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San Francisco Unveils New Smart Bigbelly Trash Cans

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- The city of San Francisco is taking another looks at Bigbelly smart trash cans as officials work to combat SF's notorious street cleanliness challenges.

"Because it even took me a minute to look at it," says Paul, a Japantown resident who was sizing up the new addition to the neighborhood. "I thought, 'Finally, after 32 years, we have a trash receptacle.'"

But it is not just any trash receptacle. This was the first of 80 new Bigbellys arriving in San Francisco. They hold up to 30 percent more trash by compacting it with the power of the sun.

Sensors alert management when the can is 70 percent full. Perhaps more incredibly, they actually contain the trash that goes in them, an objective the city's traditional trash cans often struggle with.

"It prevents dumpster diving. When you close this up, it blocks your hand for reaching in," explained Paris Carthen, Operations Manager for the Japantown Community Benefits District. "You can't reach in and grab trash."

As you might expect, the Bigbellys are also expensive, with a price tag of around $4,000 each before maintenance costs.

"So, the mayor is willing to pay a certain amount," said District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown of the city's investment in the new Bigbellys. "They might buy a couple of them, and many CBDs are buying more."

CBDs or Community Benefit Districts around the city have already been paying for them, dissatisfied with city's efforts to control trash on the streets.

In recent years Public Works has been opposed to the widespread use of Bigbellys because of their cost. So does the mayor's partial funding of the new cans signify a slight change of course?

"We're willing to look at all kinds of garbage cans, and ways to keep the city clean," Supervisor Brown responded.

One might wonder what the city's investment would have to be if people simply didn't just throw trash on the ground, but that is said to be another benefit of this machine.

"With this, it gives you more of an option, hoping people don't throw trash on the ground," Carthen said of the new receptacle. "It lets you know, 'Hey, if you throw your trash in here, no one's going to get in there and throw it back on the ground.'"

There was one other news item at the roll out of the new Bigbelly cans. Supervisor Brown, who was serving as acting mayor Tuesday with London Breed out of town, was speaking to the small crowd when there was a sudden crash and the sound of broken glass.

Acting Mayor Brown stopped speaking and looked down Post Street to see what had happened.

"That's the mayor's car," she said. "Oh no."

It was, in fact, the SUV used by Mayor London Breed's office. The driver, who did not stop, had broken the SUV's side view mirror. A police unit was called to the scene and a report was filed. It's believed the hit-and-run was captured by one of the Japantown Peace Plaza's many cameras.

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