Uncle Bobs Tips

A Guide to Trash Compactors

A Guide to Trash Compactors

Print Version Email To A Freind

If you have limited space in your kitchen, generate a lot of garbage, are far from or want to reduce the number of trips you make to your outdoor garbage bin, you may want to invest in a trash compactor. Trash compactors reduce the size of waste by 75 percent, or from one-fourth to one-twelfth its original volume.

Installed as either under-the-counter or freestanding units, compactors don't use much electricity and should last about 10 years. They can also be installed in the garage. Trash compactors can compress bottles, cartons, paper, and plastics. Remember that a compactor is for dry food waste only, and to never put aerosol cans or other flammable or hazardous materials in the compactor.

All trash compactors have essentially the same components and operate on the same principle. The components: A trash container, at the bottom of the unit; a motor, at the top or bottom of the unit; a flat, steel ram that's stored in the top of the unit.

The principle: When you put trash into the trash container, close the door and press the Start button, the motor starts. It rotates a set of reduction gears or a belt-and-pulley system that slowly lowers the ram. The ram in a compactor exerts tremendous pressure on the trash, which flattens it. When the ram pressure reaches its set point, the motor reverses and raises the ram back up to the top of the compactor.

Compactors are available in 2000, 2300, or 5000 lbs. of compacting ram force. They range from 12 to 18 inches in width, 18 to 24.5 inches in depth, and 34 to 36 inches in height. Standard appliance colors are available including stainless steel; finish options include custom wood panels or you can have a panel installed to match your cabinetry.

Safety features are important if you have children in your household. Look for a model that has a safety lock to prevent curious children from opening the compactor drawer or a key-activated on/off switch to prevent them from operating the machine. Before purchasing, also look for the following safety features:

Additional available features include a separate top-bin door for loading small items (even while the unit is operating), drop-down or tilt-out drawers for easy bag removal, a step-on opener to open the compactor with your foot when your hands are full, a removable rammer to simplify cleanup, and an odor-control system - such as charcoal-activated filters or deodorizers that automatically spray when the compactor is operated. Today, some units have non-aerosol spray to reduce fluorocarbon emissions. Other options include a fan, and a quiet motor. Most compactors come with a one-year warranty that covers parts and labor if the unit malfunctions.

It is recommended that you fill the bin completely before compacting. However, a full compactor bag can weigh as much as 50 lbs., so make sure you are able to lift that much weight before completely filling a bag. The more compact the trash, the heavier the bag.

NOTE: Always carry a full bag by the top of the bag or use a bag caddy. Glass can puncture the compactor bag and possibly injure someone when the bag is removed. To dispose of glass, lay it flat in the middle of the garbage bag, preferably inside another container such as a milk carton. Some recommend that you wear thick gloves and carry the bag away from your body to avoid being cut. Avoid compacting very large objects, like wine bottles or half-liter jugs, which will jam the mechanism. Never substitute regular plastic trashcan liners for compactor bags. They will invariably jam the mechanism.


Trash compactors must be cleaned on a regular basis, so look for a model that makes the job quick and easy. For routine cleaning, follow these steps:

1. Unplug the compactor.

2. Wear thick, sturdy gloves when cleaning your compactor.

3. Remove the bag and bin.

4. Clean inside and outside of the compactor using warm soapy water. Rinse and dry. It is recommended that you use a bacteria-fighting cleaner and/or degreaser to clean the ram (the platform that presses down on the garbage) and any other part of the compactor that comes into contact with the garbage. Because you put food waste into it, bacteria can grow on the inside of your trash compactor. For temporary odor control between cleanings, spray the interior with a germ-killing deodorant/disinfectant. Also, replace the air freshener or charcoal filter once or twice a year

5. Close the drawer and place a new bag.


The ram is stuck: If the ram won't go down - or if it has gone down but won't come back up, there may be a broken drive belt, chain, or gears, or the switches that control the direction and starting/stopping points of the ram may be defective or out of adjustment. Check the tension on your belt or chain and tighten them. A drive chain or belt that is extremely loose can spin and damage gears and sprockets.

Compactor doesn't run: If your compactor won't run at all, the drive motor or drawer safety switch may be bad. Call a professional to check and replace them.

The drawer is hard to open: Over time, food spills and other garbage may clog the track the drawer rides on. If you can remove the drawer, thoroughly clean the tracks, glides and rollers using degreaser and some dish detergent on a damp rag. Then wipe all of the components with a clean, damp rag and lightly oil the track with a household lubricant. If the drawer continues to be stiff, you may need to replace the rollers, ball-bearings, or tracks.

If your unit stops midway through a cycle, try pressing firmly on the top of the door while turning the key...sometimes you can free the jam.

Finally, there are opinions that trash trash compactors. Opponents state that recycling programs in urban areas have made compactors unnecessary; others argue that compressed trash takes longer to break down in landfills. However, in remote locales, places where recycling is nonexistent or impractical, or in areas where garbage-collection fees are based on volume, a compactor will greatly reduce the volume of trash, and many urban folk still consider it a boon.


Share |

Sponsored by:

Recent Articles:

BBB Online

Get Uncle Bob's weekly email
We hate spam and respect your email privacy!