Litter Audits Show That SOMA West Residents are Enjoying a Cleaner and Healthier Neighborhood in 2020.

Map, track and clean litter together. Love where you live.

No matter who you are or where you live, I think most people can agree: 2020 was an unprecedented year. One overlooked bright spot is the impressive improvement in street conditions in San Francisco's SOMA West district.

The SOMA West CBD team, under the leadership of Executive Director Christian Martin, reduced litter and other hazards, like poop and needles, by as much as 85%.

Though there is a lot still a lot of work to do, these are impressive results.

As a result of COVID-19 and the impact it had on local businesses, it has become even more crucial to provide them with the resources they need to address safety and cleanliness.

The first impression can be everything. By quickly reporting and dealing with problems like broken trash cans, graffiti, and litter, we can create an environment that locals and visitors can take pride in and ensure that foot traffic remains stable.

Read on to see how SOMA West has changed from 2019 to 2020.

The most comprehensive audit of its kind

SOMA West CBD has been an innovative leader in its use of data to guide decision making and transparency

In 2019 we came, we saw, we… tagged all the community issues across 72 blocks of SOMA West. But we weren’t alone: 22 community members participated to report 27,461 concerns! The top 3 concerns were street litter (48%), graffiti (10%), and stained sidewalks (31%). After residents completed the audit, Rubbish used the data to determine the litter footprint, and pinpoint which areas needed attention.

The SOMA West team took this information and worked with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the City of San Francisco to get a grant for Big Belly trash cans to mitigate litter and keep the neighborhood clean and safe!

This data allows for a more equitable distribution of resources

Environmental justice plays a key role in an integrated effort that simultaneously addresses housing, environment, transportation, and health issues.

The data we collect through neighborhood audits and our other tools helps to inform decision-makers in order to address the needs of all communities and stakeholders. Which areas are significantly worse than their neighbors? Which streets could drastically improve in terms of key infrastructure? These are just some of the questions we keep in mind as we build our tools to create healthy and safe communities for everyone.

A few highlights from the audit

There is a 58% YoY reduction in needles, from 192 instances in 2019 to 81 instances in 2020,

2019 instances of needles in orange, 2020 instances of needles in blue
58% reduction in needles year over year.
62% reduction in graffiti year over year.

Fewer instances of graffiti, stickers, and flyers, from 2,831 instances in 2019 to 1067 instances in 2020, a 62% reduction!

85% reduction in human and pet waste (poop) year over year.

A huge drop in instances of human/pet waste, an 85% reduction, going from 1,308 instances in 2019 to just 197 instances in 2020.

A significant percentage of PPE litter is east of 7th Street

A new but expected outcome of the Covid pandemic: a new category of litter related to personal protective equipment (PPE), in the form of masks and gloves.

Final thoughts

It’s exciting to see how much we can learn about neighborhood litter patterns by looking at data. And, although we have access to data in the form of two snapshots in time a year’s worth of data, we can identify important trends and insights. Perhaps data like this can one day become part of a community organizer’s toolkit.

View the full audit details here.

About Rubbish

Rubbish is working with cities and communities to create a smart approach to litter, using data to put cigarette disposals and trash cans where they will have the biggest impact. Understanding litter trends and how they vary from street to street can tell us a lot about our communities and can be a powerful tool in helping identify the source of litter to clean more effectively. We look forward to seeing how technology can help our cities become healthier, safer, and more sustainable.

Interested in what we’re doing?

1. Check out our website at

2. Use our litter-tracking app to go on a rubbish run

3. Support us on Patreon

4. Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, or LinkedIn.

5. Say hi on our weekly live-stream litter pickup in San Francisco on Reddit. (Be sure to click “follow” so you know when we’re live!)

Written by
Emin Israfil