S.F. to kick garbage cans to the curb

Acknowledging that it sounded counterintuitive to his efforts to have cleaner and greener streets, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that The City will reduce the number of garbage cans on San Francisco’s streets.

In recent months, the Department of Public Works has removed more than 6 percent — 300 to 400 — of The City’s approximately 5,000 trash cans.

San Francisco has more trash cans per person than other big cities — 64 per 10,000 residents, Newsom said. Having so many spaced at regular intervals encourages businesses and residents to use the receptacles for their bags of everyday garbage, instead of paying for garbage service, he added.

Newsom, flanked by Department of the Environment Director Jared Blumenfeld and Department of Public Works Director Fred Abadi, made the announcement during a news conference to promote The City’s anti-litter initiatives.

Walking her dog by the event, held on the corner of Polk and Washington streets, resident Dawn Trennert said not having enough trash cans would hurt neighborhood cleanup efforts.

“I’m still pro-garbage can, we just had too many,” Newsom told Trennert. “We want there to be room in the garbage cans, and there’s often not. They’re overflowing because other residents are using them inappropriately.”

Newsom also said fast-food restaurants and other companies needed to do more to help solve San Francisco’s trash problems.

“We called all those fast-food restaurants and now we’re sitting down … to say, ‘You guys have got to step up,’” Newsom said.

Newsom also listed brand names most often found littered about San Francisco’s streets: McDonalds, Muni (transfers), Burger King, Starbucks, Safeway, FedEx and Jack in the Box.

“These are our targets,” Newsom said, adding that the top generic street nuisance is gum, making up nearly 40 percent of all small litter citywide.

The information was a result of a $25,000 city litter study that surveyed approximately 100 sites across The City that were randomly chosen. It found, on average, about 36 pieces of litter per 200-foot-long site. Newsom pledged to cut that number in half over the next five years.

Johnnise Downs, director of local government affairs for the California Restaurant Association, said it wasn’t fair to blame fast-food restaurants for the litter left by their customers citywide, when the businesses already work to keep the area around their establishments clean of trash.

“We definitely feel it’s a misplaced responsibility. There’s no accountability for those who are breaking the law and littering,” Downs said. “We’re always happy to work with local jurisdictions to do outreach and education, but the bottom line is, it’s a littering problem.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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