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There was trash on the beach, so we removed the garbage bins!

Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California

Ocean Beach is one of the most beautiful and dangerous beaches in the Bay Area. It was also plagued with people littering. To eliminate the trash, the National Park Service removed most of the garbage bins! SFGate says:

In a seemingly counterintuitive move, the National Park Service has removed most of the garbage cans along Ocean Beach — in hopes of reducing litter. Park officials say the move has been successful, but neighbors and beachgoers call it a failure.

Last week, nine bins were carted off between Stairwells 1 and 14. Ten remain between Stairwells 16 and 27, which are near fire pits on the north end of the beach. Their elimination is part of a trial program to see if fewer trash cans will encourage beach visitors to pack out their rubbish. The Park Service hasn’t set an end date for the trial yet.

“If trash really starts to accumulate, we are going to put the trash cans back,” said Adrienne Freeman, public affairs specialist for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. “But we are seeing a cleaner beach. People have started taking personal responsibility for the beach that they use.”

It is nice to know that the National Park Service has such faith in human beings and that this type of experiment has succeeded at some other beaches. Maybe I’ve gotten jaded, but to me, this experiment at Ocean Beach smacks of the same type of stupidity that corporations exhibit when they remove trash cans because they are “unsightly.” continues:

The removal of trash cans has proved effective at Stinson Beach in Marin County and Baker Beach in San Francisco. Trash on Ocean Beach has long been an issue, but removing trash cans to encourage users to properly dispose of their garbage might seem like an odd incentive. And some beach users and residents who live nearby are frustrated over the trash piles mounting where garbage receptacles were once available.

Others have complained that getting rid of the bins hurts efforts to keep the beach clean. Eve Thompson, 69, of the Richmond regularly walks along the beach and picks up stray bottles and chip bags that have washed ashore. But those efforts probably won’t continue.

“You can be sure I won’t be picking up trash now because there’s nowhere to put it,” Thompson said. “There are all sorts of garbage piling up in the walkways. People are lazy, and it’s highly unrealistic to expect them to take their trash with them. We want the trash containers back.”

Freeman of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area maintains that early results seem to be positive, attributing the success to the program beginning during the off-season when fewer people patronize the beach.

We shall see. Getting the word out to beachgoers in a city like San Francisco in which many of the folks on the beach are only visiting and not local may be tougher than anticipated.

-Bill at

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