19th near Folsolm. Photo by Lydia Chávez

It’s no secret that much of San Francisco’s trash — especially so in neighborhoods like the Mission, Tenderloin, and Mission Dolores — ends up on the sidewalks.

Christine, a property owner who lives on 21st Street near Mission Street, was outside her home picking up small pieces of detritus with a pincer-armed grabbing tool one morning. “In an ideal world, people would have somewhere to put their trash,” she says.

Christine keeps garbage bags, metal trash grabbers, and gloves handy to pick up trash left outside her home in the Mission. She says that when she picks up the trash herself, it is less likely to attract further dumping. But if she sees feces on the street, she will report it to 311. Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.

But in San Francisco, that place would be on the sidewalk or the steps of Christine’s property where she regularly cleans up trash — and sometimes has to call the city’s 311 hotline when it’s human feces and diarrhea. 

Angel Mayorga, a 63-year-old resident who has lived in the Mission his whole life, also often uses the 311 application on his iPhone to send notices to San Francisco Public Works. They clean it up, but the problem persists. “Clean streets and cleanliness is a basic human need,” Mayorga said. “It gets disgusting.” 

But it is not only human feces, which residents can always call 311 to clean up. It’s everyday litter — cans, old meals, food wrappers — the kind of trash residents would normally toss in a receptacle.  

A public works employee loads trash that was left on the sidewalk into his truck in the Mission. Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.

It used to be that the Mission and San Francisco had what most cities have: ubiquitous public litter cans. But in 2007, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom decided that the best way to reduce garbage in San Francisco was to get rid of garbage cans.

Ross Mirkarimi, the former sheriff, and supervisor of District 5 recalled having a meeting with Newsom and other high-ranking officials. According to Mirkarimi, city leaders believed that “trash cans become a magnet for more trash that exceeds the can itself. They believed cans were becoming a marker for people to unload whatever they wanted.”

“I was not in favor of taking away trash cans,” says Mirkarimi. “I thought it was counter-intuitive, but the administration was so insistent that this was an experiment we had to try.” 

And they did. Some roughly 1,500 trash cans were pulled from city streets.

Nowadays, residents routinely walk several blocks before coming across a trashcan. Along the way, one sees to-go containers, paper bags, masks, gloves, and other trash from other pedestrians who simply gave up finding a trash can. And, it’s no wonder. 

In 2007, the city had 4,500 trash cans.  Now, we have 3,113 public trash cans — 1,500 fewer cans than there were on the streets 14 years ago. 

And, compared to other cities, even 4,500 cans added up to very few for a 47-square mile city;  3,113 even less so. Manhattan, for example, has three times the number of litter baskets — 9,144 — to cover its 23 square miles, according to the New York City Sanitation Department. 

In contrast, the abundance of litter baskets in Manhattan is readily apparent. Nearly every corner has a trash can. Walk in San Francisco with trash in hand, and keep walking. Anyone who has a dog knows that you have to walk at least a couple of blocks to find a trash receptacle. 

Although the idea to rid a city of public trash bins to clean it up sounds counterintuitive, it is based on the idea that when a city has many public trash bins, people take advantage and use them for illegal dumping of household or business trash. Other cities have come to the same conclusion. 

In fact, New York City similarly got rid of 223 trash bins in Harlem in 2008, when officials decided the bins attracted dumping. That experiment fell short as well.  Removing the baskets failed to “appreciably decrease litter,” according to the NYC Department of Sanitation. 

The failure of Newsom’s plan to solve the city’s trash problem has not gone unnoticed. 

Public Works trash bin experiment of 2017 

In April of 2017, Public Works, in partnership with Mayor Ed Lee and District Supervisor Hillary Ronen, installed 38 new garbage cans along the Mission Street corridor between 14th and Cesar Chavez streets. The “Yes We Can” pilot program in the Mission District was a direct response to the idea that more trash cans might mean less trash ending up on the sidewalk and streets. 

Promises were made at the time to track whether “the additional receptacles result in less litter and fewer complaints” to 311, which came into existence in 2008. 

Looking at service requests from 12 months prior to the new cans and 12 months after, “We did see more calls for overflowing cans, but we didn’t see noticeably more complaints for services around litter,” said Rachel Gordon, the spokesperson for the Department of  Public Works.

There is no data on calls for overflowing cans. But, during the test period, service calls for litter patrol went from an average of 77 per month to 74 per month, and service requests for illegal dumping went from 70 a month to 61 a month after the program.

Gordon says she believes the 38 new bins are still there. 

At present, San Francisco still has the 3,113 public trash cans it had after Newsom’s plan went into effect, compared to 4,500 in 2007. Those along 24th Street, Mission Street, and Cesar Chavez are serviced a minimum of twice a day, seven days a week, according to Recology. 

Gordon says that if district supervisors want more cans, they will put more in, as long as the cans “will not cause more problems than they are helping.”

“For starters,” Supervisor Ronen said, “we need more bins outside each of our parks – Garfield, Jose Coronado, Parque Ninos Unidos,” adding that she has “been advocating for more and better trash bins for District 9 for years.” 

San Francisco is indeed in the process of choosing from a number of new designs.

For now, some say, the bins in San Francisco are easy to rummage through (both for rodents and humans), and difficult to tell whether or not they are for trash or recycling. 

Honey Mahogany, a legislative aide for Supervisor Matt Haney, called the current cans “renaissance trash cans,” meaning that they are easy to misuse. They were picked by disgraced former Public Works director Mohammed Nuru, even though he was told they were ineffective by some supervisors, including Mirkarimi, according to him. 

Reporting trash and litter to Public Works through 311

Tracking the amount of trash on the sidewalk in San Francisco is made possible by data from 311, which started out a phone number, and later became an app, allowing residents to report garbage on the streets of San Francisco. 

The service came into being in 2008, the year after Newsom got rid of 1,500 trash cans, so there are no before and after comparisons. Mayor Ed Lee introduced the 311 app in August of 2013.  

In the past five years — after adjusting for the size of the population — Mission Dolores has had the second-highest number of complaints about trash. The Mission ranks third, and the Tenderloin comes in first place. 

In 2019, the Mission had the second-highest volume of 311 calls for feces removal, with 14 percent of citywide requests or a total of 3,942 service calls. The neighborhood’s calls about overflowing bins reached 1,613 last year — putting it in third place for calls about bins. 

When trash ends up on the sidewalk, residents call or file a report via 311 and crews working for the Department of Public Works pick up the trash.

Fewer bins and bigger budgets for Recology and the Department of Public Works 

Although the city’s population has increased by just over 10 percent since Newsom’s 2007 plan went into effect and the city has 1,500 fewer public bins. Nevertheless, Recology’s budget has “increased by more than a third, to more than $22 million annually,” according to Robert Reed, a spokesperson for Recology. 

The Department of Public Works ends up picking up street trash from the 311 calls. Its crews —which include laborers, truck drivers, and supervisors — have increased by 25 percent over the past five years to 349. 

Gordon said the “goal is to respond to street cleaning requests within 48 hours; 24 hours for human/animal waste.” Public Works hits that target for 91.4 percent of the requests, she said.  

But much of the litter does not get reported and remains on the streets. 

Anthony, a laborer for the Department of Public Works who was picking up trash on Bartlett Street in the Mission, said that he struggles to keep up with the requests. 

“Right now I am backed up … still trying to catch up from two days ago, and we have a thing in the city where we’re supposed to get it done in a certain time, so I am just trying to do what I can to get it done.”

Without more trash cans or pick-up crews, Paul Monge, an aide to Supervisor Ronen, pointed to Proposition B, which 61 percent of the voters approved in November. 

The legislation will not add trash cans or trash crews, but it will create oversight of the Department of Public Works, and it will also create a new Department of Sanitation and Streets in 2022, and a five-member Sanitation and Streets Commission to oversee the former.

Until then, supervisors appease their constituents with different solutions. 

Mahogany, who helped write Proposition B, says that Haney uses “add-back” money, or money found through the city’s regular budget process granted back to the community, to clean up the streets around the Tenderloin and Civic Center, where excessive trash was hurting small businesses. 

“Our office has taken cleaning the district on ourselves and has put funding into street cleaning, investing in cleaning in a more direct way, and passing an ordinance requiring public bathrooms near [homeless] camps,” Mahogany said.

“We do not invest as a city to take care of streets, and it is predominately people of color in urban areas who are being impacted by DPW not taking responsibility for cleaning sidewalks,” Mahogany said.

Mission residents like Francesca Pastine, who has been living in the Mission since 1994 and in San Francisco since 1976, regularly sends Ronen’s office emails filled with photos of litter-strewn streets.

She would like to see Public Works take more responsibility and work proactively to clean up trash. 

Gordon says, “But really, we also have to keep the focus on why streets are getting trashed in the first place.” 

She blames a careless mindset and a lack of concern among San Francisco residents.  She tries to confront that with public awareness campaigns in schools and elsewhere. But, thus far, education hasn’t worked. 

Mirkarimi agrees that it is up to residents. “Unless there is some manner of accountability, to make the social and personal responsibility work” the city will not be cleaned up.

Photo by Lydia Chávez

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Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys working at the intersection of art and politics, and focusing on the stories of individuals to reveal larger themes.

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  1. Gee someone obviously just wants to bash Governor Newsom.Clare nimwit writes this as if Newsom is still Mayor-In 2007!!! he tried an idea 15 yrs ago and she makes this about him. Please put your head in the trash you harp about! Germany also has clean streets and no trash cans. Maybe us Americans are just lazy!

  2. As someone who actually works for the City i can clear up some of the things discussed here…

    1) the article refers to “renaissance trash cans,” which is the name for the metal round bins. the square ones are called “concrete cans.” they are both lousy for different reasons, which is why DPW is unveiling a new design later this year that hopefully will be less easy to pilfer.

    2) be careful with 311 call analysis as there is an equity issue there. i’m not sure that call volume is distributed evenly across geographic/socioeconomic swaths of San Francisco, so “high volume complainers” can make it seems like certain neighborhoods are “dirtier” than others. 311 calls measure service requests, they don’t measure whats actually happening on the streets.

    3) when we think about our dirty streets, there are 3 different aspects we are discussing: human/animal waste, illegal dumping of large or bagged items (usually done intentionally to get rid of unwanted items), and general litter (which, as indicated above, is often caused by scavenging of both city cans and private black/blue carts). as discussed above, there are different strategies to deal with the varied root causes of this.

    4) people talk about issuing fines – DPW has a team that does that. however giving a fine to a person scavenging in a garbage can, or trying to give an administrative citation to someone who just littered, is a bit unrealistic, and with defund the police efforts we won’t see SFPD do that.

    5) people talk about “hiring the homeless to clean up” – the City and Ronen already do that. Downtown Streets Team (the folks in the yellow shirts, around Jose Coronado and up and down Mission St) have been doing that for a few years.

    6) it is in fact a requirement for all occupied residences and businesses to subscribe to trash collection service. DPH and Recology perform regular audits and scofflaws face a lien if they do not subscribe. The issue is more around service levels – its easy to subscribe to trash service, but if you produce a lot of waste getting bigger bins or more frequent pickup can be expensive, which is why you see residents and merchants dumping their private waste at city cans. “catching them and forcing them to subscribe to more service” is much, much easier said than done.

  3. The problem is particularly evident on the city’s athletic fields. Over the course of a Saturday or Sunday you could have 20-30 games, each with unique players and spectators, and some fields have just two bins.

  4. Having lived in the Mission for 18 years, I was here when the trash cans were taken away. They need to be brought back. If the City can spend money to clean up homeless trash and discarded furniture around tent encampments, they can put the trash cans back for residents. The amount of property taxes, and sales taxes that we pay should be more than enough to cover this cost. The fact that I have to walk multiple blocks to toss my tied up dog poop bags is crazy.

  5. Just another of Gavin’s stupid ideas. He reacts to the moment and never any forethought. I was thinking exactly the same thing yesterday when I rode my bike down to Ocean Beach they picked up a lot of their trash cans too and so garbage is strewn everywhere along the Seawall

  6. Use eligible people who are incarcerated to help clean up the city’s litter problem. For like reduced sentences or what not. SWAP is good too but it just has to be financially feasible in order for people to participate. Just an idea…

  7. The trash around the city is everyone problem. You can put out a ton of garbage cans, but if no one uses it, it doesn’t matter. Plus City government need to have a routine of collecting the garbage from the cans.. so it’s everyone problem

  8. So many experts here, how enlightening. I pick up trash in my small corner of the inner mission about 5x/week. It is overwhelmingly caused by homeless people who rummage through trash cans and let litter scatter in the wind. Sometimes thoughtless yuppies toss their coffee cups. I’ve successfully advocated for the removal to two trash cans on my block, best thing I’ve ever done for this community. Trash cans create trash in this neighborhood. They immediately become dumping sites for RV dwellers, then homeless people rummage through. It’s an extension of mental illness and how we can’t manage or care for our own people. I’d say remove all trash cans outside commercial corridors. I’m one of the few here who puts money where my mouth is. Go pick up some garbage, this is your home after all. Newsom was right. Mirkarimi was politically assassinated by right wing nut jobs, starting with his old neighbor, that silly petty third rate novelist. I know them both personally and they are both reasonably good men, with shortcomings, like most humans.

  9. Much of the trash on the streets is a byproduct of the mismanaged homeless crisis in the city. I’m all for getting rid of trash cans in general and forcing the public to pack it out. Japan is spotless and they don’t have public trash cans.

  10. The timing of Newsom’s social engineering experiment, coinciding with the beginning of the great recession, was always a bit suspect. It seemed to me at the time a justification for penny pinching in the city budget. Why it wasn’t reversed years ago as an obvious failure is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps now that public works staff aren’t diverted for favors for Nuru’s private constituency there will be a bit of extra room in the budget?

  11. How about creating a budget for this expense by reducing or reassigning some of the 40 some thousand people (yes 40,000) that work for the city and county of San Francisco. It’s stunning this city has never addressed this bloat and continues to pass the cost on to residents. SF residents get literally nothing in return for the 40,000 strong staff of the city. Crooked cops, discusting and crumbling streets, overtime abuse, incompetent transit, an unsolveable homeless problem. Get rid of the dead weight and bring in people who want to work and want to solve problems versus collecting checks.

  12. Newsom’s response was wrong, but that still leaves unsolved the serious problem it was meant to address. Abuse of public bins. They become the site of dumping of excess residential waste that folks don’t want to schedule/pay for removal. We need to bring back neighborhood recycling centers and find a way to make the big waste contributors (Amazon) reduce, reuse and recycle.

  13. Cities like Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Toronto have a reputation for being large, clean cities. It’s also cultural there to keep the environment clean. It’s taught in schools, cleaning up public spaces are part of extracurricular activities. Littering is considered a crime, not just penalized, but considered socially unacceptable.

    San Francisco seems have a culture where a) anything goes and b) if there’s a problem, the massive city budget pays for it. That’s a lot of money for “cures” that just get more and more expensive, and not much for prevention.

    How about catching and prosecuting litterers, shoplifters, car break-ins, and people and dog owners who leave crap on the streets? They don’t need to be locked up or even fined. They could be assigned community service to respond to 311 calls.

  14. lower nob hill here! at my corner building we had 2 trash cans. both were the absolute magnets for dumping anything. i successfully petitioned to have one removed. that was 12 years ago. the remaining trash can, next to a bus stop, would/could work in the way it’s supposed to. but! again people feel like it’s a dumping ground for all kind of household items and trash.
    the biggest problem though is homeless people pulling the trash out of the can for whatever reasons.
    my obseravtions regarding this corner building’s sidewalk/gutter trash origin:
    10% car owners cleaning out their car and dumping it in the gutter;
    20% people (mostly cups/eating containers) just dumping it on the street;
    25% alcohol and substance addicts leaving empty containers on site;
    45% homeless and junkies with very questionable behavior.

    disclosure: i clean up that corner almost every day as i’m the building manager.

  15. Is it any wonder why people are leaving this city in as many numbers as thay are, it’s a filthy mosh pit, expensive beyond belief,caters to the wealthy, for those who live and work out butts off to survive here shame on you, City Hall,you can’t even keep it clean for us it’s all smoke and mirrors.

  16. Wow.theyre just now noticing that?I’ve gone from homeless to housed to employed in different parts of the city,and in my opinion,the streets look worse now,than they did five or ten years ago I dont know if its because there’s more homeless or what,but from what I’ve seen,most homeless clean up after themselves,especially in the areas where they try tobreside,to reside ,if only to not be harrased by the police or the neighborhood.if they are making messes,its usually in retaliation to those very issues I just mentioned.and,you would think,with all the peripheral street cleaners like urban alchemy and those others that this problem would be somewhat rectified,but I haven’t seen the difference.

  17. Apply fines for littering and spitting and any other filthy habbits, each individual can help and correct whoever’s littering, the city of san francisco is so filthy, pliz we should help in keeping it clean,
    Thank you San franciscans, be proud of your city

  18. Because there are folks from all walks of life in the USA, it’s hard to get people on the same page about ideas like the trashcanless Japanese in Tokyo. Perhaps some campaign featuring celebs in videos about not littering and laws put into effect penalizing chronic litterers with fines and jail time depending on level or amount of litter created might help shape minds of the mass. Plastic and aluminum cans and bottles redemption should be allowed by all but glass should be allowed only by specialized recyclers with vehicles to prevent just anyone from dealing with heavy and broken glass. Perhaps rewards for posting pics and videos of litter bugs on social media should be implemented as well.

  19. Lots of comments here , but both the posting and responses are mostly a mess so let’s break it down.
    1st Human Waste is a problem because of both the lack of Public Toilets, and the fact that SF like many other Dem cities refuse to make housing both perm and temporary of all citizens a required condition of all city policies. Any new policy that can result in insufficient access to hygiene, sanitation, and protect from the elements should not be allowed to take effect.
    2nd we are Not Japan, there are huge Fines for littering in Japan, and they have a homogeneous society unlike the USA. In Japan it is the norm that children and adults are obedient and follow instructions versus here where even the most violent and antisocial behavior is excused and rationalized. Dealing with just basic trash why not impose huge fines if trash is not disposed of properly, and massive surcharges for all products based on its waste potential to fund both collection and disposal.

  20. They need to install more trash bins now. It’s ludicrous to have to walk miles to find one bin. No wonder the streets like like crap.

  21. No matter what you do the could be a trash can on every corner in the city people are ignorant. It doesn’t matter trash cans or not people will still use the street.

  22. Here in OUTER SIBERIA AKA Hunters Point we have a 3rd Saturday clean up group. DPW supplies the bags, pickers, brooms & shovels we Volunteer the labor. Local shop supports the effort and we get to know our neighbors. The few trash cans along Innes get over whelmed a call to 311 is in order. The native skunks & raccoons do their part looking for free food in the open trash cans from their point of view they must appear to be some kind of 24 hour Diner. Always an issue at The Herron’s Head Parking lot late night trash left for pickup is a constant . Action is better than complaining so my picker is always @ hand even when walking my dogs to grab the trash before my dogs can get their noses in it & the new solar powered cans can handle more trash. The natives can not access them yet!

  23. Newsom is an out-of-touch, French Laundry- eating, air head. He belongs on The Bachelor or in a summer house reality show. What happened here folks?! He also strattles political parties like a tight rope walker with crabs (idk what that means but he’s just as ridiculous). If you want another leader with hair issues, feel free, but his time is running out; as far as i’m concerned. Get new trash cans and toss him into one of them. The End.

  24. I’m sure it difficult to empty conventional trash receptacles frequently enough to keep them from overflowing. It puzzles me why SF doesn’t look into the type of container that looks conventional on the surface, but has a huge container below ground. See https://youtu.be/Cp27Tx32SHU

  25. The streets in Mexico City are generally cleaner than SF too. There are not many public trash cans, but there are people cleaning the streets and parks constantly in the tourist areas. They also have public bathrooms pretty much everywhere there are businesses. You do normal pay the equivalent of 25 cents or so for access to the bathroom, but they were always fairly clean and had toilet paper available.
    I traveled around in 7 other countries, but US cities are the only ones where I have seen human waste on the sidewalk.
    The SF bay area can be a difficult place to find a bathroom sometimes. I have been to shopping centers pre-covid where there wasn’t a single business that allowed the public to use their restroom. It can be fairly frustrating when things are feeling urgent. I am sure they are trying to keep out homeless users, but when people have to go, they are going to go somewhere. I imagine many just stop caring about being polite about it after a while.

  26. Go to 26th and Taraval and see all the residents who don’t want to pay for trash pickup. They just drive to a city can and stuff bags of trash in it. Then they get back in their nice cars and drive away.

  27. I was recently visiting my daughter in Ft Worth Texas … we did a lot of walking around the city.
    At one point I commented that Ft Worth was such a CLEAN city and then I realized that there were trash receptacles on each corner and also in the middle of each block … and not a single piece of trash on the streets .

    I refuse to pick up trash on SF streets and carry it indefinitely until I can locate a trash can

    We need MORE of them .please

  28. In August 2006, I was in Ulaanbataar, the capital and largest city of Mongolia. The population is about 1.4 million people. I saw only about 2 or 3 trash cans in the 2 weeks I was there and the city was clean. Although on most issues I usually blame SF government more than SF’s people, in this case I think we the people are at fault. Newsom taking over 1,000 garbage cans off the streets didn’t help though.

  29. I’ve pondered this situation for quite awhile now, and I cannot’ really find it in me to lay the blame just on the lack of trash receptacles. I don’t live in SF, but I spend (spent rather) an inordinate amount of time in the city. (Maybe I’ll be back for more, but probably not as much as in the past.) Particularly in the Mission, and somewhat less in the Haight, while going many other locations as well. While walking the streets I saw a fair amount of receptacles overall, but I also saw an amazing amount of trash laying on the streets and blowing around. I also see receptacles that have also been gone through by individuals and have often witnessed some of those individuals in the act. They of course, don’t bother to return the trash they decided not to make off with. Back to the blowing around part…
    My daughter went to Taiwan twice in the past five years or so, and one of the things she told me was how amazed she was at how clean the streets were there. I asked her about trash receptacles and she basically saw none. Perhaps a cultural thing? In general she experienced the respect that people seem to have for each other there. She was in Taiwan to help direct special events that were happening, but she also stayed so she could immerse herself in the culture as well.
    Every time I’ve walked the streets of SF I have gone through the same thought process. Gosh, there should be more places for the trash, and then I would remember all the stuff that was in them that ended up on the street. Change our culture to take care of this. Good luck on that.
    At least something is being done about the Recology issue. Not that I expect miracles, but I am glad Mission Local was at the forefront of getting that story out there.

  30. I didn’t vote for Proposition B.
    A commission to oversee the Department of Sanitation and Streets.
    Another commission to oversee The Department of Public Works.
    Staffed by SFDCCC approved Family members as a first step on their political climb up the ranks.
    Yet more layers of inept bureaucracy.

    Let’s face it – our residents with mental issues who are housing challenged seem to leave a pile of trash wherever they happen to set down for the moment. No amount of garbage cans will solve this part of the puzzle.

    On a directly personal experience – we had a reasonably clean cut young gentleman hang out on our doorstep. Fine. No problem. No issue.
    But he kept leaving a pile of garbage under our front door mat. This went on for some time till we removed the mat. Then the pile was just left on our doorstep. Finally confronted, we asked very politely and kindly to please not do this. The trash piles continued on and off for over a year and then I guess he and his compulsion moved on.
    Nothing we could do except post a No Trespassing sign according to the police.

    On to toilet issues and our more or less regular citizenry:
    Our neighbor’s garage alcove is the local pissoir with an occasional sausage or splat patty.
    Homeless? Not really. Taxi/Uber/Lyft drivers (it’s a convenient place to wait for fares) and locals staggering home from the bars (in the before time). A No Trespassing sign?

    Don’t hold your breath for garbage cans to help clean up our pig-sty of a city.
    There are other debris issues of more importance:
    Freshly broken automotive glass sparkling on the side walk like gems in the early morning dawning.
    Every street is Diamond Street!

  31. Having been to Asia, I was astounded by how clean the streets were, despite myself having a hard time finding a garbage bin. The bottom line is people in general need to take responsibility for their own actions. It’s as if people simply feel entitled to have someone else clean it up. I’m sure even those littering will reach a point of disgust if it were never to be cleaned up. Nevertheless, working with society as it is now, looking away doesn’t cut it. There needs to be strong enforcement… especially when we’re talking about feces, needles and other dangerous things.

  32. We don’t have trash cans because people insist on putting personal/home garbage in public receptacles. If every San Francisco home and business was required to have garbage service or show where their garbage was going things would change…until then cheapskate homeowners & businesses will use public receptacles for personal garbage.

  33. I resent that this issue is framed around a mayor from nearly 15 years ago. This is simple anti-Newson politics. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is in complete control of the situation with the trash cans. They could have 5,000 trash cans installed any day they want. But they have decided not to, so blame them – and don’t blame the mayor from 2007.

  34. Never knew about the reducing trash cans campaign. Kind of unbelievable. And stupid. Put a trash can on every corner, and empty them before they start overflowing. If illegal dumping is an issue, then make it easier to dump stuff legally.

    This is the same mindset that started the drug war, or abstinence only programs, or punishing those who download music illegally. It’s just counter productive.

  35. Really great coverage of this issue, though I think the article would have been just as great without the quotes from Ross Mirkarimi. He’s a disgrace, and doesn’t deserve anymore airtime in this city.

    Yes, people ned to be held accountable for their actions. But if we want cleaner streets, we also need to make it easier for people to do the right thing. That means more trashcans. There should be big-belly trashcans on every corner along Mission Street, as well as 16th and 24th streets. I understand they are expensive, but having city workers respond to a never-ending stream of 311 tickets can’t be cost effective either.

    Speaking of accountability, Supervisor Ronen needs to do more to respond to constituents in the Mission, not just her neighbors in Bernal Heights. The difference in street conditions between the two neighborhoods is striking. It seems as though she spends her time looking down from her perch on the hill at those of us in the flats, leaving us alone to deal with trash, needles, encampments, and a ballooning number of vacant store fronts. I don’t doubt that she’s working to do more, but Mission residents need to see her doing it. We need to see meaningful change.

  36. Really great story. So much detail. And so much to consider and think about. I live in another state but here’s my two cents fwiw. More bins with frequent pick ups in key problem areas combined with a huge, long term public relations and education campaign for personal responsibility similar to the leave no trace policy.

  37. Once again we wonder if there is intelligent life at City Hall. The problem was never that there were too many trash bins on the streets but that our extraordinarily expensive city government wasn’t emptying them regularly. So with typical City Hall logic the answer wasn’t pick up trash more efficiently but get rid of garbage cans altogether.

    1. More homeless , More trash ..
      That will be more chance to raise tax and summit Federal funding to generate more money for city governor to spend or ” eat ” and create more useless city jobs

  38. Wow, I was not expecting such a deep analysis Clara-Sophia, this was quite the data dump!

    Thank you!

  39. Trash cans invite dumping! Who would have thunk it Lol Newsome is such a failure he can’t even take the trash out without screwing up.

  40. WAIT!!

    Why or how is disgraced former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi a source for this article? He shamed our entire city, and I don’t think that Mission Local should be contributing to his weak rehabilitation efforts. He wasn’t even the Supe for here.

  41. As with a lot of things, it boils down to personal responsibility. If you go anywhere outdoors in Singapore, you see no trash cans. You also see no trash because people act in a responsible manner. And lest you think it’s because of Sing being fastidious about cleanliness and their many, many fines, look no further than Japan. Japan can give lessons to Sing about cleanliness. Yet there are no trash cans on the street. Again, people there take personal responsibility. Sadly, that personal responsibility is lacking in the US and in San Francisco.

    1. Oh, what a breath of fresh air, are you an alien? No one, no one thinks in the personal responsibility manner. Thank you!!!

  42. Public Works could have a street cleaner posted on every block in the city. There will still be trash.

    Sure, they should do more to cleanup be proactive and cleanup faster. But Supervisor Haney’s office can’t advocate that homeless encampments are “our neighbors” and then blame DPW when the homeless throw their garbage and literal shit on the sidewalk for the city to clean.

    San Francisco’s trash problem is not just about corruption within DPW, it also has to do with terrible policy. How can a city be clean if we are allowing homeless to camp anywhere, giving people an infinite supply of needles to discard around the city, and – of course – taking away the trash cans from street corners?

    Also, can someone please explain how adding another layer of city department – and all those new administrative positions taxpayers will need to pay for – will lead to more trash being picked up on the street? Common sense solution: hire more boots on the ground at DPW instead of wasting the millions on forming a new department.

  43. Talk about overthinking an issue! We need more trash cans to collect trash. If they’re overflowing, the problem is that the City isn’t emptying them often enough. Schedule more garbage pick-ups! Geez, this is a no-brainer.

    1. Right on TSTER. The obvious. And obviously to do so would take more people. The trash problem, like the problem with DPH and the various petty corruption scandals, all go back to the 70’s and 80’s when what was then The Family united to privatize public services (then it was called contracting out) and lower public expenses by getting rid of public workers and weakening the public sector unions. The disastrous US response to the pandemic is a logical outgrowth of Reagan-Thatcherism in all its faded glory.

  44. I’ve called 311 to pick up mattresses and other large dumps on my Mission Street corner many times, but not for turds. I have bagged, binned and hosed more times than I can remember, and my folks had to do that back into the ’50s too. Shit happens, keeps happening, and then there’s the smell of urine on a hot summer day. . . .
    Even many more usable public restrooms would not solve this problem, and it is not new, except to the newcomers. For my folks it was from winos and sometimes sailors on leave. Different times, same old shit.

  45. It’s pretty simple, if the city started ticketing people for littering it wouldn’t be a problem. But the city has no backbone, so they will just continue to throw money at ineffective solutions and pat themselves on the back saying that at least they tried.

  46. We need to have compassion. We can’t blame the homeless people for dropping a hot deuce of the sidewalk. Going to the restroom is a necessity just like housing and food. We need more portable bathrooms and showers that are easily accessible to the unhoused . We should have a public bathroom and shower facility next to every mini bus stop. We should make the developers pay for it.

    1. This is an absurd idea. Do you have any idea how much it costs to run these public toilets that have to have 24 hour supervision? This was tried in the past but the toilets were being used as drug injection sites and sex activities. Thus the need for 24 hour supervision. And since when should developers (who are in the business of building housing) be responsible for public sanitation facilities? There is no connection! But a typical response from an idiotic whiner.

    2. Homeless people would rather take a shit next to the mobile public restrooms. I’ve seen it on more than one occasion.

      Compassionate people like you enable bad behavior. These people need a swift kick in the ass.

      Have a blessed day.

  47. This article encapsulates the ineptitude of city government. How could someone think less trash cans equate to less trash build up? It’s incredible to me the lack of trash cans on 24th. The hilarious part of this is the budget going up by a third despite the large cut.

    1. So as mayor of San Francisco newsom removes trash cans thinking that that would mean less trash? Then newsom becomes governor of California… it’s kind of like that commercial. This is your brain..(newsom) .this is your brain on drugs (newsom) about sums up his political career I can only hope 🙁

      1. I agree with everything, but somehow he’s rewarded for his bad behavior and choices. I signed on for the recall.

  48. For the amount of money Sunset Scavenger charges (or should I say, scavenges) SF residents, THEY should be picking up the street garbage too. OR, lets have the SF take over ALL garbage pickups–street and residential. Finally, to blame Newsom at this point is a joke–London Breed should be held accountable.

  49. I am so happy that Ms. Daly has written this excellent piece and I hope it has some resonance in the upper hallowed halls of the City. Our streets are absolutely disgusting and it gets so tiresome to have to clean our sidewalks every day. Every form of garbage, simply thrown on the ground, sometimes smashed into pieces, broken glass spread across the sidewalk, filling the street’s gutter, dumped and abandoned mattresses and electronics, feces (human and canine), graffiti on the concrete – and no city official ever arrives to deal with it – even as the onus falls onto citizens to report it. Our home has three sidewalk tree wells that seem to be dumping grounds and need to be constantly cleaned – we’ve given up on trying to put nice plants in there, let alone good soil as it’s constantly peed upon with cigarette butts and bottle caps tossed into the mix. I’ve walked for more than a mile through the Mission before encountering a trash can, it’s ludicrous!

    I would add to this article that after implementing more and better designed trash cans, what I’ve always thought would be a wise idea for the city to do would be to create a print add campaign about where to throw your garbage: into a trash can. Put the ads up on BART, bus kiosks, public spaces, etc. It seems like this city suffers from a toxic combination of not nearly enough trash cans, a monopolized, corrupt and indifferent garbage management system/corporation, and a public attitude lacking in the concept (or just plain exhausted) of respecting the shared act of keeping public space clean and safe.

  50. The problem isn’t Newsom or his response, it’s the people in the city who think it’s OK to throw trash on the ground, from their car window, etc. All the trash cans in the world don’t matter if people choose to ignore them. It’s not most residents, it’s a handful of residents, plus visitors and tourists and the homeless. People who actually live here don’t foul their own neighborhood.

    Tokyo has no public trash cans at all, and its streets are immaculate. The underlying philosophy is similar to the SFMTA’s approach to traffic (“get rid of streets, fewer drivers” = “get rid of trash cans, fewer people carrying trash around”).

    Let’s also stop conflating human waste with trash. Public restrooms are a whole separate issue with their own set of problems — we don’t see or want to see people relieving themselves in public trash cans.

    1. There’s a ton of research that shows that trash cans significantly reduce littering.

      Dumping is driven by social norms, high tipping fees, the hassle of disposal, and the low-probability of getting caught.

      Dumping at trash cans should be seen as a win, because dumping where it’s easy to clean is vastly preferable to backroads dumping.

      To actually reduce dumping, lower the cost and the hassle of legal disposal. To change social norms, educate kids, and rapidly, and persistently keep areas clean.

    2. Stop blaming people. Littering is natural as dedication and urine. Just let people be. The trash doesn’t hurt anybody. If you don’t like the sight of litter on our SF streets, then take the time out of the day and pick it up! Stop wasting all these resources on public works and sanitation. Invest that money into the poor and the homeless. They need the help, not some sparkling street corner. And if you start complaining about loss of visitors! Good riddance! We don’t want fly-over ppl gawking at the Tenderloin or Mission anymore!

    3. ‘[Ronen] has “been advocating for more and better trash bins for District 9 for years.” ‘

      This is the problem right here. This system of government centralizes discretionary attentions that are jealously guarded and reduces back benchers not on the governing team to plaintive wails to add more trash cans, year in, year out. As an added plus, that centralized power allows for municipal corruption to rampage.

      Filthy neighborhoods are the ones that pay the bulk of business taxes. Yet the cash cow neighborhoods like the Mission or SOMA are used to subsidize nice neighborhoods…like Bernal Heights, the desirable neighborhood where Hillary Ronen was able to purchase a TIC at the height of the market during a housing crisis on two civil servants’ salaries.

      Ever wonder why we see no Charter Reform outta the progressive veto proof super dupermajority? One corrupt hand washes the other.

      Keep up the FIGHT!

      1. Absolutely true and well put. I’d go as far to say this is a template for much of SF’s seemingly backwards city policies for basic quality of life issues. And while its never surprising when a city’s wealthy residential neighborhoods get their QOL concerns prioritized for over rental/high density and business districts, SF government has the audacity to come up with ways to call these practices “progressive” and offer non-solutions like the farcical “poop patrol”, or just give up entirely like permanently closing streets in the Tenderloin to allow for tent cities with open hard drug use. When questioned on the record, city officials are ardently apathetic in their optimism that “things will get better” as a result of their doing nothing.

    4. Trashing is a function of social norms.

      Trash begets trash, if you clean a space, follow-on trashing goes down significantly.

      There’s a bunch of research that shows that more trash cans, and attractive trash cans, reduces littering as well.

      It’ s fine to decry people’s behavior, but also know that there’s lots of things we can be doing to change that behavior – including installing more trash cans.

    5. “People who actually live here don’t foul their own neighborhood.”

      Meanwhile in a considerable number of people’s homes……

      This problem is probably related to the shopping cart theory. People that are lazy need MORE opportunities to do the right thing, not fewer. So an area with no shopping cart returns (or, apparently, trash cans) is going to be more of a disaster than an area that has plenty of them.

      I appreciate that you think your neighbors wouldn’t litter. But I’m willing to bet you’re wrong, and the endless piles of garbage are a result of poor leadership and bad moral judgment… essentially the now Governor’s fault

    6. Eliminating 1400+ trash cans when population, business and homeless were all expanding is idiotic. Must have need an MBA “let’s save the budget” initiative.