In a bizarrely counterintuitive move echoing San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department's efforts in Dolores Park, the National Park Service has removed a series of garbage cans along the Ocean Beach promenade with the intended goal of reducing litter. This has not exactly worked out as planned.
The National Park Service, which manages the popular stretch of Ocean Beach, believes that the previously existing trash cans encouraged beach-goers to leave behind their garbage, and that by removing the cans people will be inclined to pack out what they have packed in.
Dan Collman, a representative with the NPS, attempted to explain the logic behind the removal to a Richmond District Blog reader.
“We are working on a couple of experiments that would encourage visitors to pack in and pack out," explained Collman. "As well, we are hoping to save staff time and allow them to focus on other high impact areas.”
“Not to mention how nice the historic sea wall looks without trash cans,” continued Collman.
And while yes, sea walls probably do look better without trans cans, they definitely don't look better with loose garbage piled everywhere — the very situation that has resulted from the removal of the cans. It seems that some people — perhaps confused, perhaps lazy — are simply piling their trash where the cans used to be.
A reporter with Richmond District Blog notes that "[nearly] every stairwell had some debris nearby, and a few of them had piles of garbage tucked up in the corners."
It goes without saying that people should not be littering our parks and beaches (or anywhere, for that matter), but getting people to act in certain ways when they're inclined to do otherwise requires that we make it easier for them to do the "right" thing — not harder.
If the goal is to get people to throw away their garbage, removing on-site trash cans seems like a strange incentive.
The National Park Service has posted signs calling the removal of the trash cans an experiment, but has not provided details as to when the experiment will end.
However, the NPS will be keeping an eye on the situation, assures Collman.
“If this totally fails, we’ll address it immediately,” he said.
This move follows on the heels of other possible changes at the beach, such as potentially requiring $35-dollar permits for beach bonfires.