Streets cleaner, but not spotless

While The City is still littered with hamburger wrappers, chewing gum, cigarette butts and shards of glass, the streets are much cleaner than last year, according to a study released Thursday.

Randomly testing large swaths of city streets for litter, a Toronto-based group said The City is on track one year after Mayor Gavin Newsom pulled between 300 and 400 of The City’s approximately 5,000 trash cans off sidewalks. After the move in 2007, the mayor pledged to reduce litter by 50 percent in the next five years.

“We cleaned the streets up with less garbage cans,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said Thursday. “We actually learned that we had too many garbage cans.”

South of Market and the Mission district are still the hardest hit areas of The City when it comes to litter while areas in the Haight and Fillmore have improved significantly according to the report.

Speaking at the corner of Post and Laguna streets — one of the most improved corners — Newsom cited a 19 percent drop in litter over last year and called on residents to do more.

Muni was named as one of the top litter sources in The City, although officials pointed out that the amount of transfers found on the ground dropped significantly from last year. Muni-related trash was second only to McDonalds in 2007, but dropped to 10th in 2008.

The intersection that deteriorated the most since last year was Valencia Street at 21st Street. The trendy intersection’s rating moved from being the 79th most litter prone area in The City to 9th in the last year.

Gum is the most egregious piece of small litter on city streets, according to the study. The sticky problem accounts for 39.5 percent of all litter under four square inches in size, followed by small glass, 29.7 percent, small paper, 7.8 percent, and cigarette butts, 5.6 percent.

Most of the large pieces of trash found during the audit were unmarked, but trash with markings was most often from large restaurant chains. McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King, Taco Bell and Popeye’s were all among the 12 worst litter sources in The City.

Newsom said he would continue to pressure restaurants to accept responsibility. Restaurant advocates said placing blame on companies is misdirected and the focus should be on policing individuals who throw their refuse to the ground.

“Ultimately, it is not the restaurateurs who put the trash on the streets; it’s the individuals,” Daniel Conway of the California Restaurant Association said. “That being said, we are always looking to cooperate with policymakers to resolve issues such as this.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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