Ode to the humble kitchen bin

Ode to the humble kitchen bin
July 28, 2019 admin
retro print Orla Kiely bin with yellow lid


If we can make bins design features, then why not anything? Part 11 of my adventure into making a house a lifetime home series.

Read time: 5 minutes

Bins. I bet you’ve never given a second thought to these most essential of household heroes. But I would like to suggest we should.

We used to have a tall 30 litres pedal bin from Argos, I suspect unusual for kitchens up and down the country.

tall silver pedal bin

This style worked pretty well in our last place as we had a spot it could sit happily tucked away. However in our kitchen now, every single place we tried to put it, the layout of our kitchen just meant it was super in the way – in front of the washing machine, a cupboard we used often or a doorway. Not only was this deeply irritating, it was also a bit unsafe, and not great for circulation space in the kitchen.

Bear in mind that a pedal bin also requires a lot of balance to use; you have to put all your weight on one foot to push the pedal with the other, which isn’t the best for everyone. My nan would have toppled over, for example, doing this. Also not so good if you use a wheelchair. Its why sensor bins are so cool – not just for hygiene and for when your hands are full. I saw this voice activated style by Simple Human the other day too. Far too expensive for me, and not great if you lose your voice, but would be quite fun to just shout ‘open bin’ and it do your bidding.

Kitchen scene with a man putting coffee grounds in a bin using voice activated control

Who here doesn’t push the contents of your bin right down to get a few more bits in too? Call it efficiency, call it laziness, either way 30 litres of tightly packed rubbish is quite a lot. With our pedal bin it meant ours often got a bit smelly as we didn’t take it out as often as perhaps we should have (particularly for a very warm studio flat). But more than that, it weighed an absolute tonne and was a delicate operation to extract it. Wiggling this dense tube of trash to try and get it free, the bag would regularly rip. Then carrying it to the outside bins was a mission, often a messy one – having to clean the bin or drips on the floor. Basically making this a much harder chore than it needed to be.

So I set about looking for alternatives.

Under counter bins were what I really wanted. You can get these beautifully fitted as part of your cabinets, like these from Binopolis (great shop name).

pull out under counter bin

These would be a good height so you don’t have to bend, not in the way, covered. Lovely. Check them out if you are ever getting your kitchen refitted.

There are also versions you can fit yourself within existing cupboards like these ones, from Binopolis again. But loads on Amazon too like these ones by Hafele.

For us, living in a rented place that we can’t change up that much I thought this style might work. However our cupboards have awkwardly located mid-level shelves in them that we can’t move, and not being our place I couldn’t just yank them out.

I came up with these over door hanging things instead to put inside our under sink cupboard. Super cheap, effective and a great way to re-use our huuuge supply of carrier bags. And for a while, not bad. But being uncovered they were pretty inviting for nasties and smells, particularly in the warm weather. Not great.

One down side of hiding your bins away, as with anything sleekly hidden away behind an anonymous cabinet door, is that they can be impossible to find for guests too. People would come round and shout from the kitchen where was our bin? Followed by the amusing, but slightly frustrating for everyone, game of them searching through all our cupboards with us shouting terrible directions – hotter, colder, not that one! But just think about this situation for anyone with cognitive impairments, even in their own kitchens. For example, many people with dementia need a visual stimulus to remind them where to find things, even if they have been there all their lives as that connection can be lost. It’s why people with dementia can sometimes forget to eat or change their clothes – simply because they can’t find the things they need, or are not reminded to do so by visual clues. 

One way round this is a label. I have bought these decals for our kitchen, which helps a bit. You can also get versions that are tactile, so that people with visual impairments can find the right cupboards too.

kitchen cabinets with stickers of what is in them on them

As explained in another blog, these stickers have helped our guests no end to help themselves to cups of tea independently too (we are terrible hosts!). This is going to be great when we have a newborn baby though and we are otherwise engaged. Our little helpers can sort themselves out! And even put things back in the right places after making us dinner and washing up (please, please come and do this for us – thank you in advance!).

They are not to everyone’s taste, but I quite like them, especially when they are included in a kitchen as a design feature rather than an afterthought. But other ways round this is having open shelving or glass inserts on certain cupboards. 

But back to bins. The fact that the over door carrier bag bins weren’t covered was the major malfunction with this style for us.

So I am currently testing out these Brabantia bins.

We already had our council compost bin out on the counter anyway in a bit of weird space beside our sink. This was a really convenient place we’d found over time. Good height so no bending or stretching. Easy to spot and open, pretty small and neat. I thought why not get two more slightly larger bins like these – one for recycling and one for non-recyclables – that could sit here too. I looked around and really liked these stacking recycling bins by Ikea but didn’t think hey would quite fit. I also thought they might be a bit of a hassle with finding carrier bags or bin bags the right size without looking a bit untidy on the kitchen top.

stacking recycling bins with flip lids and labels

The ones by Brabantia, however, are in poppy colours that I don’t mind having out on the counter at all. The different colours also help to differentiate which one is for rubbish and which one is for recycling too. Although I have also got these stickers from Etsy to make this even clearer.

Recycling symbols

These Brabantia caddy bins also come with clips so you can hang them on your walls at convenient height for you. While we don’t need these right now, it’s really useful for the future as if we ever move then these bad boys will fit wherever. They also stack, so even if you don’t use them as bins they are pretty attractive storage containers. They are well made and also have a 10 year warranty so I think these will be with us for a long while in one way or another. 

Increasingly companies are making bins like this to be out and proud in our living spaces rather than hidden away like a dirty little secret, which think is quite an exciting development. I am easily pleased obviously, but hear me out.

I think the humble bin has a lot in common with lots of the equipment that is prescribed to older and disabled people. Hardy, functional and easy to clean, but alongside a weird idea that if you make it beige or the blandest design no one will notice it. To me this is just silly. We can still see them. It just looks ugly. If we can make bins design features, then why not anything?

This theory also legitimises me getting the little sunny yellow one for my compost soon! 

Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts on the humble bin, or what you’re doing in your homes. And if bins excite you as much as me, please share!

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