An example of illegal dumping - one of the reasons the Department of Public Works has removed trash cans from busy Mission streets. Photo by Jamie Goldberg

Mission District Supervisor Hillary Ronen on Tuesday rolled out a new city-funded initiative to combat littering along Mission Street by installing some three dozen new trashcans along the corridor.

“We know that Mission Street has a serious litter problem – our crews clean there daily,” said Public Works Spokesperson Rachel Gordon.

Ronen called the six-month program an “experiment” that counters the city’s efforts over the last decade to remove a total of some 1,000 trashcans in a bid to improve San Francisco’s sanitation. At the time, having the cans in place was thought to encourage illegal dumping and to attract scavengers rummaging through the cans and scattering their contents along the city’s sidewalks.

“The reason trashcans were removed is because they were a magnet for more litter and dumping,” said Ronen, who vowed to address the ongoing issue of trash in the Mission after taking office last November.  

The San Francisco Department of Public Works estimates that there are currently about 3,200 city-owned cans spread throughout the city, down from some 5,000 in 2007.

Currently in its pilot stage, the  “Yes We Can!” initiative is a collaboration between Ronen, the mayor, and Public Works, beginning with the addition of 38 bins next to “bus stops, schools and other places where people congregate,” according to Ronen.

The District 9 Supervisor said that she herself has been frustrated by the lack of trashcans in the neighborhood that she governs.

“What’s always driven me crazy [is] when I have a piece of trash in my hand and I walk blocks and there’s nowhere to throw away my trash,” she said. “On my first weeks [in office], I met with Mohammed Nuru, [director] of DPW and I said, ‘I want more trash cans in the Mission.’”

The new bins will be placed on Mission Street between 14th Street and Cesar Chavez streets, doubling the total number of receptacles there for a total of 73.

“We now have four cans at or near each corner of the intersections,” said Gordon.

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Gordon said that while Recology services the cans on Mission Street twice a day – before dawn and in the late afternoon – Public Works or Recology will respond to 311 service requests to empty overflowing cans in addition to the routine servicing.

Public Works will also monitor the program’s effectiveness by tracking 311 service requests and using on-site evaluations to determine whether the additional cans actually result in less street-dumping and littering. If successful, the program will likely be implemented in other other neighborhoods.

“Its not as if the streets are really clean without the trashcans,” said Ronen in reference to past trash can cut-backs. But whether the new cans will curb the Mission’s litter problem remains to be seen. 

This past weekend, the Mission made headlines after Dolores Park was left trashed on a particularly sunny Saturday despite dozens of trashcans lining its perimeters.

Ronen called the trashy turnout at Dolores Park “unfortunate” and said that part of her effort is to raise awareness around littering and to teach community members how to use the trash cans appropriately.

“We don’t know if adding more cans will help or hurt,” said Gordon, adding that requests from the community speak in favor of more trashcans.  “At the end of the day, the trash doesn’t end up on the sidewalk by itself – people toss it on the ground.”

Gordon said that the solution to littering is to “change behavior.” Still, by providing “people with a more convenient way to throw out their fast food wrappers, soda cups and cigarette packs the right way,”she said, “maybe they will and the amount of litter will be reduced.”

The pilot was launched in conjunction with an “intensive month-plus cleanup, outreach and enforcement campaign” in the Mission District, according to a Public Works press release.  That effort is focused on the Mission and Valencia Street corridors, from 15th to 20th streets, as well as the 16th Street corridor from Mission to Guerrero streets.

The Mission Giant Sweep entails onsite inspections by the Public Works Outreach and Enforcement Team, who will also provide educational materials to “inform property and business owners about code requirements” in an effort to keep their properties and surrounding sidewalks clean.

“We all need to take better care of our parks and neighborhoods and public spaces,” said Ronen. “We have to realize that the impact that we have.”

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  1. Hilary Ronen is all pleased with herself because she got a few new garbage cans installed on Mission Street (that clearly should never have been removed in the first place) … whoop de fuckin do! Now how about the rest of the streets that are so heavily traveled … 24th, Van Ness, Folsom, Harrison, and Bryant? Does this woman actually ever come into the Mission and see that we have a much higher density of residents, visitors, and those simply walking thru so therefore we needed routine maintenance beyond what other residential neighborhoods get.

  2. The city appears to be stupid if they think they can adjust people’s behaviors by removing trash cans. I’m not sure how there not being a trash can prvents people from dumping furniture. Perhaps if there was an affordable and easy means for large pieces of garbage to be removed…