About: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.

Garbage bags have always struck me as one of the sneakiest scams in modern life.  Here is a product, that, by design, goes well beyond planned obsolescence -- it exists only to be thrown away!  And yet people pay good money for garbage bags, only to fill them up and toss them out.  In my house growing up, we used paper grocery bags, with a folded-up newspaper lining the bottom to prevent wet from seeping through.  

From my college dorm room on, I've used plastic grocery bags for trash.  I get them free, and, being small, they encourage frequent emptying of the trash, eliminating odors, fruit flies, and other assorted nastiness.  Recently, I got to thinking about trashcans, another strange phenomenon.  I had long used them, but for what?  They are only another layer of container around the bag.

The UnTrashCan is a modern, stripped-down solution to all these waste problems.  A simple frame holds a dozen bags; when one is filled up, it is pulled up and out, conveniently leaving a new, empty bag behind.  The UnTrashCan serves as a storage solution for all those balled-up grocery bags, a striking piece of visual beauty for home and kitchen, and a neat resolution of all the thorny metaphysical problems posed by both garbage bags and garbage cans.  

It took about two hours to make out of all-recycled wood, and is treated with a non-toxic, sustainable boiled linseed oil finish.  All the pieces are small enough to be made out of scraps, and the design is easily modifiable to your particular materials.  It could be built with just a drill and a circular saw in a pinch, but I used various shop tools for a better fit and finish.

Other examples might be found here:  https://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-plastic-bag-holder/ and here:  http://makeprojects.com/Project/Collapsible-Trash-Bag-Frame/372/1.

You will need these materials:

Approx. 4' of 2" x 6" or similar
Approx. 18" of 2" x 8"
Approx. 2' of 1-1/2" square material
Approx. 8" of 3/4" dowel or similar
Approx. 6" of 3/8" dowel or similar
12 3" drywall screws
Wood glue
Finish of your choice

You will need these tools:

Table saw
Chop saw
Orbital sander
Table measure

Step 1: Feet and Legs

First, run your 1-1/2" square piece of stock through the table saw to put a 10o bevel on it, which will provide the angle of the legs.  The same effect could be achieved with a circular saw or a jig saw, just make sure your workpiece is clamped down firmly.  This piece will be the "feet" that run at a "T" to the legs and rest on the ground.

Next, cut the feet into two 12" sections.  Cut two sections of 2" x 6" to 24".  Turn the chop saw to 10o, and cut two opposing miters into the 2" x 8".  The shorter side of the piece should be about 14-1/4", which will determine how far apart the legs sit and the tension of the stretched bag.  

It should be noted that the legs in mine are not a true 2" x 6"s; they are some old shop scrap that are a little less than 5" wide.  They fit the shopping bag handles pretty well, though a little loose.  You might want to rip down the 2" x 6" some, or just carve away a little at the top ends witha  jigsaw.  

Step 2: Pegs

Little pegs at the top of each leg keep the bags from slipping down to the feet.  

Measure 1-1/2" down each side and sink a 1" hole with a 3/4" bit.   Glue in a 2" peg.

Step 3: Assembly

Mark a centerline on the legs and the feet.  Line them up, then glue and screw them together, through the bottom of the feet.  Countersink the screws so the feet will eventually sit flat on the floor.  

Strike another centerline up the inside and outside of each leg.  The top of the crosspiece (the 2" x 8") should hit the leg somewhere around 11" up the inside of the leg.  Mark 11", then use your square to wrap that mark around to the outside.  Measure 7" down from that and make another mark.  Evenly space three pilot holes in that 7", using a 1/8" bit for the screws and a 3/8" bit to countersink them. 

Clamp one leg to a table so it is standing up.  Spread glue on the crosspiece, hold it on your marks with one hand and screw it in place with the other hand.  Repeat for the other side.    Make sure the crosspiece doesn't get twisted, as that will make the thing rock on its feet.  

Plug the 3/8" holes with piece of dowel.  

Sand and apply your choice of finish.  I hand-rubbed in one coat of boiled linseed oil -- cheap, easy, and non-toxic -- and finished with some paste wax.  Make sure you put some kind of coat on the thing, as drips of food and liquid will stain the wood and mess it up.  


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    14 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    definitely going to have to make one of these for my dorm... the angled design will allow full use of the bad unlike my current can that uses only about half the actual bag size.

    I use plastic bags for trash for the exact same reason. I'm definitely going to make this.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    It's interesting that the issue of using plastic bags at all has not been raised yet. While convenient and (apparently) cheap, they don't have many other redeeming qualities. Many cities have banned their use altogether because they are environmentally harmful. They're made from petroleum, and end up blowing all over the place, including into the ocean, where unwitting animals consume them as food. Indigestion and death usually follow.

    I use 'em when I have to, which is rare, and I make sure that they get recycled, rather than go into the landfill as just another version of a garbage bag.

    What if?: - People brought their own reusable, cloth bags to the store? It's very common where I live. I've been doing so long before it was all the rage. I no longer have a huge pile of bags to deal with at home, and don't end up bringing home 6 or 8 (double-bagged, of course) containers that one cloth, or even 1 or 2 paper bags would carry.

    - The wet stuff never went into the trash, but into a worm composter (yup, that's mine at the top of the list, thanks viewers!), or a plain old compost pile. It requires minimal effort, and produces free "slow nitrogen" fertilizer. 

    I am fortunate that my local curbside recycling company takes most plastics now, and frozen food boxes, milk cartons, etc. can now go into the green waste bin for industrial strength composting. The trash that comes from this 2-person household would fit into a 5-gallon bucket with room to spare. 


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice idea that serves a purpose, you definately got my vote.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I like it.

    I've significantly reduced my trash output by stepping up my home recycling program. I think this will work as a replacement for my current trash can. I think I will work up a model that slides into one of my kitchen cabinets though.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    My family has used grocery bags for as long as I can remember... I thought it was a normal practice!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I will definitely make one of these. All the points you make in the intro really resonate with me -- and I'm almost out of purchased garbage bags :)