San Francisco is spending a fortune to design public trashcans, which will cost $5,000 a can

Originally published at: San Francisco is spending a fortune to design public trashcans, which will cost $5,000 a can | Boing Boing

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How many homeless folks can you get off the streets of San Francisco and into temporary shelter for one month with $5000?


My understanding of San Francisco rents is that number would be zero.


Now that idea is not rubbish.


My limited understanding of economics would suggest a number greater than zero, even if less than one.


Dear Wife and I did a fast cheap and cheerful sweep of the City while up that way this Summer. My favorite city in the whole world has fallen from grace to the extent of we will no longer visit. It was an unmitigated drag, all the fun has been sucked out’a the place.

P.S. $9.00 US to cross the Golden Gate from the North/Marin side, WTF!


This story was going around a couple weeks ago and I spent a minute looking into alternatives.
Apparently Philly spent $3700 each for Big Belly cans a few years back. They proved pretty unreliable, and ended up starting a program to replace them with products from a totally different vendor 8 years later

I guess waste collection in a metropolis is a surprisingly costly and complex issue. I’m not saying $5k per can is reasonable, but SF isn’t alone in its struggles here.


I imagine the investment in futuristic and tasteful garbage cans is to make the place feel cool and sexy and futuristic to continue to attract tech money and talent. (And also please the existing monied folks around the city)

It doesn’t suck to hang around in SF, as long as you aren’t driving. I do hate the flight schedules back to the midwest though.

I’ve only been going to SF on and off for maybe 10 years now. Curious to hear what your perspective is, since as near as I can tell, it’s not that different from before.

For once, Switzerland is not the most expensive of something!

CHF 1150 for a beautiful can.

I noticed when I arrived here that the Swiss take public wastebaskets VERY seriously.

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I first arrived in SF in the Summer of 76’. So what you see is the Disney version of SF, long gone are the folks that made up its soul, its one of a kind place on planet Earth.


It sounds more like the issue is with folks who want to live there - if anything they cater to tourists and tech interns too much, if you don’t even visit for tourism things will get worse since all those tips go to workers and taxes go partly to the city/state/county.

Maybe they should just get slightly shittier trash cans, or hell, hang a bag from a pole, pay a homeless guy to stand next to it, and to replace the bag and take the old one to a dumpster when it fills.

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Cities across the US are paying homeless folks cash daily to pick up trash, I saw it first hand in Petaluma, Ca this Summer. The streets/parks/public areas are devoid of any trash, and the homeless have cash in their pockets come the end of the day.


In Berlin they had a really high bottle deposit, I got told just leave your club mate bottle somewhere it won’t fall and shatter and within 30s some Turkish lady had run over and grabbed it.

I wish we’d do more stuff like that, less overhead / moving parts.


One month in a tent:


Ecuador does this. Panhandling is illegal but instead of arresting you they offer you a job to pick up trash in the street. The streets in the big cities are incredibly clean.


In order to solve the problem, it’s important to know what the problem is.

And very often, the problem as stated (in this instance SF needs new trash cans) isn’t the actual problem that needs to be solved. And very often the actual problems are manifold and need to be stated, prioritised and if possible cancelled out. Sometimes a problem can simply be avoided.

There’s a lot of shouting going on about this but as far as design problems go, it doesn’t seem unusually difficult.

How much is the trash-problem costing? How much are you willing to spend to solve the problem, and how long do expect the solution to be effective?

Needles in the trash? Is this a problem for the trash handlers, or for the place where the trash ends up? Is the problem the sharps themselves, or the biohazards associated with the sharps? Can the amount of sharps be reduced at source by diverting it to special bins? Does this need to be incentivised by buying the needles back or exchanging them for a free terrapin?

Large volume of trash? Can there be more trashcans? Can the trashcans be bigger? Deeper? Taller? Self compacting? Self emptying onto a magic underground conveyor belt? Emptied the conventional way, just more often? Can the trash be pre-sorted into recyclable vs incinerator vs landfill or whatever? Which begs the question, where does the trash go? Can it go somewhere better? And best of all, can it be reduced at source?

Got ugly trashcans that don’t suit your city? That’s easy.

*All those questions are rhetorical.
**Apologies if this seems like a rant.


Sleeping in a new trash can sounds safer…

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Anything that has to survive abuse by the general public at minimum must be built like a tank or it will be destroyed in very short order. On top of that are a hundred other considerations that makes problems like this both difficult and expensive. Based on my exploring of municipal budgets in various cities, $5000 per trash can is on the higher end but in no manner shocking. And having distinctive fixtures that work well in a city is not a bad tool.

I know more than I want to about buying trash cans for high end public spaces. We spend about $1,800 a can. Buying them about 50 at a time.