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After 4 years and $550K, San Francisco finally picks a trash can

The Slim Silhouette prototype model is pictured at Market Street and Van Ness Avenue. | Joe Burn/The Standard

After almost four years and more than $550,000 spent on a pilot program that the city's Department of Public Works hopes will help rid our streets of garbage, the people have spoken, and they’ve chosen the “Slim Silhouette” model as the SF's new replacement trash can.

The futuristic Slim Silhouette model beat out some other space-age competitors, including the “Salt & Pepper”—both models reaped around 30% of positive feedback, according to a September records request to the department.

The prototype models were already beating out the off-the-shelf competitors in terms of positive feedback, but the "Bearsaver" off-the-shelf model put up a good fight.

As part of the field-testing process, Public Works said some design tweaks were made that would help improve performance to the winning model, including revisiting the size of the opening where trash is deposited, the on-the-can recycling messaging and the locking mechanism.

Public Works expects to be able to make the new adjustments—and get more cost-efficient—through the mass production of the Slim Silhouette.

The Slim Silhouette prototype model is pictured at Market Street and Van Ness Avenue. | Joe Burn/The Standard

“We’ve gone through a comprehensive feedback process, and we are excited to be moving forward with the new public trash can design,” said interim Public Works director Carla Short. “The new design will be one of our tools in improving the street and sidewalk cleanliness in San Francisco.” 

Public Works doesn't know how long it will take to see the 3,000 new cans on the street. 

The next steps in the procurement and mass production of the Slim Silhouette design are to identify funding sources and to move through all necessary approval processes. Public Works then will develop and release a Request for Proposals for the mass production of the new can.

An artist's rendering of the Slim Silhouette trash can prototype | Courtesy SF Department of Public Works

The three concept cans and three off-the-shelf varieties originally cost between $11,000 and $20,900 to build, but the department expects these costs to drop drastically to between $2,000 and $3,000.

In choosing the new can, the department held discussions at in-person community events in the Mission and Chinatown and received more than 1,000 online surveys as well as feedback from approximately 70 Public Works’ graffiti and maintenance staff and Recology crews who empty the cans.

Social media posts specific to the trash can pilot garnered more than 66,000 impressions, and there were more than 14,000 views of the Public Works’ July and August digital newsletters that featured the trash can pilot.

Critics of the pilot program believed it to be a waste of time and money. Whether the city's streets appear cleaner once the new cans are rolled out remains to be seen.

Joe Burn can be reached at