San Francisco's multi-million dollar quest for aesthetically pleasing trash cans

In late 2018, San Francisco launched an initiative to redesign its trash cans. Though previous receptacles were functional, the director of the Department of Public Works wanted more beautiful trash cans because the city is "obviously very unique." Nearly three years later, the project is still underway; representatives recently voted to spend $427,500 to test fifteen prototype cans. When Supervisor Matt Haney realized the stunning amount of time and the multi-million dollar price tag of the trash can beautification efforts, he had concerns. 

"I realize we're pretty far down the path here already," he said at a Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee meeting July 21. "But why did we choose this path to begin with? And why are we still doing this rather than putting out a bunch of different types of cans that already are produced, that are much cheaper, that are already performing well … in some other place … and then making a decision based on this? This is a very expensive, much longer, uncertain process that we've chosen."

"The idea that San Francisco is so unique that we need a separate trash can from anyone deployed in any city around the world is preposterous," Haney told Mission Local this month. "It's something that reflects a broader and deeper brokenness of city government and the services it provides."

Mission Local

Based on the project's current trajectory, trash cans will likely cost between $2000 and $3000— possibly as high as $5000— each, greatly exceeding the city's initial request to spend less than $1000 per can. The price tag also exceeds that of other cities.

Sacramento spends $1,300 per can; Washington, D.C., $987; and Los Angeles, $449.51. Chicago, which discontinued purchasing $504.70 decorative baskets, spends $125.66 per wire basket.

Mission Local