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Why Are There So Many Broken Trash Bins In San Diego?

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Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Well, yesterday we told you about San Diego's trash ban problem. If you lined up all the bins broken by city garbage trucks, they would stretch almost 10 miles today. KPBS investigative reporter Claire Treg, sir, looks at how and why we got to this point.

Speaker 2: 00:16 Uh, I came home one night and, uh, the trashcan had been destroyed by, uh, well something. Yeah.

Speaker 3: 00:24 Andrew Sammy, who lives in Scripps ranch is one of thousands of San Diegans with a broken trash bin. But unlike most, he caught what happened on video.

Speaker 2: 00:34 Uh, we, we'd gotten these cameras a few months earlier and so we decided to take a look.

Speaker 3: 00:38 He quickly spotted the culprit, a city truck head speared the bin and flung it around trying to break free. When he first called the city to ask for a new bin, he heard what lots of residents here.

Speaker 2: 00:50 They had told me that this was a normal occurrence and this was normal wear and tear. And so I was a little upset by that because I'm normal wear and tear. I expect, you know, over 10 years, something happens, not just one incident. And things get crushed.

Speaker 3: 01:05 After Sammy posted his security video to social media, the city gave him a different answer. He get a new bin for free. Sammie's ordeal speaks to the old adage that you get what you pay for. San Diego is one of just three cities in California that provides free trash service.

Speaker 4: 01:26 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 01:27 cost the city more than $30 million a year to balance the costs. The city started buying cheaper bins. Meanwhile, every other city in San Diego County uses private contractors and charges residents for trash pickup from $14 to $31 a month, and because they pay, they benefit from better bins and trucks.

Speaker 4: 01:56 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 01:56 for example, Chula Vista uses a special attachment on the front of its trucks called a Corado can that keeps the bins from being flung around or slammed down, but those special attachments typically cost more than $12,000. The city also uses more durable bins and if a bin does break

Speaker 5: 02:17 in Chula Vista, the resident could just call the trash company and have any either any part of the container replaced or the full container replaced, then no cost.

Speaker 3: 02:27 Manuel Madrano is the environmental services manager for Chulavista in his city and every other city in the County. Replacement bins are free.

Speaker 4: 02:39 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 02:40 San Diego is free. Trash pickup was established all the way back in 1919 when San Diego voters passed a law called the people's ordinance. Yeah. A big portion of the city's population is left out of the free deal apartment and condo dwellers. There have been efforts over the years to repeal the people's ordinance, but they've never gained much traction. Brian Adams is a politics professor at San Diego state university. He says one of the reasons is strictly political, single family home owners tend to be more likely voters than people in apartments and condos.

Speaker 6: 03:16 So the only way to change these rules is to have a ballot initiative where the voters will vote on, you know, basically charging themselves for trash pickup. And it's very unlikely that we're going to see that

Speaker 3: 03:27 with little chance that anything will change to bring better bins to San Diego [inaudible]. Some take matters into their own hands. Faced with a broken bin. Some people get creative with duct tape bolts, PVC pipe, even pieces of wood to fix their bins. Clare Trigere, sir KPBS news for a slide show graveyard of some of the worst broken trash bins had to kpbs.org/trash.

Many San Diegans have broken trash bins, but people who live outside San Diego don’t have the same problem. Find out why.

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.