trash, rubbish, litter??

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olivia7957

New Member
Korean
Hello! since Im not a native, its very confusing for me when to use trash, rubbish, or litter. I cant get a nuance.
I'd appreciate it if someone could explain when to use whichone.. thank you!
 
  • EnchiladaJack

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    It's a regional thing. In American English, you would rarely use "rubbish;" you're more likely to hear "trash" or "garbage." In British English, "rubbish" is used more often than either "trash" or "garbage."

    As for litter, I don't think I've ever heard it used in American English to mean anything other than (a) trash that has been improperly discarded outside of a trashcan (e.g. thrown on the ground), or (b) a group of animal offspring (e.g. "a litter of cats").
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    In American English, you'd more often than not distinguish between garbage and trash, the first referring to wet discard, such as from kitchen, and the second to dry discard, such as thrown-away paper, dust etc. Is there any such usage with different words meaning different types of waste in British English? Rubbish for both wet and dry kinds of discard?

    Best,

    Hiro
     
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    Spira

    Banned
    UK English
    I won't say "trash" for litter, because it conjures up the word "white trash".
    I understand what you feel, but you have it slightly the wrong way round, as "white trash" is an expression referring to real trash, meaning garbage, bad, good to throw away, dismissable etc
    In this case specifically applied to the lowest social class of white Americans, usually from the south-east states. The implication (which could be hotly disputed) is that these representatives of the one-time so-called superior race have sunk lower than low - they have become no better than trash (garbage).
    All very politically incorrect, of course.

    The expression "white trash" is totally unused in the UK for the simple reason that the word trash is not used to describe garbage (rubbish) in the UK, and because relations between the whites and blacks are also rather different from in the US.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    As for litter, I don't think I've ever heard it used in American English to mean anything other than (a) trash that has been improperly discarded outside of a trashcan (e.g. thrown on the ground), or (b) a group of animal offspring (e.g. "a litter of cats").
    What about animal droppings? As in 'dog litter', 'cat litter'.

    Apart from the words mentioned, you also hear 'refuse' (the noun, with the stress on the first syllable) and 'waste'.

    The people who collect them could be dustmen, rubbish collectors and refuse collectors.
     

    mangoman

    Senior Member
    British English
    In American English, you'd more often than not distinguish between garbage and trash, the first referring to wet discard, such as from kitchen, and the second to dry discard, such as thrown-away paper, dust etc. Is there any usage with different words meaning different types of refuge like that in British English? Rubbish for both wet and dry kinds of discard?

    Best,

    Hiro
    In everyday usage, both would be called "rubbish". We also have "waste paper", as in "waste paper bin", for what would be called "trash" in a "trashcan" in AE, even though it might contain e.g. orange peel or plastic, as well as paper.

    "Refuse" is hardly used in everyday speech, it's jargon used by local government and waste contractors.

    "Dust" used to be used for all kinds of rubbish: "I'm putting the dust out". But it's largely disappeared, except as part of "dustbin" (any kind of bin, for any kind of rubbish), and that some older people still call the guy who collects the rubbish "the dustman", and most people call him "the dustbin man".
     
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    mangoman

    Senior Member
    British English
    As for litter, I don't think I've ever heard it used in American English to mean anything other than (a) trash that has been improperly discarded outside of a trashcan (e.g. thrown on the ground), or (b) a group of animal offspring (e.g. "a litter of cats").
    In British English, the same, plus:

    "Cat litter" is something else entirely: a kind of gravel that people buy and put in a tray for their cat to go to the toilet in.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Is a half-eaten apple that's thrown away trash? I'd call it garbage. But is it because it's not mixed with other food and not dirty that the apple here is called trash?
    (Nibbling on an apple, the warden Harris is speaking to Sawyer, a prisoner working in front of him)
    WARDEN HARRIS: Don't think I can't extend your stay, Ford. All it takes is one call. One call.
    (He drops his apple onto the floor)
    WARDEN HARRIS: How about you get that trash?
    (Lost, Every Man for Himself)
     

    Smc6288

    Member
    English - American
    To answer your more recent question, I have to go back to your prior response and disagree with you.

    In American English, you'd more often than not distinguish between garbage and trash, the first referring to wet discard, such as from kitchen, and the second to dry discard, such as thrown-away paper, dust etc.

    I was born and raised in America and never once did I make that distinction between garbage and trash. The two words are completely interchangeable today in the U.S.

    AKA - we can have a trash can or a garbage can - both mean the same thing. The person who collects is usually a garbageman or a garbage collector, but I have heard trash collector.

    Therefore, yes. An apple that is thrown away can be considered both trash or garbage.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Oh, I see, Smc. I've kept calling something like gook from dinner only garbage, but I may be able to call it trash too, right?

    Thanks, Smc.

    Hiro
     
    I agree with Smc6288's distinction. Though the two words can be used interchangeably, but I generally use the word garbage to describe discarded food and other wet or sticky items, and trash to describe waste paper and other dry items or a mixture of both. The machine attached to a sink drain that grinds up food waste is called a garbage disposal, and the machine that squashes dry waste into a small bundle is called a trash compactor.
     

    Smc6288

    Member
    English - American
    Oh, I see, Smc. I've kept calling something like gook from dinner only garbage, but I may be able to call it trash too, right?
    Yes, my mother would tell me to "Take out the trash" or to "Empty the garbage can" - both while referring to the bin full of "rubbish" in our kitchen. Which word you use entirely depends on whatever word first pops into your head.
     

    Learned Hand

    Member
    English-American
    While trash and garbage are generally used interchangeably, there are instances where you would make the distinction. My sister recently started composting. She insists we separate the trash, paper and plastic products, from the garbage like food.

    Some sinks also have garbage disposals that let you dump food into your sink. You would never say trash disposal for this feature.
     

    stdaaviid

    New Member
    Spanish
    And which one of them is consider more formal than the others? e.g. "May I collect your ...? Rubbish/garbage/trash? (Colleting rubbish in an office)

    Thanks,

    David
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    And which one of them is consider more formal than the others? e.g. "May I collect your ...? Rubbish/garbage/trash? (Colleting rubbish in an office)
    Hullo David. As far as I'm concerned (British English), rubbish is neutral in register: it's the word everyone uses.
    As stated above, trash and garbage are predominantly American English terms.
    Refuse is the very formal or jargon term, used only by town councils etc.

    Litter is used in both countries to refer to rubbish/trash/garbage thrown or dropped in the street.
     
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    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I agree with Smc6288's distinction. Though the two words can be used interchangeably, but I generally use the word garbage to describe discarded food and other wet or sticky items, and trash to describe waste paper and other dry items or a mixture of both.
    That's the way I was taught, though which term I would use for a mixture would depend on the relative proportions of each.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ... I was born and raised in America and never once did I make that distinction between garbage and trash. The two words are completely interchangeable today in the U.S. ...
    I think "in the U.S." is far to broad a statement. There are regional factors at work here. I was raised mostly in one part of the U.S., where this distinction was not made. Then I moved to another region, where the distinction was observed in everyday speech. People would look at you strangely if you referred to a piece of waste paper as "garbage."

    The most one can say is that in a specific part of the U.S., where a poster lives or lived, the distinction is not made and the words are interchangeable. Some words are used identically throughout the U.S., but far from all of them!
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    Hullo David. As far as I'm concerned (British English), rubbish is neutral in register: it's the word everyone uses. [...]
    Perhaps this is off-topic, but I can't resist saying that here in the UK 'Rubbish!', when shouted at politicians during a meeting is far from neutral. It is a very effective form of heckling, indicating that they are talking nonsense with which you profoundly disagree. US citizens are deprived if they cannot use that, as a fiercely rolled 'r', then the double-b sound, followed by a disgusted 'sh' at the end seems far more insulting that shouting 'garbage' or even 'trash'.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Reminds me of the Morecambe and Wise catchphrase: 'What do you think of it so far?' 'Rubbish!'
     

    Yaroslava

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I always throw away grabage in the morning. Is it ok with this phrase about throwing away? Or there is another one? And when should I use the word trash? Is there any difference between "trash" and "garbage"

    Moderator note: this thread has been merged with an earlier one.
     
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    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    It depends. What do you mean specifically by "throw away?" In other words, please describe the action.

    When I want to throw something away, I do so by putting it in the trash or garbage.

    Once a week, I put the garbage out to be picked up or if I have large trash I dispose of it by taking it the dump.

    If you search for garbage, trash and rubbish you will find many, many related discussions.
     

    Yaroslava

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I mean I have a lot of used stuff in my trash bin in the kitchen and I get rid of it every morning. Do you get this?
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The difference between trash and garbage is a matter of regional usage. I grew up in an area where they meant the same: anything that is discarded. Then I moved to an area where garbage meant only food waste, including items removed during food preparation and food that was prepared but not eaten. Everything else was trash. The distinction mattered, because the town where I lived at the time collected garbage from residents - but not trash. We had to keep the two separate and dispose of our trash on our own. If the garbage collectors found trash mixed with your garbage, you were warned once (maybe twice, it was a few decades ago). After that, they stopped collecting your garbage.

    (We didn't use the word rubbish much in this context.)
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    ...When I want to throw something away, I do so by putting it in the trash or garbage.

    Once a week, I put the garbage out to be picked up or if I have large trash I dispose of it by taking it the dump.

    ...
    I agree with that, making allowance for regional variations (in Britain 'trash/garbage' = rubbish and 'the dump' = the tip).
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I mean I have a lot of used stuff in my trash bin in the kitchen and I get rid of it every morning. Do you get this?
    You "threw away" the used stuff when you put it in the trash bin. The process of getting rid of the contents of the trash bin is something else. Most of us put this out by the street or alley so a truck can come by and pick it up, so we say something like "set out", "put out" or "take out" the trash.
     

    Yaroslava

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I get this. Being said we put it out into some special stuff like stairwell box in Moscow districts and there we normally smoke or chat with folks stopped by, I have no idea how to call this trash box in English then.
     

    Susan Y

    Senior Member
    British English
    On each floor of the apartment block I live in we have a cupboard with an opening to the rubbish chute (also known as garbage chute). Perhaps this is what you mean? Each morning I empty the small rubbish bin in my kitchen into this chute. I call it putting the rubbish out or putting the rubbish down the chute.
     
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