Bay Area Proud

Effort to Clean Up SF, Started By Dad Picking Up Trash With His Daughters, Spreads Across City

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Like many other parents of young children, Vince Yuen had difficulty during the pandemic keeping them entertained while stuck at home. At the same time, like many other San Franciscans, Yuen began noticing how litter-strewn his beautiful city had become.

Those two observations ended up launching Yuen on one, very big mission: to clean up his city.

Vince is the founder of Refuse Refuse, a campaign meant to inspire and engage the residents of San Francisco to take an active role in cleaning up their city. To date, Refuse Refuse has organized 600 litter cleanups all over the city, gathering more than 150,000 gallons of trash.

It all started, though, very small. As in, Yuen’s two small children.

“They got tired of being in the backyard gardening and bike riding,” said Yuen. “Rollerblading got played out, and I'm like, 'What else can we do?'”

On their daily walks, Yuen had noticed how much trash there was, so he purchased a few trash-pickers and he and his daughters added that activity to their walks.

Then, one day, a neighbor Yuen had never met called out to them, asking if he could join them.

“So we just exchanged numbers and then next week he was out with me picking up trash alongside myself and my two kids," Yuen said. "I was like, 'Oh, OK there's something here.'"

Yuen has grown that “something” into Refuse Refuse.

At first, Yuen said he laser-focused on quantifying the amount of trash that was being collected but as time went on, he realized that something more important was happening: Yuen was becoming more connected with his community, his neighbors and his city. It was that reward, more than any clean street, that Yuen wants to share with others.

“We say we love San Francisco, we live here, we benefit from all the great things, but it's got to be more than I pay my taxes," he said.

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