Jeff Winkle has a job working for a bank, but he’s getting ready to start picking up trash.

When Winkle started looking for a place to live in San Francisco, one of the first things he noticed was the garbage.

“I think that San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but right now, I qualify that by saying you just keep your head looking forward and up,” he says.

Winkle, 24, arrived two months ago from South Carolina, and grew up near Chicago. Having dreamed of moving to San Francisco for the last eight years, he’s made it, and now works from his apartment at Valencia and 18th. Even from his window, he can see the trash floating around on the street.

Winkle did some research about how cities combat litter. Finding no clear answers, he’s opted for the obvious — picking up the trash himself.

This past Tuesday, he turned to Reddit and asked: Would anyone be interested in helping him clean up the Mission?

Yes, some are. Dozens of people have emailed him (at to express interest or offer tips on how to handle a cleanup operation or a truck to haul trash. That’s to say nothing of the comments and clicks on the post.

So far, so good. Now Winkle is hatching the rest of his civic-minded plot.

“The biggest thing so far has been logistics in general,” he said. “It sounds easy to go around and pick up trash, it sounds like an easy concept.”

But it’s not. For example: If he goes out with a group of people and picks up trash, where will he put it? And, of course, not all trash is created equal. This is San Francisco, after all, and what’s blowing in the breeze may be junk or it may be recyclable or it may be compost. Or it could be a biohazard.

The plan is to find a partner — either a city agency or a company, like Recology — to process the waste once collected. At the moment, it seems Public Works might be the better candidate, but nothing is set in stone, Winkle said. Next, he said, it’s time to get a website up and running to give people an easy place to start if they want to help.

This is where Winkle’s plan starts to diverge from existing city programs. There exists an “adopt-a-street” program, through which citizens can volunteer to keep their block spic-and-span while the city supplies the equipment necessary to do so, but it assigns residents a small, specific area. Winkle’s thinking bigger — truckloads, not bagfuls, if you will.

“I’m just thinking a little bit longer term about scalabilty,” he said.

He speculated that he’d likely concentrate on the area immediately around him first, because he knows it best. Looking outside his window during a recent interview,  he spotted cigarettes, a paper plate and some spent beer containers adrift on the street.

Next  — based on where people see problems –– he will hit other oft-dumped-upon spots around the neighborhood

After that? Well, maybe he’ll take it citywide.

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  1. We welcome Mr. Winkle to the volunteer fold! We have residents and businesses across San Francisco stepping up to help take care of our city. Public Works is here to support volunteers. Residents can sign up with our Adopt a Street program. We will provide supplies (bags, brooms, etc.), pick up the trash bags filled by volunteers, provide safety training, etc. We have a similar program for businesses. More information can be found at Or email us at

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    1. Why is it that we pay taxes to fund a $10b municipal budget and that the DPW, with a hefty nine figure budget, can’t figure out how to do its most fundamental, basic tasks and has programs where citizens can volunteer to do what we supposedly pay people to do?

      I think that DPW needs a citizen commission, it is the largest agency without one, so that we can shine some sunlight to sanitize the corruption that deprives of honest government services and asks us to volunteer to make up the deficit.

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