because I don't have to take the garbage out to the garage every day.
posted by cooker girl at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2010

Ubu - I've actually been thinking about this sort of thing myself. Unfortunately as far as I can tell, IKEA AU have discontinued the "Rationell" slide out waste bin drawers. I can see them on other countries' sites, but not So there aren't many alternatives. KMart and places like that have some cheapo dual waste bins, but nothing very nice. They also don't have lift-out buckets, which means you need to line them with bags. And what's the point of using a trash bag to put recyclables in?

Please update the thread if you do go with one of these systems and tell us how you go with it...
posted by web-goddess at 2:29 PM on December 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, all - please keep any other answers coming! You've all been very helpful so far.

web-goddess: the main contenders right now are Franke, Blanco & Hafele. The first two also do kitchen sinks, so they come with drains at the back of the sink, and plumbing kits that tuck away at the rear of the cabinet, so there's space to fit their matching drawers. All three have lift-out bins with handles.

Right now, I'm preferring one of the Hafele models, because it has 2x large bins, 30L each, plus a couple of smaller ones that I don't really need, but one has a lid & might be OK for temporary organic stuff for the bokashi composter or worm farm. The other could always store overflow from recycling, or dishwashing detergent etc.

Most other models tend to have 3-4 smaller bins, which is useless for our recycling model, and obviously designed for places where you have to sort paper v plastic v glass.

For what it's worth, some models have kick-pedals to open the drawers. Not the best idea with a kid in the house who would think it's a toy, so I'm not interested in that feature. All have soft-close drawers, which are nice.

posted by UbuRoivas at 3:06 PM on December 5, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, and PS - they're all in the ballpark of AUD$500, but I figure that even a standard drawer will cost at least half that, assuming soft-close runners. And for something with such regular use, I think it pays to fork out more for better engineering, rather than replace the lot in 3 years time.

I just need to be convinced that they're actually a good idea, and not an expensive gimmick.

posted by UbuRoivas at 3:24 PM on December 5, 2010

Best answer: I have something close to this and I love it.

1. They stay in as well as any other trash with a top
2. Same as a normal trash can.
3.Ours broke and I found a trash can that fit perfectly no problem, there are so many different styles and shapes out there that finding one was not too hard.

4. Most impotently they keep messes from forming near the trash. things tend to not fall out or spill. For me the trash is full when it will not close, time to take it out, this is different from my normal habit of waiting till it overflows. It also looks cleaner and is super easy access. There is no reaching under the sink to pull out the trash can; sounds stupid but it actually makes a difference.

Now the real question is how much would I spend on one? I had mine put in for free (really long story) so it was totally worth it but ymmv.
posted by Felex at 4:25 PM on December 5, 2010

Best answer: 1.When no lid on the bin but door on the cabinet, smells stay in the cabinet (as noted by Felex).

2. No. Although I am writing from the perspective of a North American. I understand that pests are different in Australia.

3. Good question. We selected a non-proprietary approach partly for this reason.

4. Our waste and recyclables are in cabinet boxes (think big custom drawers) with drop in bins for each. We sized those drawers to match commonly available bins. The advantage to the proprietary solution is an efficient use of space and mechanisms that offer smoother operation.

Our bins do not fit *exactly* into the drawers we made but, inevitably, one finds ways to use that extra space for things like spare bags, etc. The waste bin is between the sink and dishwasher such that un/loading the dishwasher nor being at the sink does not interfere with accessing the garbage. Recyclables are at the main work station to the left of the sink. This seemed like a good idea in the abstract but it happens that we access those two drawers more than we expected. This often interferes with the person working in the kitchen. Foot pedals were mentioned above — this is a great idea but I might build these in for operating the faucets of my next kitchen. For the bins we just hook our foot on the bottom of the drawer face — an advantage in that there is nothing which can go awry mechanically. (I would not design around how a child might decide to play with anything. Discipline can suffice here — e.g. temporarily disconnecting the tempting mechanism — and, as the father of a five-year-old boy, I can tell you from experience that you can not out-design a mischievous nature.)

I am an architect and woodworker — on occasion, cabinet design and layout is part of what I do. I am also the primary cook at home — in the kitchen I designed with my wife as "client" a few years back. Email me for images if you are interested in more details on our bin solution — a picture being worth so many words and all.
posted by Dick Paris at 4:54 PM on December 5, 2010

Response by poster: Dick Paris - thanks. If it's not inconvenient for you, pictures would be appreciated. (uburoivas at that gmail service) decreasing order of annoyance: cockroaches, tiny fruitflies or gnats that love hovering around organic waste, occasional columns of ants. Surface sprays should keep the crawlies at bay, but the tiny flies can be annoying, even if they're completely harmless.

Mice & rats are rare, but every now & then one might discover your kitchen. I think all the local cats must keep their numbers down. They're almost a once-in-five-years visitor, so not really worth worrying about.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:18 PM on December 5, 2010

My parents have a really good one of these. It's in the corner cabinet and it rotates so you have three bins: compost, recycling and regular trash all in one space. You can rotate them with your foot which is really nice if your hands are full of vegetable peelings or something. The recycling and regular trash are normal kitchen sized and the compost one is thinner and smaller, more like bathroom sized. They had it custom made very reasonably by a local cabinet maker and it's genius, I have to say.

All of them are just bins with no tops but there's no smell at all. I think the bottom of the cabinet is angled and has no lip on it to facilitate cleaning and the rods are stainless and easy to clean too.
posted by fshgrl at 7:28 PM on December 5, 2010

forgot to add, their trash cans also pull out but they're low enough that you can also reach in and dump trash without pulling them out too.
posted by fshgrl at 7:29 PM on December 5, 2010

I just had my kitchen remodeled and we now have one of these pull-out cabinet sections for garbage and recycling. I asked the supply place and they ordered me lids for both, which fit well, and we have no problem with smells or pests.
posted by statolith at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks again for all the answers. I hate doing the "best answer" thing when everybody has been helpful, but I'll mark a few that most closely answered the four specific questions I had.

For what it's worth, I haven't made a decision yet because just when I thought I had the ideal model, it's just a bit too large to leave adequate space for the sink & plumbing *GRAR* but with everybody's help, I think I'm at least on the right track.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:22 AM on December 7, 2010

Response by poster: As a follow-up, and since web-goddess asked, in the end I went with a Blanco BSELE45, mostly because this one gave the largest bins possible out of all the alternatives, for a 2-bin (general + mixed recycling) approach, which is what we have here in Sydney (organic waste goes into the fridge & then into either the worm farm or bokashi composter)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:36 PM on January 11, 2011

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