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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

San Francisco’s $20K trash cans

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If you’ve been to San Francisco lately, you probably noticed that the city is a mess. That statement is true in a variety of ways, but one of them is quite literal. There is garbage all over the place in many areas, particularly the sections of the city where the homeless tend to congregate. Public trash cans are seen overflowing or dumped out on the sidewalks when vagrants root through them. The ones that remain standing are frequently covered in graffiti. But never fear! The municipal government has a plan to address the trash can issue. This summer there will be a variety of new, experimental models of trash cans deployed around the city. And the prototypes for these 21st-century trash receptacles are only costing the taxpayers anywhere from $11,000 to $20,000 each. (Associated Press)

What takes four years to make and costs more than $20,000? A trash can in San Francisco.

That costly, boxy bin is among six trash cans hitting San Francisco’s streets this summer in the city’s long saga in search of the perfect can. Overflowing trash cans are a common sight in the Northern California city, along with piles of used clothes, shoes, furniture and other items strewn about on sometimes-impassable sidewalks.

City officials hired a Bay Area industrial firm to custom-design the pricey trash can along with two other prototypes that cost taxpayers $19,000 and $11,000 each. This summer, residents have the opportunity to evaluate them along with three off-the-shelf options added to the pilot program after officials faced criticism.

This is yet another scene that could have been taken straight out of the movie Idiocracy. The prototypes are being placed out on the streets and they cost up to $20,000 each. But don’t worry. Whichever model is eventually selected will only cost $3,000 each when they go into mass production. The city is looking to replace 3,000 existing trash cans, so it shouldn’t run much more than nine million dollars. For trash cans. The city is also looking at some off-the-shelf models that range in cost from $630 to $2,800.

When did we decide that a portable container intended as a place to deposit refuse needed a high-tech upgrade? City Hall says that the existing trash cans have holes that are too large and “allow for easy rummaging.” They also note that the homeless tend to knock them over or even set them on fire. How will these new designs prevent any of that from happening?

Graffiti is also a concern, so one of the prototypes is made with steel bars along the outside. This allegedly will make it harder for the graffiti “artists” to tag them, though I can’t understand how that would stop them. They’ve set up a website where people can track the locations of the new trash cans and submit reviews of the designs.

Has it occurred to any of these geniuses in the municipal government that the problem isn’t the trash cans? The problem is the homeless people and drug addicts dumping them and “rummaging” through the garbage. If they’ve got an extra nine million dollars burning a hole in their pockets, perhaps that money could be better spent trying to get some of the homeless off the streets.

For that amount of money, you could probably put a good down payment on setting up some sort of permanent camping facility outside of the downtown area with public showers and bathrooms. Charitable groups could be contracted to set up a food kitchen for the homeless there. And then the police would have a place to take them so they could start round them up off the sidewalks and it wouldn’t have to involve a trip to jail.

But no. That would make too much sense, right? Instead, they will spend nine million dollars on trash cans that will still be dumped on the sidewalks and spray-painted within days of being distributed. It’s pure genius. Keep up the good work, San Francisco.

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