Like parking, garbage in the downtown is finding it hard to have a place to go.
City staff have found evidence that more than customers and visitors to the city are using city garbage cans to dispose of their waste. City workers empty the sidewalk bins on Fridays through Wednesdays, collecting on average two truckloads. But it’s often not enough.
“Due to complaints about overflowing bins,” city conservation coordinator Jennifer Gilbert wrote in an email, “for the past few weeks we have had volunteers monitor the sidewalk trash bins downtown in the afternoons and found several areas that are regularly overflowing.”
Common causes are coffee cups outside cafés and yogurt cups, which take up a lot of space in the trash.
“There may be only 20 cups in a garbage bin, but because they don’t nest together well, they quickly fill the bins up to the top,” she said.
Culprit No. 2? Small businesses using what is easily identified as business waste to fill the bins. Culprit No. 3? Residents in the downtown. Household waste is easy for the city to spot.
Hewing to the city’s master waste plan, city staff have a program that may change the dynamic: Their eyes are on steel garbage cans costing more than $1,000 each with both a place for recyclables at the lidded top and a place for garbage in the center. If you’ve been to San Francisco, you’ve seen them.
The garbage issue came to the city’s Natural Resources Commission in January, garnering the support of the commission, which liked replacing two big cans — one for garbage and one for recycling — with one new can.
“Almost anything has to be better than what we have now,” commissioner Matt Williams told The Enterprise.
The bins are part of the city’s move to standardize outdoor bins and less of a move to tamp down the garbage problem downtown. Yet there could be a change in behavior with the new bins.
“I think they’re a great idea,” commissioner Alan Pryor said in an interview. “You can use one container for two and it’s accessible for recycling.”
Pryor added that scavengers usually clean out the city recycling bins downtown, so less space in the new bins for recyclables may not be a problem.
Gilbert wrote that the city will be installing more San Francisco-style “all-in-one” bins in the next fiscal year. The new bins are already in place at Mace Ranch Park.
“In the meantime, we are considering moving some of (those park bins) to the downtown area,” she said. “We will continue to monitor the downtown garbage bins.”
— Reach Dave Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews