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Trash Talk in SF
News Bytes 08/15/2022 4 Comments

After four years and $20,000, what does San Francisco have to show its residents? A new trash can. Maybe. Six can contestants are hitting Bay City streets this summer. But whether any will solve the city’s growing garbage debacle is up for debate.

Trash on San Francisco city streets has been a problem for decades. Overflowing trash bins are a common sight in northern California’s best-known city—along with piles of used clothes, shoes, furniture, and other discards strewn about on sometimes-blocked sidewalks.

Officials say the current bins have a hole that’s too big. That allows for easy rummaging. The bins also have hinges that need constant repair and locks that are easy to break. Further, unruly people topple them over, cover them in graffiti, or set them on fire. Sadly, increased lawlessness—like vandalism, theft, and property damage—is a sign that love for the things of God is growing cold. (Matthew 24:12) For civil and sanitary living, government entities must try to rein in that bad behavior.

City officials began the search for the perfect trash can in 2018 when they decided it was time to replace more than 3,000 public bins.

They hired a local firm to custom-design three models. “Soft Square,” the priciest prototype, cost taxpayers $20,900. The boxy stainless steel receptacle has openings for trash as well as recycling and includes a foot pedal. The “Slim Silhouette,” at $18,800 per prototype, is made of stainless steel bars that give would-be graffiti artists less space to tag. The third option cost taxpayers $11,000.

Last month, the city deployed 26 various cans with QR codes affixed to them. The codes allow residents to fill out a survey evaluating the three custom bins along with three off-the-shelf options—costing from $630 to $2,800 each.

The city is so serious about the rubbish can effort that officials created interactive maps so residents can track and test the different designs.

If one of the custom-designed bins is chosen, the cost to mass produce it will be $2,000 to $3,000 per piece, says Beth Rubenstein, a spokeswoman for San Francisco’s Department of Public Works.

“We live in a beautiful city,” she says, “and we want [the trash can] to be functional and cost-effective, but it needs to be beautiful.”

Sadly, several shiny new trash cans have already been painted with orange-and-white graffiti. Others show the drip stains of inconsiderate coffee drinkers or have attracted dumping— with people leaving dilapidated bathroom cabinets and plastic bags full of empty bottles next to them.

“A trash can is one of the most basic functions of city governance, and if the city can’t do something as simple as this, how can [it] solve the bigger issues of homelessness and safety and poverty?” asks Matt Haney, a former supervisor who now serves in the California Assembly.

The city has long been criticized for how long it takes to complete public works projects there.

A bus rapid transit system along one of the city’s main arteries finally opened this year after 27 years of construction. A new subway line that started construction in 2010 is four years behind schedule. In 2017, the city completed the Transbay Transit Center only a year late. But the $2 billion terminal abruptly shut down six weeks later after crews discovered two cracked steel girders.

Ultimately, which trash can the city adopts will depend on feedback from sanitation employees and the QR code surveys completed by the end of September, Rubenstein says. The new cans aren’t expected to hit the streets until the end of 2023.

Diane Torkelson often picks up garbage in her neighborhood with other volunteers. She recently trekked five miles with a dozen other concerned San Franciscans to examine three of the cans.

Two prototypes were already full when the group arrived. She says, “If the trash can is full, it’s of no use, no matter how well it was designed.”

(A prototype trash can called “Salt and Pepper” sits near the Embarcadero in San Francisco on July 26, 2022. AP/Eric Risberg)

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Most recent comments

1st comment!!!!

Is don't know what to think about this but it does sound interesting

2nd Comment!!

Wow....just wow. I mean we''ll have to wait a long time before we have to really have an opinion since California is sooo slow with its progress. I wonder what trash can they'll pick. What do y'all think?
1: foot pedal, stainless steel, recycling and trash
or 3: the one it didn't tell us about but its cheap

The trash cans won’t be

The trash cans won’t be available til 2023?? And yet they keep going on about the ongoing trash problem

Didn’t mean to post twice

Didn’t mean to post twice

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