How to Build a Pull-Out Trash, Recycling and Compost System
The dilemma of how to deal with three separate avenues for trash—recyclables, compost and everything else—has vexed me for nearly two years now, ever since we moved in to our new home, which had no built-in system. Then last month we found the perfect solution—one that wouldn’t cost us several hundred dollars. We built our own pull-out trash, compost and recycling system under our sink.
This system has completely transformed my kitchen. Not only is it now cleaner, less cluttered and easier to work in, but the system has helped my family compost and recycle more and throw away less.
I had always looked at other people’s ingenious hidden trash systems with envy. Being able to hide the trash away, plus having everything in easy access from the prep/cleaning area seemed like a perfect solution. No more carrying dripping items from the sink across the kitchen to the bin, or sorting trash from compost treasure over the bin, then traipsing back to the sink to deposit in my countertop compost bin.
However, when I investigated buying a purpose built system to install, I balked at the price tag: anywhere from $200 to $800 depending on the type of containers and hardware you used. But I was determined, so I cleared out the area under our sink and assessed how much room we had to create a DIY solution for our needs.
Once we sat down to really think about how to do this, and after researching the more expensive options and how they worked, my husband determined he could build a small drawer in the cupboard to fit the trash can and compost bin, then attach it to the cabinet door so that when we opened the cupboard the drawer with the trash cans in it would pull out too. Simple, inexpensive and truly useful!
Here’s how we built our under-the-sink trash/compost/recycling station for under $100.
- One 4’ x 2” x 4” pine plank
- One 6’1” x 6” pine common board
- Small pine shelving panel
- 2 shelf brackets
- Soft-close drawer slide
- 7-gallon trash can
- Enviro Handy Bin
- Small over the door container
- Kreg jig
- Paint brush
- Miter saw (but any saw will do)
First, we cleared out all the under the sink clutter that had accumulated. A lot of people might think they can’t possibly put a trash can under the sink because they have so much stuff under there already. But have a good look through it and ask yourself, how “handy” does this stuff really need to be? What you use every day will probably fit in a small container that can tuck away at the back and be easily accessible when you pull out the recycle bin. What you don’t use regularly can go in an out-of-the-way cabinet, like the one over the fridge.
Because of our garbage disposal, there wasn’t enough room to have two pull-out systems as I had originally hoped. So instead, we decided to do a pull-out drawer for trash and compost on one side and put a sturdy container for the recycling in the other spot. After a lot of research and measuring, I found this awesome Enviro Handy Bin. It’s lightweight and the perfect size. Plus, the handles make it easy to take out and empty.
Next we cut our pine plank to size and, using pocket holes created with a Kreg jig, 2.5-inch screws and a drill, attached it to the inside of the cabinet to give us supports for the drawer slides. Then we cleaned up the area with a coat of semi-gloss interior paint.
We then measured the distance between our new side supports and used that for the width of the drawer we needed to build to hold the trash can. We used the length of the side supports, minus a few inches due to the plumbing, for the depth of the drawer.
The next step was to build a three-sided drawer (the cabinet door being the fourth side), using 1 in. x 6 in. pine for the sides and back and a pine shelf for the bottom. We joined it together with pocket holes and 1.25-inch screws.
Next, we attached the drawer to the cabinet door, again with pocket holes and 1.25-inch screws. We also attached two shelf brackets for added support for the door, so there was no danger of the cabinet toppling over.
Finally, we took the soft-close drawer assembly and attached the inside drawer slides to the side of our drawer using a drill and screws. The outside rail went into the cabinet. It is crucial to triple-check your measurements and use a level when installing the drawer assembly, as the slightest variation will cause your drawer to bind.
Then all we needed to do was pop the drawer with attached cabinet door into the drawer slide. A little paint touch-up where the original cabinet hardware was, and the bones of the project was complete.
Next we popped in a seven-gallon trash can and hung a small container with a compost bin liner inserted in it on the inside of the cabinet door for our compost. (We don’t need a large compost bin, as we have chickens and most of our food scraps go to them.) The Enviro Bin went on the left-hand side for the recycling, and we had a complete under-the-sink system.
Having all three “trash” avenues in close proximity to one another and, most crucially the sink, has made us much more efficient at trash disposal. It’s easy to give recyclables a quick wash before going in the bin, and having the trash and compost bin right next to each other makes it a snap to separate the “good” from the “bad.” As a reminder for the family, I’ve also put a sign explaining what can’t go into the recycle and compost bins on the inside of the cabinet door.
So far it has worked wonderfully, and while we do have to take out the trash a little more frequently than we did when we had a 20-gallon bin in the middle of the kitchen, it’s not as often as I’d thought. The convenience of the system means far less ends up in the bin destined for the landfill!
Written by Jennifer Tuohy
Jennifer Tuohy is an avid recycler and an energy efficiency advocate who lives in Charleston, S.C. Jennifer writes on all her home projects for The Home Depot. To review storage bins which could be utilized in your own home recycling system, you can visit Home Depot.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Tuohy