Difference between Trash and Garbage

By: | Updated: Nov-18, 2017
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Many people think that the words “trash” and “garbage” are one and the same: things that we throw away. Although they have been loosely interchanged by many people for years now, the two terms are actually different. In fact, your local solid waste management may even require you to separate your “trash” from your “garbage” or else they won’t collect your refuse. So, how are they different? Read on.

Summary Table

Trash Garbage
Dry, combustible or noncombustible things that you dispose of Wet or organic waste from your kitchen and bathroom
Things that slowly decompose Things that rapidly decompose



The word trash comes from the Old Norse word tros which means “fallen leaves and twigs.” Nowadays, it is used to refer to the dry, combustible or noncombustible things that you dispose of.

Examples of trash are the slow decomposing waste such as:

  • Used paper
  • Empty plastic containers
  • Empty glass bottles or jars
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Broken furniture
  • Tin or aluminum cans
  • Wood or wood shavings
  • Old Tires
  • Old appliances
  • Grass clippings
  • Dry leaves
  • Twigs

The earliest recorded use of the word garbage was in the 1580s. It originally referred to “the parts of an animal (such as the head, tail, feet, innards) that are not eaten.” Nowadays, it is used in American English to refer to the rapidly decomposing or organic waste from your kitchen and bathroom.

Examples of garbage are:

  • Fruit and vegetable peels
  • Eggshells
  • Animal bones
  • Coffee grounds
  • Inedible stems, seeds, or roots
  • Sanitary tissue

Trash vs Garbage

What, then, is the difference between trash and garbage?

Trash refers to the dry, slow decomposing waste such as paper, cardboard boxes, bottles, plastic, tires, etc. Garbage, on the other hand, refers to the wet waste from the kitchen and bathroom that rapidly decomposes such as animal parts, eggshells, fruits and vegetable peels, sanitary tissue etc.

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