If you grew up in the Hawaii of the 1940s and ‘50s, you likely will remember something commonly called the slop can, where your family dumped their kitchen discards.

This was an era where most households didn’t yet have garbage disposals in their kitchens.

So “wet” garbage, like soups and kitchen debris, like carrot shavings, cabbage cores, pineapple skins and orange and banana peels, had to be disposed somewhere.

Garbage destined for the slop can.

This also was a time where there were no oversized plastic garbage bags – or composting in the backyard – to conveniently dispose these food remnants.

Enter, the slop cans. Or in local lingo, “buta kau kau,” literally pig food. Gross? Yes, but it was part of everyday life.

Most homes had a slop can outside their kitchen door. The canister was a rectangular-shaped can, likely the kind of container for oils and other liquids, with an open top, where garbage would be disposed. A wooden cover was necessary, to keep flies and bugs and even feral cats and dogs from seeking the remnants of discarded food. And a bucket-type handle was necessary, to lift the can and contents.

 I remember having that duty to bring out the daily veggie and fruit stuff and even chicken and rib bones. I recall, too, that slop had a sickly sour odor, and you made sure you didn’t allow seepage.

This messy load would be picked up once a week, like the rubbish vehicles hauling away other throw-aways.  The slop was destined to rural pig farms in Waimanalo, Kahala (before the luxury homes were erected), and other farming zones. The thought that slop could be food for pork that we’d eventually buy and eat was unimaginable.

As garbage disposals became prevalent and vital, not merely for convenience but for health reasons, the slop can happily became history.

Till today, we don’t toss stuff like fish or steak or pork chop bones into the disposal; we place ‘em in produce bags from food stores and dispose in the gray bins for waste collections once a week.


  1. Hey Wayne, I was just thinking of asking Bob Sigall to ask his readers about slop cans and you did a great job explaining it all! I do remember the “slop can man” who could come around our Kukui Street community to gather the slop-when you think about it, it was kinda like early recycling for the pigs which of course local moms would only buy “local pork” in Chinatown like my mom did! Great memory-that puts us about the same age ha ha!

    1. Yep, the slop can was an unpleasant necessity of those times. At that time I started recalling the can, my family was living in the Vineyard area, where Mayor Wright Housing now is.
      Lived through the slop man, the milk man, the ice man, too. You, too, must remember this era.

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