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(photo by City Of Santa Monica)

SM BEACH — Aiming to encourage more people to dispose of their trash properly while visiting Santa Monica State Beach, City Hall and environmental watchdog Heal the Bay have teamed up to create 500 new trash cans that combine traditional marketing techniques and the latest smartphone technology.

The dark blue cans, which are wrapped in colorful artwork with the slogan “Toes in the sand, trash in the can,” includes a QR code linking smartphone users to the new Santa Monica Beachcast, a mobile website that features a variety of local content, including tips on how to keep the beach clean, a chance to sign up for beach cleanups with Heal the Bay, the latest weather and water quality conditions, community Twitter updates and emergency contacts.

Users will also be able to upload and share their favorite photos of the beach, with the ultimate goal being to highlight the beauty of the beach, and in turn, provide the community with a stronger sense of pride and connectivity to the ocean and each other, city officials said.

“Our beaches are wild open space, as famous as any national park, and protecting them is one of our highest priorities,” said Dean Kubani, City Hall’s director of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. “This collaborative effort puts an exciting new twist on the vital public works infrastructure we provide every day to ensure that we ‘keep it out of the sand.’ We think we have the smartest beach trash can in America today.”

The cans are the brainchild of global advertising firm DDB LA, which works closely with Heal the Bay, donating their inspiration and talents to the effort.

“We believe the trash cans are an underutilized vehicle that have great potential to deliver current information that people can use and share, while spending a day on the beach,” said Matt Reinhard, executive creative director with DDB LA.

Matt King, a spokesman with Heal the Bay, hopes the new website will be used by people when they are not at the beach and in turn keep them focused on protecting the environment.

“We want people to stay connected to the ocean, even when they aren’t right next to it,” King said.

By using QR (short for quick response) codes, which consist of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background and can be read with camera phones, city officials believe they can better target youth who are familiar with the latest smartphone technology and therefore encourage the younger generation to be more environmentally friendly.

This isn’t the first time Santa Monica has decorated its trash cans to encourage a change in public behavior. In 2005, City Hall used Mr. Butts, a character from Garry Trudeau’s comic strip “Doonesbury,” to remind visitors about the smoking ban on the beach and the need to deposit cigarette butts in trash cans and not bury them in the sand.

Despite the efforts, litter on local beaches is still a problem. Paul Davis, the beach maintenance supervisor for City Hall, said his crews still collect plenty of trash daily. He estimated that only a third of trash collected comes from trash cans, while the remaining two-thirds is found in the sand.

City officials said printing stickers with the new slogans and ordering replacement trash cans, which is done annually because of wear and tear, cost roughly $20,000.

The trashcans were in place for the Memorial Day weekend.

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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