New Pricey, Solar-Powered Trash Cans Debut in Castro

Traditional trash bins don't cut it in San Francisco.

In another move to keep San Francisco’s dirty streets clean, the Castro has welcomed five ‘smart’ trash cans this week.

On Wednesday evening, the city installed five Bigbelly trash cans that compact garbage, which keeps the wind from blowing it away or from scavengers removing it from the bin. They can hold up to 150 gallons of trash and has an app to alert city workers that the bins are full.

“It’s making a difference,” says Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, at a surprisingly banal press conference on Thursday, referring to street cleanliness. “We are moving forward on this.”

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy tests out a new solar-powered trash bin on Harvey Milk Plaza.

Leased at roughly $3,000 a pop per year, the solar-powered bins are set to be bolted down to streets in Central Market, Civic Center, and the Tenderloin. Union Square and Yerba Buena already have about 30 bins together, according to Sandra Zuniga, who focuses on quality-of-life concerns by residents as director of the city’s Fix-It team.

The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD) added another splash of the rainbow the neighborhood with its exterior design. From July to February, its street cleaning team rounded up almost 70,000 pounds of trash and had more than 200 cases of hazardous waste, according to its report.

“Nobody wants to walk around a neighborhood where there’s garbage,” says Castro/Upper Market CBD Director Andrea Aiello. 

Though the trash-compacting bins are an upgrade, it doesn’t quite address waste diversion. Regular bins on city streets rarely have recycling or compost options and neither do these. 

Kevin Schoenthaler, regional accounts director for BigBelly, says another hub could be added for recycling. But the city wants to see how these bins fare in the Castro amid budget negotiations. Mayor Mark Farrell’s proposed budget includes $12.8 million in aggressive street-cleaning investments, according to his office.

“We’ll probably test a few things out,” Zuniga says. “Today’s announcement is an important part of a larger strategy.”

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