Kitchen Considerations: Lets Talk Trash!

Kitchen Extras: Part II 

Let’s Talk Trash!

By. Ellen Moriarty and Vivi Kirsch

One of the hallmarks of a remodeled kitchen is the switch from the old-time wastebasket under the sink, to the pull-out trash/recycling center. A nice addition to the trash pull-out is a drawer to take advantage of the space between the bins and the counter. 

As we become more sensitive to the environmental impacts of our choices a simple two-part trash/recycling center is a marked improvement to the wastebasket under the sink but there are more options to be explored. We generate a fair amount of waste in a kitchen and if you live in Yolo County you now have several ways to handle that waste. Some trash is just trash – sadly, most plastics are not recycled or recyclable, but glass, cans, and paper are recycled so having dedicated spaces for them is a plus.  


In Yolo County composting options have expanded dramatically. Unlike in residential garden compost systems, neither pest deterrent nor speedy small-scale breakdown are a concern with the city’s Food and Yard Waste collection service which can be added to your residential garbage subscription for no additional charge. Municipal compost means that composting is no longer limited to soft veggie scraps and coffee grounds. Not only can you now compost animal products (meat, bones, and dairy) and grains, but paper milk and ice-cream cartons, paper take-out cartons and boxes, and paper bags, napkins, tissues, and towels.

Utilizing your compost as much as possible is an act of environmentalism as the Recology Center estimates that about 40% of items in the landfill could have been composted. Organic material when composted takes on new purposes – enriching the soil, increasing water retention of the land, and encouraging positive bacteria. However, when organic material sits stagnant in the landfill it does not break down as quickly and releases methane gas, which further exacerbates the effects of climate change. Greener Davis has put together a helpful infographic about how to sort household items into the proper waste management receptacles. The guide also highlights what to do with items that cannot be thrown away, composted, or recycled – such as batteries, medications, and electronics. Multi-Family-Flier-2020

Thoughtful Waste Management Kitchen Features

Cabinet designs are catching up. We recently installed a pull-out compost drawer above a  standard 18-inch garbage and recycling cabinet. The compost drawer is fitted with a plastic compost box that’s easy to access and just as easily hidden from view. This thoughtful design makes it simple to prep meals on the island then clean up by and sweeping food scraps into the open drawer.  

This compost drawer insert was created by Tall Glass Architecture, photo found on Houzz.

Small custom details like a pullout compost drawer are utterly satisfying to use, and if you cook, you use them often. 

Integrated countertop compost inserts are also an option. In lieu of having a compost bin sit on top of your countertop or beneath your sink in a cabinet, there are also some homeowners who are opting to have a flush compost insert built into their countertop. In-countertop compost receptacles can be built with a lid that lies flat to the countertop, making the opening discrete and mitigating odors. Custome lids can be built to match the material of your countertop or homeowners can select a pre-fabricated compost insert that matches the finishes of your other kitchen fixtures.

Photograph by Aya Brackett for Remodelista for “The Mysteries of Berkeley: A Literary Couple at Home”. Insert designed by homeowner Michael Chabon.
Photograph by Daniel Dent for Remodelista, from “Kitchen of the Week: Part Tasting Room, Part Home Kitchen at Baker Lane Vineyards in Sonoma.” Kitchen designed by Keith Anding and built by Simon Fairweather














Some homeowners prefer a circular cut-out in the countertop above the compost receptacle in a drawer so that food scraps can be quickly swiped into the compost without having to touch anything. This is a sleek option but requires that you take out your compost fairly frequently to mitigate the fruit flies and smells associated since there is no lid on the countertop.

Photo by Andres Gonzalez for Remodelista for “Kitchen of the Week: A Hacienda Kitchen in Sonoma’s Hippest Winery”. Design by Aidlin Darling Design. Countertops poured by contractor Cello Madru.

In a custom kitchen, you have the opportunity to specify deeper cabinets to house all of your necessary binsIn Yolo County, since recyclables are divided between paper and glass bottles/cans and plastic it is helpful to have designated bins for each of these categories so that you don’t find yourself sorting through your bin the night before garbage day.

If three bins are good, are four better? A one-stop cabinet can have four inserts for the dedicated recycler in your home. You could utilize the inserts for compost, garbage, paper, and cans, or any division you see fit — each item can have a designated spot. Custom wood drawer organizers can also be made to keep your bins in one place, ensuring that they stay upright and do not bang into one another when you open and close your waste drawer. Another feature many of our clients select is to create a short pull-out drawer within the larger trash cabinet located above the bins. This nested drawer is often used to store garbage and compost bags as well as whatever miscellaneous kitchen items clients don’t want to have to look at regularly. 

Photo by JLP Photography of a MAK Design + Build “Reed Whole House Remodel” project

A kitchen remodel is an opportunity to customize your home from aesthetic decisions which countertops and backsplashes you want all the way down to the way you want to organize your waste. These details may seem small but they have a huge impact on the functionality of your kitchen. Reach out to us if you have a project in mind and want to talk some trash!


Ask the Expert 2022 – Matt K.

MAK's own Matt K. was featured this year as SacTown magazine's construction expert. Read an extended version of his expert advice here!

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