How to Clean Up San Francisco’s Dirty Streets

My previous blog post discussed Travel and Leisure’s recent list of America’s Dirtiest Cities.  As I stated at the beginning of that post, I have found San Francisco to be quite dirty with trash and litter in comparison with my previous hometown of Toronto.  While a lot of San Francisco is quite clean, there are definitely large sections that are downright filthy.  While I don’t want to complain about the city’s litter problems, I do want to offer a couple of ideas that I believe could greatly decrease the trash on San Francisco’s streets.  Below is a list of these ideas.  Some of them are more concrete, easy to execute ideas whereas other ones may require more thinking:

  • The public trash cans throughout San Francisco are far too open.  Homeless people can easily sift through the trash in these garbage cans and often end up throwing up a lot of the trash on the ground.  Additionally, if the trash can is full, the wind can easily blow the trash out of the can and into the street and side walk around the can.  The trash cans should be changed to a trash can that must be opened to deposit trash (similar to trash cans you would find at food courts).  In Toronto, for instance, many of the public trash cans would require you to step on a lever to open the top and deposit the trash.  Even when opened, it is difficult to reach into the trash, which would stop the problem of homeless people sifting through the trash and throwing the garbage on the streets.
  • Increase the fines on littering to something very high ($1000?).  This may sound extreme, but it will certainly make just about everyone to think twice about littering.
  • Incent those who pick up garbage on the street.  People get a small amount of change whenever they deposit an empty can or bottle.  Perhaps we could the same with garbage.  For instance, for each full bag of trash someone picks up and deposits to the San Francisco Garbage Collection Services, they would get $5.  While this would cost the city extra money, it could be offset by less need for street cleaners if it turned out to be a successful program.  The only potential issue is that people could abuse the system by simply taking trash from a garbage can to fill up a bag.
  • Give out fines for anyone who leaves out unsecured garbage or recycling to be picked up by garbage collection.  This garbage or recycling needs to either be in a closed bin or tied down so it will not blow away.