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Standard Trash Can Sizes: Picking the Right One

Standard Trash Can Sizes: Picking the Right One

How big should my trash can be?

The size of trash can you need depends on the amount of trash you generate.

When it comes to managing waste in our homes, offices, or public spaces, having the right trash can size can make a world of difference.

Standard Trash Can Sizes Explained

We use trash cans almost every day. Few people think about the different trash can sizes in and around their homes and businesses.

However, trash cans come in all shapes and sizes, which means that the right trash can for you might not be what is best for someone else. For example, a small trash can may be perfect for your home office, but it would not be suitable for a large family.

Alternatively, having a trash can that is too big for the amount of trash you have can lead to trash building up and sitting around for long periods of time. Proper waste management is essential to keeping you and your household healthy, especially from viruses.

Small Trash Cans

  • Dimensions: approximately 10 to 15 inches in height, 10 to 12 inches in width, and 6 to 8 inches in depth.
  • Capacity: Typically holds around 2 to 5 gallons of waste.

Medium-Sized Trash Cans

  • Dimensions: Generally range from 20 to 30 inches in height, 15 to 20 inches in width, and 10 to 15 inches in depth.
  • Capacity: Usually accommodates 8 to 16 gallons of waste.

Large Trash Cans

  • Dimensions: Typically measure between 30 and 40 inches in height, 20 and 24 inches in width, and 15 and 20 inches in depth.
  • Capacity: Can hold approximately 20 to 30 gallons of waste.

Extra-Large Trash Cans

  • Dimensions: Generally range from 40 inches or more in height, 24 inches or more in width, and 20 inches or more in depth.
  • Capacity: They are often designed to hold 30 gallons or more, making them suitable for high-volume waste disposal.

Many different trash can sizes are available on the market, so finding the right one for your needs should not be difficult. However, if you are unsure about the size of trash you need, this guide may be able to narrow down your options.

Why Trash Cans Are Important

For a piece on the standard trash can sizes, a guy putting a plastic bottle in the trash can

Aleksandra Suzi/Shutterstock

Trash cans are essential for a variety of reasons. They keep our trash off the ground and out of sight. Trash cans also help to keep old food and other organic materials from smelling.

You can also keep animals away from your leftovers, keeping the area clean. If you have different types of trash, you can use trash cans to keep them separate.

Some trash cans are for specific types of trash, such as paper or plastic. Others are designed to be more versatile and can accommodate a variety of trash types.

Others are used as recycling bins or composting buckets and are typically smaller than most regular trash cans. Determining where you’ll be placing your trash can and what you’ll use it for can help you decide between different trash can sizes.

Different Trash Can Sizes and Their Uses

One of the most common places you’ll find many different sizes of trash cans is in your home.

For example, the trash can in your bathroom is probably much smaller than the trash can in your kitchen. This is because the amount of trash each room generates is different. 

Kitchen Trash Cans

Size of a kitchen trash can

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Your kitchen trash can will be one of the largest in your home. The kitchen is the source of most of the trash in your home and, as a result, will need a bigger trash can.

It is also often one of the central locations in the home, so people passing through will likely deposit garbage on their way to a different area. 

The size of your kitchen trash can also depend on the number of people in your home. A family of four will need a larger kitchen trash can than a family of two since they will generate more waste overall.

  • For 1-2 people: 10 gallons
  • For 3-4 people: 15 gallons
  • For 5+ people: 20 gallons

Getting a large trash can with a lid for your kitchen may be a good idea. Organic matter will rot and produce mold, which not only smells bad but can also make you sick if you breathe in its spores for too long.

That is why it is important to empty your kitchen trash often, especially if you’ve just cleaned out the fridge. 

Bathroom Trash Cans

Size of bathroom trash can

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Bathroom trash cans are much smaller than those in the kitchen, but they are no less critical. The trash generated in bathrooms is some of the grossest in the house.

So you want the right size trash can to handle any waste, including paper products, sanitary pads and tampons, and even some liquid matter. 

  • For 1-2 people: three gallons
  • For 3+ people: five gallons

Office Trash Cans

Size of a office trash can


Another important location for a trash can is your office. Depending on your work, you may generate a lot of trash or only a little. 

  • For paper debris: two gallons
  • For paper and plastic: seven gallons
  • For paper, plastic, and food waste: 10 gallons

If you often work with paper and cardboard, consider buying a separate trash can to keep those reusable materials clean and ready to go to the recycling center. 

Curbside Trash Cans

Sizes of a curbside trash cans

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The biggest trash can in your home is most likely your curbside trash can. A curbside trash can is the central storage for all your trash.

Typically, you will fill this can with the trash from the different receptacles in your home, and a sanitation worker (some of the backbones of our communities) will come by to collect it on trash day. 

  • For 1-3 people: 30 gallons
  • For 4+ people: 60 gallons

Industrial Trash Cans

Sizes of a industrial trash cans

Melianiaka Kanstantsin/Shutterstock

Industrial trash cans are enormous. Businesses and office buildings that generate a large amount of trash and industrial waste use these cans specifically. These trash cans run between 100 and 300 gallons.

If you’re looking for a trash can for your place of business, you’ll need to consider the number of employees you have, as well as customer traffic. 

  • For >5 employees: 100 gallons
  • For 5-10 employees: 200 gallons
  • For 15+ employees: 300 gallons

Frequently Asked Questions 

Black garbage bags in a layflat image on an orange background for a piece on trash can sizes

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Here are some frequently asked questions by people looking to improve their waste management.

What type of garbage bag will fit in my trash can?

Trash bags, like the cans they inhabit, come in many different sizes. You can purchase different-sized bags at any home or grocery store.

If you have a smaller trash can and are looking for a more sustainable option, plastic grocery bags are a great fit for most cans under five gallons.

How big is a kitchen trash can?

Kitchen trash cans vary by the number of people living in a home, but they usually range between 10-20 gallons. The average kitchen trash can is typically 13 gallons.

Can you put liquids in a trash can?

If you put liquids in a trash can, make sure that you line the can with a leak-proof bag, or you risk making a mess when you take it out.

While most liquids, like water, juice, and other beverages, can go down your sink drains, do not pour oil or grease into your pipes. Put those liquids into the trash instead.

Can you put glass in a trash can?

Technically, you can put glass in a trash can, but be careful. If you put glass into the trash, it may break and become a hazard.

Glass is recyclable, so it’s always best to take to a recycling center rather than throw it out.

Where in my home should I put my trash can?

This one is completely up to you! Put your trash can in an easily accessible location, especially in the kitchen or bathroom.

If you have pets or small children, however, it might be a good idea to place your trash can under the sink or behind something else so curious kids and creatures can’t get into it.

Taking Out the Trash

If you’re looking to change the trash can in your home, there are plenty of options available for you.

You don’t want to end up with a can that is too small or too large for the amount of trash you generate, so take a look at a variety of different options before you settle for one.