Recently, quite out-of-the-blue, we contrived a surprisingly chic garbage can. In the course of moving apartments, we had found 6-gallon bottle of “emergency” water stowed away in the back of a closet. It was housed in a rectangular black plastic crate . When we pulled the bottle out, the box suddenly looked wonderfully Bauhausian, a perfectly-designed garbage can for our needs. It fits under the new sink cabinet in the renovated apartment, has a low profile, and holds a good amount, and looks fine when sitting out on the kitchen floor during serious cooking sessions (visitors have actually admire it. Where did you get that cool garbage can?).

When we went to photograph it, we became conscious of a dilemma: we line our garbage can with a plastic bag (below). What else could we use? We’re wondering what a viable nonplastic way to deal with garbage is if you live in a city and are unable to compost and haul other stuff to the dump. New York City’s recycling bags are even made of plastic.

The famous scene from the 1977 film The Graduate  came to mind. (Video link here.)

Who knew then of the impact plastics would have on our planet and lives? Now we’re trying to find ways to live without them.

Although we’ve written about alternatives to plastic bags for storing food, (and recommend Ambatalia’s recent post: How to Store Fruits and Vegetables: Tips and Tricks to Extend the Life of Your Produce Without Plastic) we’re not sure what our options are when it comes to garbage. Most of the people we know use recycled plastic garbage bags OR plastic grocery bags, an ersatz recyling method of dubious value. Unconsumption recently mentioned a new word for it: ‘noncycling’.

The issues are far from simple: compostable garbage bags are often made from corn (a commodity) or produce gases and waste that are questionable (and we’re not even talking about how much they cost).  Paper seems to us to be a more viable alternative, as it composes easily and is recyclable, though we understand there can be high energy costs…

Got any ideas?

garbage can made from water bottle crate

Related posts: making art out of a ‘wasteland’ via vik muniz
how to destroy and dispose of a hard drive
m&m wrapper dress (garbage is opportunity)
real life is messy
embroidered plastic bag (garbage into art/fashion)
what bottle caps can be: el anatsui’s liquid mosaicsx

If you’ve found illumination, joy, or inspiration in this post, please consider supporting Improvised Life. It only takes a minute to make a secure donation that helps pay our many costs. A little goes a long way towards helping Improvised Life continue to live ad-free in the world.

Support Improvised Life ♥

7 replies on “strangely chic water crate garbage can + the garbage bag question

  1. I’ve been wrestling with the same issue. Los Angeles County has recently banned plastic bags at grocery stores. So once I’ve used up stash I will have to buy plastic bags. Doesn’t make sense. I eagerly await a solution from a creative reader of ‘the improvised life.’

  2. I do love your container! I’ve been using a carton of BioBags. As you say, they are imperfect: fragile to say the least. MOST of my garbage goes into the compost, or recycling. I use a lot of cling wrap when I tenderize my chicken, which becomes a very simple tasty meal. Most of my foot print is small. Sometimes I feel like Don Quixote. I look forward to updates on this post too.

  3. I reuse my paper grocery bags as garbage bags. We are able to compost, so the garbage is rarely very gross, though.

  4. A few weeks ago a friend introduced me to the same arrangement, but for a completely different use–filling with ice water for keeping beer cold at a backyard bbq. At the end of the evening you can just tilt it over, or poke a hole in the bottom. We stacked two on top of each other (only the top one had ice and beer) to bring it a little more within reach.


  5. What a universal quandary. I solved this by using one plastic grocery bag (which is banned in our area) around a paper bag. The paper bag gives it some structure. Until I take it to the big garbage can
    outside, which is when I free the paper bag from it’s wrap…I then use the plastic one as long as it will make it. This, with recycling and composting proves the best choice possible. The thought of all those full plastic bags in a landfill bothers me. It’s not so pretty, but hey–it could be in any container and still work out well. Try it, sometimes simpler is better.

  6. I really like your solution. Though not perfect, it is a much better one than most. Where do you get your paper bags.

  7. Use a plastic bag. And while you’re at it, eat meat and stop worrying about chemicals and pesticides in your food. If it weren’t for the chemicals, pesticides and genetic engineering, half the world would starve to death.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *