Garbage Disposal Vs. Trash Compactor: 5 Key Differences [Explained]

Photo: Bill Wilson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Garbage disposal and trash compactor devices offer convenient ways to dispose of garbage in your home.

They both are friendlier to the environment, reducing overall waste, but also come with some key differences.

These include differences in the location and installation in your kitchen and the amount of waste and odor management. They also differ in the convenience they provide and the overall cost to purchase and maintain.

Pros And Cons: Trash Compactor Vs. Garbage Disposal 

The tables below illustrate key differences as well as pros and cons of garbage disposal units and trash compactors. Some homeowners may opt for both in their kitchens to reap more benefits.

Garbage Disposal


  • Rinses food waste down the drain pipe

  • Quick food waste disposal

  • Easy to deodorize with commercial or DIY products

  • Costs less up front and over time

  • Hidden under sink

  • Uses a large amount of water, leading to increased water use and waste

  • Only can eliminate soft and liquid foods

  • The blades can loosen with long-term use or from clogs or jams

Trash Compactor


  • Can eliminate a larger amount of waste; food and non-food

  • Saves time by emptying the bin fewer times

  • Reduces the number of trash bags used that end up in landfills

  • Neatly hidden underneath countertop

  • Cannot be used to eliminate all waste, such as glass or hazardous materials

  • Takes up space in your kitchen

  • Requires user to empty bin and replace liner

  • Food waste can create a bad odor

  • Needs some elbow grease to clean and deodorize

  • Costs more upfront and over time

Read on to learn more in detail.

1. Location In the Kitchen

Garbage disposals are installed under the kitchen sink and connected to the drain pipe. There is an opening inside the sink where food can be put into it. 

The disposal is operated via a switch, often located next to the kitchen sink to turn it on to grind food. It grinds up food scraps using running cold water from the tap. 

A trash compactor is typically installed much like a cabinet drawer that can be pulled out from underneath the countertop.

It is wired into the electrical system and a button or knob is turned to operate it. A metal ram pushes down and crushes the waste into smaller, compacted pieces. 

Tap water is not involved in the process, so it does not need to be installed near the sink.

2. Waste Management

Another major difference between a trash compactor and a garbage disposal is the waste management in how and what it can dispose of.

Garbage Disposal Waste Management

A garbage disposal eliminates waste by grinding food up with blades and running cold water. 

As it chops up the food, it is rinsed down the drain pipe into the main sewer or septic line and out of the house. 

A garbage disposal can only eliminate some foods, and it is best to refer to your user manual. Garbage disposals eliminate soft or liquid foods best. 

Generally, food waste that involves nuts, bones, egg shells, fibrous vegetables, starchy food, oils and grease, and so on cannot go down a garbage disposal. These items will negatively affect the disposal from working well, causing clogs or damage. 

Trash Compactor Waste Management

A trash compactor breaks down waste into smaller pieces and deposits them into a trash bag liner within the compartment. 

This allows the user to reduce the surface area of waste, allowing more trash inside the bin before emptying it. This also reduces the amount of bags that go into landfills.

All kinds of food and other kinds of waste, such as packaging, plastic bottles, or cardboard, can be put into a trash compactor.

However, waste such as oils, grease, wooden materials, pressurized aerosol cans, toxic chemicals, batteries, glass, and electronic items and more should not go into a trash compactor. 

These can cause damage to the user or the appliance. 

3. Appliance Maintenance And Odors

The garbage disposal requires little maintenance. As long as you do not overwhelm the appliance with large volumes of or the wrong kinds of food, it will operate well. 

The garbage disposal can be cleaned and freshened up to reduce odors as needed according to the user manual. Deodorizers can be simply poured into the appliance’s opening. 

Occasionally, you may need to remove the garbage disposal or adjust the blades for any clogs or jams.

A trash compactor does not take much effort to operate. However, you will need to replace the liner bag that holds the compacted trash as well as clean or deodorize it. 

Inevitably, if you use food scraps in the compactor, they can stick to the compacting arm and create an odor over time. Even with odor filters in a compactor, odors can still escape. 

Any rips in the liner will allow food waste to leak through and make the bin smell as well. This will require scrubbing or wiping by hand to eliminate any sticky debris or odors.

4. Convenience

Both appliances offer convenience to the homeowner in waste removal.

The garbage disposal allows a person the ability to rinse and grind food from their dished before hand washing or putting them in the dishwasher. The waste is now gone with no further steps needed.

The trash compactor allows a person to eliminate multiple types of waste into a lined bin. Eventually, the bin will need to be emptied if it is full or smelly. However, you may find that you need to empty the bin fewer times since everything is compacted.

5. Overall Cost

A quick search online will show that in general, garbage disposals are cheaper to buy and install than trash compactors. 

Additionally, trash compactors will require the purchase of replaceable liners and odor-eliminating filters over time, adding to the overall cost.


Garbage disposal and trash compactor units each come with pros and cons in regards to their ease of use, waste and odor management, and overall cost. 

They both contribute to a healthier environment and are worth considering installing in your home.

Read On About the Use of Garbage Disposals:

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  2. Garbage Disposal Flywheel Stuck
  3. Garbage Disposal Making Loud Noise
  4. Garbage Disposal Overheating
  5. Smoke Coming From Garbage Disposal

Lisa Burlison

Lisa is a freelance blogger, literacy specialist, teacher, and self-published author with a vast DIY experience. When she’s not writing for PlumbJoe, Lisa enjoys testing homemade cleaners and doing repairs around her home. Her other hobbies include birding and bicycling.

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