Plastic Vs. Metal Trashcans The Pros and Cons

One of the basic decisions you have to make when picking out a new trashcan is the material it is made of. The two primary options today are metal and plastic. Both have good and bad qualities you need to consider. Here are the pros and cons of plastic versus metal trashcans.
Colors and Styles

One of the main benefits of plastic trashcans is that there is a wide range of colors and styles available. You can get bins in nearly any shape and size. Additionally, plastic can be easily tinted so that you can find a color that best suits your home. The options for metal trashcans are far more limited. Most are just simple cylinders with a metallic finish.


A drawback of plastic trashcans has to do with odors. Household trash usually generates some unpleasant odors. A problem with plastic trashcans is that they tend to absorb odors over time. This can make the trashcan smell bad even if it is empty. Metal or stainless steel trashcans do a much better job of not absorbing odors because of the nonporous interior.


Plastic and metal trashcans are both durable but in different ways. Plastic trashcans can take a beating and then bounce back into the original shape because the material is pliable. Plastic also breaks and shatters easier than metal. A metal trashcan can endure harder hits and more abuse than plastic ones. The problem is that metal trashcans will dent over time making them unattractive and sometimes unusable.

Weight and Mobility

You need a lightweight container to hold the 4.4 pounds of trash each person makes in a day during the year. Plastic trashcans have an advantage here because the material is very light. You can also find a larger number of plastic trashcans with wheels on the bottom to make it easier to move them. Metal trashcans are often very heavy and hard to move especially when fully loaded with garbage.

Maintenance and Cleaning

Another major difference has to do with maintenance and cleaning. Plastic trashcans are usually easier to clean. They do not have the same deep edges and hard joints that a metal trashcan does. You can usually wash out a plastic trashcan with just a garden hose. The corners and joints of metal trashcans frequently become compacted with gunk and debris that requires hard work to remove.


The final difference is cost. Although 1.3 billion tons of steel are produced each year, it is still more expensive than simple plastic. You could end up paying more for a stainless steel trashcan. The difference can be very noticeable as you get into the larger trashcans. Plastic trashcans are inexpensive and generally come with more features or conveniences than units made from metal.