Mayor calls for 50% litter reduction

(June 21, 2007)


First-ever Litter Audit shows who's responsible for trash on San Francisco streets

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--In terms of litter on the city's streets, chewing gum is public enemy number one. It accounts for an astonishing 39 percent of all small litter citywide. Of litter emblazoned with a brand name, the top repeat offender is packaging from McDonalds. These are just two of the findings in the City's first-ever litter audit conducted in San Francisco and announced today by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Director of the Department of the Environment, Jared Blumenfeld, and Director of the Department of Public Works, Fred V. Abadi.

The audit--commissioned by the Department of the Environment and supported by the Department of Public Works--catalogued various categories of litter at 105 randomly selected sites in order to establish citywide averages and trends. The information developed in the audit will help target litter reduction efforts, and provides a baseline to measure future performance in subsequent audits.

"The Streets Litter Audit allows us to identify the business sectors that are the greatest source of litter, as well as the types of public behavior that we need to change," said Mayor Newsom. "Now that we can pinpoint where the City's litter is coming from, I am committed to reducing street litter in San Francisco by fifty percent over the next five years."

"The Streets Litter Audit compiled data on small litter, large litter, and where this litter occurred," noted Department of the Environment Director Jared Blumenfeld. "From this data, we can identify the most commonly littered items--and we call this list San Francisco's Dirty Dozen."

The Dirty Dozen is the six most found items and six most found brands. In order of frequency, the top six items are gum, paper (receipts, napkins and newspapers), broken glass, plastic, candy wrappers, cigarette butts and empty cigarette packs. The top six brands are McDonalds, Muni transfers, Marlboro, Burger King, Starbucks, and, tied for sixth place, Safeway, FedEx, and Jack in the Box. Fast food restaurants account for the greatest amount of litter generated by the Dirty Dozen.

"Individuals have the responsibility not to drop litter on the streets, but the business sector also needs to examine its practices that feed the problem," said Mayor Newsom. "Since much of the litter comes from fast food establishments and cafes, we need these businesses to take responsibility for the amount of packaging they use. Just reducing the number of paper napkins in a to-go order would make a significant positive impact. That's why I will be calling a meeting with fast food franchise owners to secure their commitment to our litter reduction goals."

The city will also undertake immediate action to reduce litter by looking into changing the business license renewal process to require that each business, when renewing its business license, show proof that it has refuse collection services. Additionally, the City will be launching Don't Litter educational campaigns with Muni and supporting existing programs with the School District.

In the past year, San Francisco enacted legislation banning foamed polystyrene foodservice containers in favor of compostable or recyclable containers, and banned non-compostable plastic checkout bags at supermarkets and drugstores. These initiatives will reduce litter, and are significant in that they hold the entities that produce the waste stream responsible for cleaning it up.

Throughout the remainder of June, the Department of Public Works is also hosting a series of neighborhood Eco-Blitzes where residents can get a free voucher for the Sunset Scavenger/Golden Gate Dump, sign up for the City's Adopt-A-Street and Graffiti Watch programs, and learn about other city resources available for neighborhood cleaning and greening. At the same time, Public Works crews will be blitzing the area with cleaning resources and education materials.

"The Department of Public Works is working hard to educate San Franciscans that a clean city is everybody's responsibility," said Fred V. Abadi, Director of Public Works. "We can prevent litter and do a better job of picking it up right away. Spring Clean events provide the necessary education and resources, so the residents can help us in this fight."