A trash can may be smelly and full of trash, but it's usually a good hideout in a pinch. Some characters on the lam take note of this, going inside a trash can or dumpster and hiding out. After all, it's probably less worse than whatever the person you're hiding from is planning to do to you.
Garbage cans also make perfect hideouts for more mundane reasons, like wanting to spy on someone. However, this hiding spot comes with the risk of trash being dumped on the person hiding inside, or worse, getting tossed in the dump. And there's the smell, naturally...
If the character isn't hiding but was put in garbage out of spite, see Stuffed Into A Trash Can.
- When Archie from Archie Comics was told to clean the garage by his father, he disappeared with the father being angered that he'd disappear when chores are even suggested, and eventually finds Archie hiding in a trash can. Ironically, he found Archie when he himself planned on using the trash can to hide from his wife when she's suggesting he do some chores.
- In The Smurfs story "The Reporter Smurf", the titular character hides himself in a garbage barrel while spying on Smurfette in order to get the story on who her "secret lover" is. Of course, he didn't know that the barrel he was hiding in was used for garbage until another Smurf dumped some trash into it while he was still inside!
- Used at least twice in Suske en Wiske:
- In "De Gouden Locomotief", Lambik has bought an original cowboy hat and wants to surprise Sidonia, so he hides in the trashcan in the backyard and tells Wiske to send Sidonia outside. Sidonia is peeling potatoes at the time, so she dumps the peels in the trashcan without even noticing Lambik is inside.
- In "Tedere Tronica", the same thing happens to Jerom when he's hiding in a trash can to keep an eye on Professor Barabas (who is being targeted by criminals because of his latest invention).
- Beetle Bailey frequently uses this trope and its cousin Stuffed into a Trashcan when it comes to Bailey and the Sarge:
- Beetle hides in a trashcan, falls asleep, gets taken in with the trash, and is angry that Sarge won again without even knowing it.
- Beetle hides in one of three trash cans and, rather than trying to find out which, Sarge shuffles them around like a Shell Game.
- Foxtrot: Jason pulls a prank on Paige and hides in a full trashcan, figuring she won't look for him in there. When Peter finds him, he explains his logic, leading to Peter later asking Paige "Isn't it great the way our brother punishes himself for us?".
- In Syngenesophobia, in chapter 23, Lola is forced to hide in a trash can to avoid Lincoln seeing her.
- In the American remake of 13 Tzameti, the protagonist is going to be questioned by the police, so he hides the fortune he won from the illegal Deadly Game inside a garbage can, leading to an Oh, Crap! moment when he returns to find the garbage has been collected. Fortunately the garbage bags have only been piled nearby for the garbage truck to pick up, and he's able to find the right one.
- In Attack the Block, Biggz gets separated from the rest of Moses' gang while trying to flee the aliens and spends most of the rest of the film trapped in a dumpster outside an apartment complex while one of the aliens menaces him outside the dumpster.
- In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Rodrick hides in a dumpster while he waits for Greg to sneak him into the club. He gets trash dumped on him when Greg takes too long and is not amused.
- In Eden Lake, Jenny hides from Brett and Cooper in a dumpster half full of rotting and garbage and stagnant water, and submerges herself below the surface when Brett opens the lid. The stench is so bad it makes Brett gag and he fails to notice her.
- In both versions of The Getaway, Doc and Carol jump into a dumpster to evade the police. It nearly gets them crushed by the compactor.
- In Left Behind: Rise Of The Antichrist, investigative reporter Buck Williams hides himself inside the dumpster with the computer he's trying to protect from a couple of hitmen who are trying to find and kill him. The hitmen fire into the dumpster to make sure he's dead. Buck survives, but the computer gets a bullet lodged inside its case and is rendered useless.
- In the Animated Credits Opening of Moon Zero Two, the US and Soviet astronauts do this on discovering the U.N. Space Base is a Space Western tourist trap. They are then sucked into a garbage disposal vehicle and dumped on the Moon's surface (fortunately they're still in their spacesuits).
- The Neverending Story. Near the beginning of the film, Bastian is stuffed into a dumpster by three school bullies chasing him. At the end of the film, he rides on Falcor and chases the bullies, forcing them to seek shelter in the same dumpster.
- Red (2010). A waiter is shown taking out the garbage to an industrial bin when he's suddenly yanked into it by persons unknown, later revealed to be one of the team.
- Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins: After the gang is expelled from school, they use disguises to continue investigating. Shaggy and Scooby go as walking trashcans. Of course, the vice principal ends up throwing trash into Shaggy's bin.
- Star Wars
- A New Hope: When Imperial troops cut off their escape route, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca are stuck shooting it out in the Death Star's cell bay. Leia takes a blaster from Luke, and obliterates a waste grate. "Into the garbage chute, flyboy." This move gets the party out of harm's way for a while. Then the Imperials start the trash compactor.
- The Empire Strikes Back: The Millenium Falcon had been hiding from capture by clinging to the blindside of an Imperial cruiser's bridge section. When the Imperial cruiser dumps its garbage before going to lightspeed, Captain Solo releases the landing claw, and poses as one more hunk of junk. The cruiser departs, none the wiser. Unfortunately a certain bounty hunter was not so easily fooled...
- In the first Tribe book, "Homeroom Headhunters", Spencer is being hunted by the tribe as part of his initiation. At one point during this, he hides in the garbage cans outside the school cafeteria.
- Arrow. In the season 6 episode "Irreconcilable Differences", Team Arrow infiltrates ARGUS by having Renee and Curtis dress up as custodians and sneak Felicity in by rolling her in inside a trash can so that she can access and disable the closed circuit, landline security system to allow Oliver entry.
- Recycled In Space in the Deep Space Nine episode "The Siege", when Starfleet personnel hide in empty hazardous waste disposal containers to ambush a squad of Bajoran soldiers. Presumably they had been decontaminated first!
- Drake & Josh: In the episode "Alien Invasion", Drake and Josh prank Megan into thinking there is alien activity by tampering with the equipment she's been using to pick it up. The two hide in trash cans to spy on her and hear her buying the prank, much to their pleasure. However, their dad Walter comes out to empty the trash and disposes it in Josh's can. Drake remains safe, though.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: In the second episode, Lester Starr hides under a couple of cardboard boxes stacked next to a dumpster when the police raid his headquarters.
- Get Smart: In "The Decoy", Agent 13 (the agent who is always stationed inside unlikely objects) is hiding inside a trash can;
Maxwell Smart: What are you so grouchy about today?
Agent 13: [hiding in a trash can] Because I didn't sleep a wink last night, that's why. Every time I dozed off somebody dropped garbage on me.
- The Goodies: In "Scoutrageous", Graeme and Bill hide in a pair of dustbins as they are tailing Tim to his mysterious appointment. Unfortunately for Graeme, someone comes out and empties a bucket of food scraps into his.
- M*A*S*H. In the episode "Rally 'Round the Flagg Boys", Colonel Flagg recruits Charles into spying on Hawkeye, to dig up proof that he's a Communist sympathizer. For their covert rendezvous Flagg takes cover in a garbage can, leading to plenty of Deadpan Snarkery from Charles. "I'm going to talk to Colonel Potter about getting you better quarters." After Charles leaves, a corpsman leaves the mess tent and empties his tray of food into it.
- The Professionals. In "Runner", Bodie is running down a lowlife only for him to do a Stealth Hi/Bye. Bodie looks frustrated for a moment, then sees a cul-de-sac full of skip bins. He topples one of them, spilling out the man he was chasing amid a load of rubbish.
Bodie: Gone to rest in your natural habitat?
- Thunderbirds: In the episode "Vault of Death", Light-fingered Fred escapes from prison in a trash can that conveniently falls off a garbage truck.
- Basingstoke: You can hide in Wheelie Bins (green garbage bins on wheels) from zombies.
- The not-so-Intrepid Reporter Miranda in Full Throttle hides in a dumpster to escape from Ripburger's goons. Ben leaves her there after getting the evidence of Corley's murder from her, so we never learn what happens to her later.
- Grand Theft Auto IV: At the start of the "Crime and Punishment" mission, Niko finds Roman hiding in a dumpster to escape some criminals following him. He is abducted by Andrei moments later.
- Half-Life: Early in the game a scientist can briefly be seen poking his head out of a dumpster before ducking back inside.
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Dumpsters can be used as a hiding spot or as a place to stuff the bodies of enemy guards out of sight.
- Resident Evil 4: Leon can tell Ashley to hide in a dumpster while he takes out the zombies.
- In the text adventure Stone Cell, one way for the protagonist to escape from the castle is to hide herself in a cart that's taking rubbish (mainly human and animal excrement) away to be dumped.
- Yakuza Kiwami: A trash can is one of Goro Majima's possible hiding places during the "Majima Everywhere" system, and if Kiryu walks past the trash can while Majima's hiding in it, he'll pop out of it to fight him.
- Arthur: In the episode "D.W. Blows the Whistle", Arthur and his friends stake out D.W., hoping to catch her in the act of doing something unsafe, so they can call her out on it, after she had been doing the same to them, much to their annoyance; Arthur himself is hiding in a trashcan as D.W. walks by, finds an ice cream cone dropped on the sidewalk, and ultimately drops it in the trashcan, before going on her way.
- Danny Phantom In Secret Weapons, Danny hid himself in a trash can in the janitor's closet in order to get away from Jazz. It fails because Danny realized Jazz hacked into his ghost files and revealed himself. Unfortunately, this leads to Danny exploding on Jazz.
Danny: Hide me! [Dives into a trash can and pokes his head out. Jazz enters the janitor's closet and shows Sam and Tucker what is on screen. Danny ducks back into the trash can.]Jazz: Cool secret meeting place. So I've pieced it all together. Ghost X is clearly using the technology he stole to build some kind of [Danny pops his head up again.] super weapon. So, I compiled a list of his known associates.Danny: [Stands up in the trash can.] Wait. Where'd you get this?
- Hey Arnold!: In the episode "Suspended", Harold finds that his suspension isn't fun like he had hoped, and in both boredom and desperation, tries to sneak back into school, at one point, hiding in a dumpster in the playground, only to have a janitor toss a barrel of spoiled, melted cheese into it, covering Harold in rotten cheese.
Harold: Stupid cheese!
- The episode "The Longest Monday" had the fifth graders throwing fourth graders into full trash cans as part of a school tradition after classes are over. Stinky ends up choosing an empty trash can as his hiding place, and the irony is not lost on him.
- The Loud House:
- In "Schooled", Lincoln hides in a trash can to avoid Lynn Jr., who has been promoted to hall monitor and enforces the school rules with iron fist.
- In "Strife of the Party", Lana goes into a trashcan to cry after finding out that Lola sabotaged her birthday party plans. This apparently wasn't the first time she'd done so; Lola called it her "sad can".
- The 2007 revival series of The Magic Roundabout has Dougal occasionally hiding in a dustbin in most episodes. One example is "Dougal's Bad Smell Day" as he hides in a rubbish bin as an attempt to hide from everyone so that he won't get a bath.
- PJ Masks: In "Halloween Tricksters", Cameron hides in a trash can after being scared by Luna Girl.
- A trashcan is one of Randall's favorite spots to spy on people and then rat them out. Unfortunately, if someone's going to take out the trash, he'll sometimes have the trash dumped on him.
- In the episode "Parent's Night", the gang spies on Spinelli at her house to try to get an idea of what her parents are actually like; Spinelli takes out the garbage for the evening, only to discover Mikey hiding in the garbage can, much to her aggravation.
- Rocky Kwaterner: At the start of the episode "A Fantastic Party", professor Torpille is hiding in a trashcan to spy on the Tikka family's house in one of his many attempts to capture Rocky. Then the garbage truck comes by to pick up the trash, resulting in Torpille getting dumped into the truck.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- In Naughty Nautical Neighbors, Squidward himself hides in his own trashcan outside to escape from SpongeBob and Patrick's bickering inside his house and to lament on his situation.
- In The Bully, SpongeBob hides in the trashcan to avoid Flatts the Flounder who wants to kick his butt. Unfortunately, Flatts finds him with his Garbage truck.
- Top Cat lives in a garbage can. It may be squalor, but with his method of thinking and conniving, it's practically a mansion.
- The Wrong Trousers: Gromit is shown to be sleeping and waking up a trashcan in the streets after he left Wallace's house upon seeing Wallace and Feathers McGraw having a good time together.
- There was a Darwin Award winner who tried to escape prison by hiding in the trash bags, unfortunately he ended up in the trash compactor.
- The symbol of the New York Stakeout Squad was a couple of eyes peeking out of a trashcan. Averted in real life however, as the Stakeout Squad knew full well that concealment does not equal cover.
- This kid hiding during a police chase in Oregon. It turns out that this specific bin he decided to hide in was actually full of cat litter material and used diapers (probably with the contents exposed or leaking, if the dark stain on the back of his once white T-shirt visible after he emerges is anything to go by). Not to mention that this all took place in 90F weather, and that he hung in there for 30 whole minutes. Reports say that he ended up being caught by police an hour later anyway.