Canadian Designs: Umbra “Garbino” Trash Can

While design is often thought of as having high-end connotations, as we have shown in this series on Canadian designs, even mundane and affordable everyday articles can be elevated by good industrial design. Nothing illustrates this more than Umbra’s Garbino trash can.

Designed by Karim Rashid, the Garbino trash can made its debut in 1997. Rashid, an Egyptian born designer, was raised in Canada. Garbino is one of several products Rashid has designed for Toronto-based housewares design company Umbra. Another is the famous OH Chair.

In interviews, Rashid has said that in making the Garbino design, he was deliberately trying to avoid the boring trope of the rectangular garbage can. One commentator has said that “The form is simple but geometrically rich, designed to be a trash receptacle that people want to display rather than hide in a kitchen cabinet.”

The rounded curves, which many have described as sexy, also have certain functional advantages. As can be seen in the design drawing below, the bottom surface of the can has a rounded profile. On the inside, the can has no bottom “corners” or edges. This means that no liquid buildup is collected in hard-to-reach areas, and the can is therefore easily cleaned.

The gently curving side walls also have shipping advantages. Unlike cylindrical shapes, the Garbino cans do not lock together when stacked in a shipping container, and they resist cracking.

The cans are made by an injection molding process. Polypropylene is used for durability and shine. Rejects are also chipped and recycled to make more cans, keeping material costs down.

Garbino remains one of Umbra’s most popular items. It has received numerous awards and is part of the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Yet despite the accolades, its retail price — at $8 — continues to be accessible to all.

Further resources:

“Garbino Trash Can,” in Lidwell & Manacsa, Deconstructing Product Design (Rockport Publishers, 2009).

“Umbra exports its Toronto-designed home décor all over the world,”

Jermyn, “The brains behind Umbra,” The Globe and Mail, Aug 23, 2012:

“Garbino” on Design DNA, Episode 1, Season 1, HGTV Canada, see

Summary by: Jennifer Jannuska

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