Garbage Disposal VS Trash Compactor: Pros and Cons

I'm going to look at the pros and cons of a garbage disposal VS a trash compactor. What are the benefits and drawbacks of both? Do they even do the same thing? 

The truth is that the two devices function very differently and handle waste in an entirely different way. However, it's also true that you don't often see both operating in the same kitchen. For whatever reason, most people usually have one or the other.

Before we get into pros and cons, let's take a look at some general operational differences between the two devices.

If you're in the market for a new disposal, checkout our roundup of the best value garbage disposal units.

An early advertisement for a garbage disposal.

Garbage Disposal VS Trash Compactor: Main Difference

The primary difference between a garbage disposal and trash compactor is that a garbage disposal is designed to eliminate only food waste in a manner that immediately removes it from your home. A trash compactor handles all waste by condensing it into a smaller space, however, it's not a way of removing food waste quickly as the trash still needs to be taken out in a bag.

This leads us to some pretty clear pros and cons for both devices.

Pros of a Garbage Disposal

  • Removes food waste quickly
  • Prevents kitchen from smelling bad
  • Makes cleaning up much easier
  • Affordable compared to larger trash compactors\
  • Smaller and easier to install

Cons of a garbage Disposal

  • Some can be noisy
  • Can get clogged and need cleaned
  • Can only handle food waste and even then, only certain kinds of food waste
Garbage Disposal - Continuous Feed

Garbage disposals can quickly eliminate food waste.

Now, let's look at a list of pros and cons for a trash compactor:

Pros of a Trash Compactor

  • Handles all kinds of waste (not just food)
  • Saves you space in your kitchen
  • Helps you use less garbage bags
  • Usually doesn't require cleaning

Cons of a Trash Compactor

  • Can also be noisy
  • Expensive
  • They don't remove bad smells from your kitchen
  • You still have to change out the bags manually

While you could certainly have both in your kitchen, I prefer a garbage disposal over a trash compactor because disposals are smaller, simpler to use, and they get waste out of my kitchen immediately. Even if it is just food waste, that's usually what I'm most wanting to get rid of when I clean my kitchen.

I can tolerate paper products and everyday trash, but when food starts piling up in the trash can, it's going to stink and it'll keep stinking until you remove it.

A trash compactor can shrink the foot print, but it still doesn't handle the smell or remove the actual waste.

Who benefits most from a garbage disposal over a trash compactor?

We'd recommend that every kitchen have a garbage disposal, though smaller kitchens or kitchens that field a lot of "home-cooking" will stand to benefit most from garbage disposals. 

Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Do you have access to a composting pile or site?
  • Do you cook at home a lot?
  • Does your home have more than four people that eat there regularly?
  • Do you have a city service that picks up your trash for you?
  • Do you find it hard to control the smell from leftover food in your kitchen?

How you answer these questions can help you decide between a garbage disposal and trash compactor. For example, if you have access to a compost pile or you do some of your own gardening, it might be beneficial for you to pass on the garbage disposal in favor of composting. In this situation, a trash compactor might be more useful.

However, if you live in a house that's in town and a lot of people use your kitchen, a garbage disposal becomes more important because it might be the only way you can control food waste and eliminate it quickly.

A trash compactor won't do that for you.

Features to Look for in a Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are simple devices, though there are a few features that you should look out for if you decide to buy one:

  • Motor's horsepower (HP) rating (usually between 1/2 and 2)
  • Motors RPM rating (usually around 2600 to 2800)
  • Grinding stages (between 1 and 3)
  • Noise levels
  • Electrical connection method (simplest are with an included power cord)
  • Type of feed (look for continuous feed)
  • Warranty

The higher your HP and RPM rating, the more powerful the grinding mechanism will be and the more (and heavier) food waste your garbage disposal unit will be able to handle. Noise levels are difficult to measure, though quieter models will feature noise isolation and silencing technology, all of which will be listed prominently in the features section.


Trash compactors used to be fairly common, especially back when garbage disposals weren't heavily used. However, garbage disposals are becoming a standard part of new kitchen construction and kitchen renovations, which is rendering compactors a thing of the past. In the battle between garbage disposals VS trash compactors, the former is a clear front runner and - we would argue - a better option for most kitchens.

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