An optimistic city-funded venture to solve San Francisco’s trash problem titled “Yes We Can!” is hitting the streets today, with the installation of 38 new trash cans along Mission Street. The project is a collaboration between Public Works, the Mayor’s Office, and District 9 Supervisor Hilary Ronen, with the goal of “reducing litter.” Though reading the news release sent out today, what it appears they mean is reducing litter on the street, not an overall reduction of our city’s epic amount of waste.
The Yes We Can! program is officially in its pilot stage, with Public Works closely monitoring 311 call requests for trash cleanup along Mission Street between 14th and Cesar Chavez streets — a stretch that now has 73 public trash cans available. If the study proves effective, the Yes We Can! program will expand to other neighborhoods.
“The Mission Street corridor is one of the most dynamic streets in the city,” Supervisor Ronen said in the news release. “Through this pilot program we will be able to provide additional resources to the Mission, and help keep this neighborhood clean, safe and welcoming for everyone.”
While this effort appears to be a positive move (how annoying is it to not be able to find a trash can when you need one?), it’s really just correcting a flawed trash solution effort that’s still taking place throughout the rest of the city. In response to people tearing open trash cans and scattering the content in search of recycling or food, combined with illegal dumping of personal bags of trash next to garbage cans, the city has removed more than 1,000 cans from our streets over the past decade. Many of these were removed after individuals called in to request it — putting the power in the hands of the people as to whether or not a corner in the Tenderloin had a trash can on it.
But this tactic appears to be somewhat broken. Case in point: Ocean Beach had all of its trash cans removed in November 2015. Now if you want to toss out that piece of gum, you’re forced to pack it out and find a trash can elsewhere — or such is the theory. Instead, a busy warm weekend on the beach usually results in piles of trash scattered along the boardwalk and in the parking lot.
And in Dolores Park last weekend, a trash explosion occurred even with trash cans located on all edges of the park.
“Our aim with Yes We Can! is to find the sweet spot that provides more places for people to dispose of their trash properly, while not adding to the litter problem with people using the cans inappropriately,” said Larry Stringer, operations chief for San Francisco Public Works.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that sweet spot actually exists.