Other, Rants

Trashcan Etiquette

Alternately “How to Be Polite when Using a Trashcan”

I am not writing this because I think I am any better than anyone else in terms of Trashcan etiquette. I violate the below guidelines as often as anyone. They are simply my thoughts on what a Trashcan etiquette should be. This etiquette applies to the users of any sort of communal trashcan with no regulated emptying schedule.

Trashcan Etiquette in short:

Leave the Trash Can in the state that you wish you had found it. Do not inconvenience the person who will have to throw away trash next.

Empty the trashcan when it is full.

You have made the trashcan Full and should empty it when the addition of your trash makes it difficult to reasonably expect the next person to be able to place their trash easily in the trashcan.

No one should approach the trashcan full.

When you use the trashcan, it is your responsibility to make sure that the next person will have room for their trash. When you have made the trashcan full, it is your responsibility (not the next person) to empty the trashcan. By doing so, we can assure that no one approaches a full trashcan. Everyone who walks up to the trashcan will have room for their trash.

The nature of the trashcan matters.

The amount of space that needs to be left for the trashcan to still be considered ‘not full’ can change depending on the nature of the trash that is typically put in the trashcan. If it is a trashcan usually used for small items, then the trashcan can go for a long time before it can be considered difficult for the next person to put their trash in. If the trashcan is also used for larger items, such as empty take out boxes, or tv dinner remains, a lot more room is required. If putting your trash in the trashcan has made it difficult for an additional one of these larger items to be put in, then the trashcan is full.

Don’t try to ‘get back’ at someone who did not empty the trashcan by not doing it yourself.

When people approach the trashcan full tensions arise. This is where a lot of passive aggressive behavior comes in. If one approaches the trashcan full, they will blame the person before them. They will feel as though the person before them SHOULD have emptied the trashcan, and they will feel justified in not emptying the trashcan as well. And then the trash starts to build up passed where it should have, and the trash becomes twice as much of a chore to take out. Just sucking it up and taking out the trash when it is full will alleviate this situation.

Position your trash so that it is easy for the next person to insert trash.


Performing a balancing act with trash is NOT polite. If the next person accidentally knocks your trash out of the trashcan because it was precariously perched, they will have to pick up your gross trash, and will not be happy.

If you have several items that could be stacked together in a way that saves space, do so. For example you can stacking several used cups, or stuff some other trash inside those cups to save space. Saving space in the trashcan makes it so that the trashcan does not need to be emptied as often, which is good for everyone involved.

Do not put your trash at weird angles, or just stack it on top if doing so obstructs other trash. For example, putting something large and flat on top of the trashcan makes it more difficult for the next person to put their trash in. However, turning the large flat object on its side, and stuffing it down lengthwise will allow for other people to more easily put their trash in.

Keep the trashcan clean.

This one may seem odd but it is easy and important. A dirty trashcan will smell and look gross. There are many things one can do to keep the trashcan and the surrounding area clean.

  • ALWAYS put a bag in the trashcan to separate it from the trash. Especially if the trashcan is commonly used for food.
  • NEVER put liquids in the trash. The potential for it to leak is not worth the risk.
  • Put sharp things that could potentially cut or tear the bag in the center. Or position them so that they are unlikely to tear the bag.
  • Make sure your trash actually makes it into the trashcan. Do not just toss it in the general direction and hope it lands. Or if it falls out do not just shrug and vow to ‘pick it up next time’.

Put a new bag in the trashcan after you have emptied it.

A person approaching a trashcan with no bag will be almost as vexed and one approaching a full trashcan. As the person emptying the trash, it is your responsibility to remember to put a new bag in.


And now you know some tips on how to use a trashcan politely. Please use them. And the world can be a cleaner, tidier place.


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