San Diego

City Of San Diego: Trash Bins Are Old, Trucks Not To Blame For Broken Bins

In a response to a Grand Jury report the City of San Diego said trash bins are supposed to last 10-years, but 68% of the bins in use are beyond their lifespan.

The perception among many San Diego residents is the city’s aging fleet of trash collection trucks is breaking or damaging their trash bins.

According to a March 2017 Grand Jury report titled "Broken Garbage Cans, City Apathy, Free Cans For A Few – What A Mess," "aging collection trucks, and poorly maintained lift arms" have contributed to the rapid rise of damaged bins. The same report recommended the damaged trash bins be "replaced and delivered at no charge."

Click here to read the full report. 

The City of San Diego and Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office have now formally responded to that report. In its response, the city maintains, the trash bins are not breaking because of the collection trucks, they’re breaking because the bins only have a 10-year useful life span.

According to the Mayor’s response to the report, the average age of in-service trash bins is 13-years old and "of the approximately 343,600 refuse containers in use, 233,700, or 68-percent, are beyond their industry standard 10-year useful life."

That means the number of trash bins that need to be replaced will continue to increase as it has the last three years.

According to the Grand Jury report, in the fiscal year 2014, 6,483 black refuse bins were replaced at the homeowner’s expense. That number increased to 7,387 in 2015. Last year, 11,925 trash bins were replaced.

The replacement trash bins used to be free, but in 2008, citing declining tax revenue, the city amended the municipal code.

The city pays $53.22 for each new bin. It charges residents $70 for a replacement bin. For an additional $25, the bins can be delivered.

The city insists it doesn't profit from the sales - the money goes to cover overhead costs, it told NBC 7 Investigates. Damaged trash bins less than 10-years old, are pro-rated. (Green and blue bins used for landscape and recycling can be replaced free of charge).

According to the city, replacing the bins for free would be a costly proposition.

"If the city were to replace them all, that’s about a $16 million dollar impact to the general fund, so no, the city is currently not considering taking on that responsibility," said Mario Sierra, Director of the City Environmental Services Department.

Here’s how you can tell if your black trash bin is beyond its 10-year useful life span.

• If the bin has a number that starts with a "03" "09", "06", the 10-year warranty has expired. If the bin is damaged, it is your responsibility to purchase a replacement.

• If the number starts with "T92" or "T64”, your can's warranty could have expired.

To find out the exact age of your trash bin, you can call the city Department of Environmental Services at 858-694-7000, or email the department at

For more information on how to obtain a container click here

Recently, Rachel Hunter of Normal Heights went to the city’s Collection Services yard to pick up a new trash bin. She assumed the bin would be replaced for free.

"It’s upsetting, that’s 70 bucks that I can’t afford, but need my trash taken. And so I’m kind of helpless and stuck in the system," said Hunter.

The city Environmental Services Department director concedes, the city needs to do a better job informing residents of their responsibilities, which is explained on the city’s web site.

"We need to do a better job of communicated and providing this information and educating the public," said Sierra.

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