Home » City Guide » ,

New “Slim Silhouette” Trash Cans Coming to SF

The new preferred trash cans are durable, tamper-resistant and easy-to-clean
By - posted 12/22/2022 No Comment

San Francisco Public Works recently announced the selection of the durable, tamper-resistant and easy-to-clean “Slim Silhouette” model as the City’s preferred new public trash can design. 

The Slim Silhouette design was one of six trash cans that was publicly tested this past summer. Three of the tested models, including Slim Silhouette, were custom designed and three were off-the-shelf versions. Slim Silhouette emerged as the top pick after a 2 ½-month pilot that put the different models to the rigors of real-life testing in a total of 52 locations across a broad cross-section of San Francisco.

As part of the field-testing process, some design tweaks were identified that would help improve performance, including revisiting the size of the opening where trash is deposited, the on-the-can messaging for the recycling exchange and the specific locking mechanism. In the process of manufacturing the Slim Silhouette, we expect to be able to make these adjustments as well as matching construction methods with automation capabilities of the manufacturer and gain the cost-efficiency of mass production.

“We’ve gone through a comprehensive feedback process, and we are excited to be moving forward with the new public trash can design,” said interim Public Works director Carla Short. “The new design will be one of our tools in improving the street and sidewalk cleanliness in San Francisco.”

Public Works landed on Slim Silhouette after a robust and diverse outreach campaign. The department held discussions at in-person community events in the Mission and Chinatown and received more than 1,000 online surveys as well as feedback from approximately 70 Public Works’ graffiti and maintenance staff and Recology crews who empty the cans. In addition, social media posts specific to the trash can pilot garnered more than 66,000 impressions and there were more than 14,000 views of the Public Works’ July and August digital newsletters that featured the trash can pilot. A website, which was visited more than 13,000 times and was linked to a QR code sticker on each pilot can, shared details on the pilot program and included the online survey.

Across all feedback, Slim Silhouette was the clear favorite and most responsive to the design criteria. It was the most successful trash can in being rummage-resistant and easiest to keep clean from graffiti and debris. The Slim Silhouette design will be outfitted with sensors that will send an alert when the can is nearing capacity and needs to be emptied, reducing the chance that trash will overflow onto the sidewalk. In addition, with its slim side profile allowing it to be less bulky and fit on narrower City sidewalks, survey respondents deemed the design as the most aesthetically pleasing of the six.

With more than 3,000 Public Works trash cans in a variety of places throughout the city – including neighborhood commercial corridors, downtown, bus stops and quiet residential streets – the new design will be a key component in helping keep San Francisco sidewalks and streets clean. Finding the right public trash can that serves the City’s needs and addresses our challenges at a reasonable cost have driven this design process.

The current, green “Renaissance” can – an easy target for scavengers who rummage through them and leave behind a mess – was devised more than 20 years ago when street conditions were different, and our population and number of visitors were considerably lower.

Though San Francisco is not unique in our desire for a high-quality and durable public trash can, we do have specific criteria for this next-generation can. The Slim Silhouette proved to be the best match for the following design criteria:

  • Rummage-resistant: Slim Silhouette uses the height of its openings as well as a snorkel design to ensure that it is difficult to rummage in the can.
  • Durable and easy to maintain: Public Works’ graffiti and maintenance teams confirmed that Slim Silhouette’s stainless-steel construction is easiest to maintain and the material most durable in the long-term.
  • Tamper-proof construction: The pilot trash cans with their variety of locking systems gave us good information about the most durable locks and keys. This information will be incorporated into the Slim Silhouette production.
  • Accommodate a rolling liner: Slim Silhouette contains a 32-gallon rolling liner that can be used seamlessly with the Recology trucks for dumping trash.
  • Sensor-ready: Slim Silhouette accommodates a sensor that will send alerts when nearing trash capacity so it can be emptied before overflowing.
  • Accommodate a recycling exchange: Slim Silhouette’s separated opening for bottles and cans makes it easy to deposit them and for others to collect, and so serves as anti-rummaging feature.
  • Aesthetically pleasing: Slim Silhouette’s profile and proportions were clearly preferred over the other designs. It complements the design of the new JCDecaux public toilets, the BART canopies on Market Street and other new public amenities, such as the café on Civic Center Plaza.
  • Cost-efficient: As part of the project requirements described within an upcoming Request for Proposals for the mass production of Slim Silhouette, the target cost of $2,000 to $3,000 apiece will be included.

The next steps in the procurement and mass production of the Slim Silhouette design are to identify the funding sources and move through all necessary approval processes, for instance, the City’s Civic Design Review Committee and the Historic Preservation Commission. Public Works then will develop and release a Requests for Proposal for the mass production of the new can.


In 2020, Public Works, in collaboration with Bay Area industrial designers at the Institute for Creative Integration (ICI), narrowed the design of the City’s new public trash cans to three final concepts. In September 2020, members of the public had the opportunity to weigh in on the three custom designs in advance of design presentations at the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Civic Design Review panel and the Historic Preservation Commission. More than 350 online surveys were collected, and the three custom designs received Phase 1 and Phase 2 approvals by the Arts Commission – greenlighting the next step in the process.

In 2022, APROE, a San Francisco-based product and manufacturing firm, transformed these conceptual designs into 15 prototypes that were tested on the street – along with three off-the-shelf trash can designs – during the 2022 Trash Can Pilot program.