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Design criteria for the new public trash can

The public trash cans on City sidewalks and in public plazas serve a vital role in combatting litter. Unfortunately, many have become easy targets of scavengers, who rummage through them and leave behind a mess. The current cans were designed more than 20 years ago when street conditions were different and our population and number of visitors were considerably lower.

Finding the right public trash can to serve our needs and address our challenges at a reasonable cost have driven this design process. Though San Francisco is not unique in our desire for a high-quality and durable public trash can, we do have specific criteria for this next generation can. All three custom cans meet the following design requirements:



The design must discourage tampering to keep the contents inside the can.


Durable and easy to maintain

All aspects of the can must be made of sturdy materials that are difficult to damage or degrade. The can must be easy to clean and have graffiti-resistant coating.



Locks and hinges need to be strong to keep people from breaking into the can to get to the contents.


Easy to service

Each can must hold a 32-gallon rolling toter that can be used seamlessly with the Recology trucks for dumping trash.


Built-in capacity alerts

Each can must be outfitted with an electronic sensor that sends alerts when nearing trash capacity so it can be emptied before overflowing.


Accommodate a recycling exchange

The design must include a compartment for a recycling exchange for glass bottles and cans.


Aesthetically pleasing

The design must be a visual asset on the sidewalk and complement the design of the new JCDecaux public toilets (now in production), the BART canopies on Market Street and contemporary San Francisco buildings.


The target cost of the final mass-produced trash can is $2,000 - $3,000 apiece.

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