San Francisco considers spending $20K on trash can prototypes

San Francisco is working on a plan to replace the city's public trash cans. Prototypes they're looking at testing will cost in the neighborhood of $20,000 apiece. 

While that's the price for the prototypes, the Department of Public Works said the actual units they'll order to replace some 3,000 trash cans will be much less.

The department said the current trash cans, especially the green conventional trash cans, are frequently targeted by people looking for valuables inside who break locks, damage the hinges and scatter trash everywhere in the process.

"They pick the lock, they dump the whole can on the street and then as the sort through the things they want while the garbage is either on the sidewalk or out on the street," said Public Works Acting Director Alaric Degrafinried.

City officials said the solution is developing the next generation of trash can, one that is sturdy and can stand up to tampering, vandalism, and can incorporate recycling bins and high tech innovations like an automatic notification system when the trash inside needs to be picked up. 

The Department of Public Works hopes a $537,000 pilot program will find that perfect trash receptacle.

The city says it will work with a contractor to prototype three designs, and will order five of each at about $20,000 apiece, and will test those alongside already available off-the-shelf models.

City officials said the high cost of the prototypes do not reflect the actual expected cost of the replacement cans. Public works is hoping to replace more than 3,000 trash cans for about $3,000 to $4,000 apiece.

"This is really the best way to do it, because it will allow us to trouble shoot and get the best unit cost on the long run," said Degrafinried.

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney said while he has been a vocal advocate for replacing the city's trash cans, he expressed concerns about the costs at a committee meeting on Wednesday.

"How many prototype trash cans are are being produced and what is the price of them," said Supervisor Haney. "I saw the line item said 15 of them for $300,000? That is an extraordinary cost per can."

Supervisors say they will be working to lower those costs.

As for a timeline, DPW is hoping to get those prototypes out for testing by the end of this year, then see which designs work best, and get about 3,000 of the winning design manufactured and out on the streets next year.