Big Belly trash cans being installed in the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District this month will be decorated with artwork from black trans artist Wriply Bennet. (Courtesy photo)

Tenderloin gets bigger, better garbage bins

The Tenderloin will soon become the neighborhood with the highest concentration of Big Belly trash cans in the city.

The Tenderloin Community Benefits District has begun installing 68 new Big Belly trash cans in the Tenderloin this month in an effort that will leave the neighborhood with 12 times as many of the high-end garbage receptacles.

“The Tenderloin, unfortunately, has become well known for dirty streets and sidewalks,” said Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin. “What people there have been saying all along is: ‘Give us trash cans and bathrooms and we can help keep our neighborhood clean.’ You can walk for blocks in the Tenderloin and not find a trash can. And many of the trash cans there are broken or overflowing. It’s a huge problem.”

Local advocates and city officials hope that increasing the number of Big Belly trash cans help reduce litter along the streets of the historic neighborhood. The cans are harder to break into and can also compact trash, reducing overflow.

Haney reserved $160,000 in the city’s budget last year to install the garbage receptacles in the Tenderloin and other neighborhoods including SoMa, Yerba Buena and Rincon Hill. Each can in the Tenderloin costs between $1,000 to $1,500 annually.

“The Tenderloin is definitely under-resourced when it comes to cleanliness [and] environmental issues. And I don’t think it’s any fault of the residents,” said Aria Sa’id, executive director and co-founder of Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, a nonprofit and special district in the Tenderloin. “The reality is the city has not made as intentional of a commitment to maintaining the Tenderloin as they do with other neighborhoods. This is a big step in the right direction.”

Haney touted the Big Belly trash cans as a more durable alternative to the standard trash can. Other neighborhoods like Castro and Union Square have also installed them.

“We’ve been advocating for more restrooms and trash cans and street cleaning for years and years and years,” Sa’id said. “The city has always shifted blame on to our homeless population and folks in poverty.”

The trash cans will feature the artwork of artists like Wriply Bennet, who is a black and trans artist.

“When people see my art in the neighborhood, I want them to experience joy and wonder,” Bennet said in a statement. “I want them to see themselves and loved ones. I want them to not only see the past, but the future as well, and all its possibilities. I want them to feel seen. And loved.”

The latest initiative is part of a broader plan to clean up the streets of the Tenderloin. Haney announced a plan last year that also called for 24-hour restrooms and increased pressure washing, among other initiatives.

“It’s a win-win all around,” Haney said. “People love the Big Belly trash cans. They work. The folks who deploy them will tell you they see a real impact.”

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