Having been in NYC last week, I saw why they had a garbage can contest. After sifting through 200 candidates from six continents, they chose 12 finalists and then a winner. The criteria for the prototype included looks, light weight, and rainwater run-off.
The winner (below) gets a meh from me:
However, it is affordable. At $175, the cost of each new NYC trash bin is bargain basement compared to San Francisco’s. But San Francisco is creating a designer bin that matches its public toilets.
Trash Bin Design
At a San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting, a city official said their trash cans were causing the city’s trash problem. As they explained, so unattractive a can encourages dumping and requires excessive maintenance. Another supervisor said the cans lacked “respect.”
This is one of San Francisco’s existing garbage bins:
During 2017, San Francisco announced a design competition. From there, from what I could figure out, they selected some of the higher bids and said that each of its new bins could cost $20,000. Responding to the uproar, they went down to $12,000 and assured the city’s taxpayers that mass production would bring the price to $2,000. Furthermore, the bins would drain rain water, signal when full, and be tough to tamper.
The design prototypes are pretty sleek (and appealing):
You can see that other cities spend a lot less:
So, how does San Francisco decide?
Our Bottom Line: Opportunity Cost
To make the decision, an economist would identify the opportunity cost. Defined as the alternative you decided not to do, the opportunity cost of a decision always has benefits that you have to forgo. According to a Mission Local article, San Francisco has already decided to spend $427,500 on 15 prototype cans through an obligation encouraged by an official now at the center of a corruption investigation by the FBI. From there, the final contract could be as much as $16 million. You can see that our opportunity cost analysis will have many different kinds of benefits and benefits foregone.
But we do know that its opportunity cost is an off-the shelf can (with the potential benefit of lower taxes and more money for schools)…
…like what New York selected.
Please note that I’ve slightly edited the end of this post after it was published.