June 2016
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How I Saved Our Trash Can

One of my philosophies for saving money is to always try to repair things before throwing them away and buying new. Sometimes things are beyond repair, but I always try to repair them first. I’ve save a lot over the years with this approach.

We’ve been in our house for almost 10 years now. When we first moved in, we bought a new trash can for the kitchen. It was one of those nice looking ones with the pedal to open it with your foot, which comes in very handy when you have your hands full in the kitchen.

One day not long after we got the trash can, I stepped on the pedal to open it and felt a snap – the lid didn’t open. I know right away that something had broken. A closer look revealed that the foot pedal was made of plastic, and it looked like it was designed to break under stress.

I’m a bit of a skeptic, but I believe companies intentionally use weak parts so you’ll have to buy replacement products. After the initial frustration of breaking the trash can subsided, I decided to fight back. We really liked this trash can. As trash cans go, it was a nice one. Maybe it could be saved.

I took the bottom of the can apart and removed the broken foot pedal, and headed out to my shop. I noticed the dimensions of the pedal were very close to a piece of 1×4 whitewood I had. What followed was a process of cutting and shaping the piece of wood to match the key dimensions of the pedal. A hole drilled in one end to accept the metal rod that opens the lid completed the design.

Trash Can - Close-Up of the Wood Foot Pedal

Trash Can – Close-Up of the Wood Foot Pedal

I installed the wooden pedal in the trash can after some further trimming, and it worked! I proceeded to remove it and shape the exposed end so it didn’t have any sharp edges. I did a crude job of rounding the corners and sprayed it with some black paint.

Trash Can Modified with Homemade Foot Pedal

Trash Can Modified with Homemade Foot Pedal

I took the finished product into the kitchen to proudly show off my work. The comment I got was that the pedal looked like something from The Flintstones. I took that as a compliment. My original intent was to make a prototype and later make a nice one if it worked. After that comment, I decided to stick with my original design.

Trash Can in Operation

Trash Can in Operation

Nearly 10 years later, that trash can is still going strong in our kitchen. Everything else about the trash can was nice, but I can’t imagine the plastic foot pedal surviving very long in anyone’s house. In all, it took me about an hour to make the wooden pedal. An hour of my time and a piece of scrap wood turned a broken trash can into one that will probably last us another 10 years.

Permaculture teaches us to reduce waste and reuse things wherever possible. So next time something breaks, think twice before you throw it away and buy another one.

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