Photo by Oliver Rockwell

Hurl your scraps into the abyss

Stacey Ballis
Updated: March 08, 2018

Now that my husband and I have been living with and cooking in our renovated kitchen for over a year, people often ask, is there anything you wish you had done that you did not do?

We didn't install a garbage hole.

Cabinet companies love to sell you a pull out waste management system. Two or even three garbage cans on a slide out cabinet keeping the fact of your garbage a secret that only you know the answer to. The problem with this is two-fold. One, the in-cabinet cans are limited size-wise, which means emptying more frequently and wasting more plastic garbage bags. Two, they take up a lot of valuable under-counter storage space.  

So we opted for the simpler choice, which was to publicly acknowledge that we create garbage, and bought two reasonably decent-looking stainless steel lidded garbage cans, one for recycling and one for the rest of the trash, and we let them hang out at the end of the peninsula where they are convenient for the whole kitchen. We’ve found the bonus of this is that visitors and houseguests have thanked us for having visible garbage containers so that they aren’t opening every cabinet in the kitchen in search of a place to drop a used napkin.

The trash issue also came up when our architect asked if we wanted a garbage hole in the island. I had seen a lot of prep spaces that include in-counter canisters, which I assumed were for ease of collecting composting product. Being a black-thumbed urban dweller without a garden, composting was not going to happen, which was what I shared with our architect.

No, no, she said, not a compost canister, a garbage hole, a hole in the counter with a garbage can underneath to catch whatever needs catching.  

Turns out, a lot of folks have decided that carrying cores and peelings and such across the room into the can is annoying, and have opted for the simplicity of being able to just sweep them into a conveniently located cleft in the counter. We do a lot of cooking, a lot of prep, and on first blush, it sounded like a great idea.

But then we came up against the whole storage issue once again. In order to do the garbage hole, we’d have to lose the equivalent of a whole cabinet worth of under-counter storage in the island to accommodate the garbage can.  And the garbage hole would then be taking up real estate on the island, which is designed for two people to be able to do prep work together. We went back and forth, recognizing that it would be a real convenience for us to have, but not being able to reconcile what we’d have to give up to have it.

Our kitchen island is relatively small for a large kitchen. It is a compact area that is covered in half countertop and half butcher block, with storage beneath. If we had one of those giant islands that are all the rage right now, we’d have done a garbage hole in a hot minute. If I were someone taller or who could be trusted not to randomly fall off a stepstool and shatter my pelvis, making upper cabinets a viable option, there would be a garbage hole in my life this second. But ultimately, after lots of thinking, we decided that if it came down to giving up the functional space both on the counter and underneath, the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.

So now, in our brand new shiny dream kitchen, we do what we have always done with scraps and such. We gather them in a large bowl off to the side, and when it’s full, we walk it around to the end of the peninsula and drop it in the convenient garbage can that is sitting there waiting for it. We like to think of it as an old school retro touch in a pretty modern kitchen. It works just fine.  But if you have the space and the wherewithal to have a garbage hole in your counter, you have my blessing, and a teeny bit of my covetousness.

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