Trash Management

South Lake Tahoe was established in bear territory. Keeping our bears healthy and out of our garbage is a human behavior challenge, not a bear problem. Please beware that City Code demands that trash must be put curbside for pick up after 6:00 am on the morning of pick up. This reduces the amount of time that bears and other wildlife may be tempted to get into trash. 

With all this in mind, please read the following tips authored by our partners at South Tahoe Refuse: 

Garbage Kills Bears

Allowing bears to use trash and garbage as a food source creates serious problems for both people and bears. Because the food reward is so great, bears are willing to work hard to get at trash and garbage, and return often in hopes of finding more.

Allowing bears to get into the garbage is one of the leading causes of human-bear conflicts. Being smart about how you handle and store your trash can protect your home and property, and reduce animal incidents.

The best deterrent of all is to make sure there’s nothing at your home, or on your property, to attract bears in the first place. This can be as simple as keeping food and other fragrant items out of household garbage, at least until garbage day.

Freeze It

You can reduce odors that attract bears by keeping smelly items out of the trash until your collection day. If uneaten food cannot be put down the garbage disposal, try keeping a bag or container in your freezer for any bits of food, meat, bones, fruit, or anything else that’s likely to give off odors.

Lock it Up

Don’t leave any trash outside overnight; even empty bottles, cans, packages, and recyclables have odors that attract bears. Don’t store trash on your deck or screened-in porch, and don’t stash your trash in your car, truck, or camper. Put trash out the morning of pick up only.

Keep it Clean

Clean your trash containers frequently with ammonia OR bleach solutions (NEVER TOGETHER! IT CAN KILL!), or use a heavy-duty pine-scented cleaner. Avoid using anything with a fruity or lemony scent to clean trash cans or anything else outside.

Use a Bear-Resistant Container

Bears use their paws much like people use their hands and can often just pop off or unlatch the lid. Bears are also very strong, so if the lid doesn’t pop off, it’s not much effort for a bear to dent, crack or split an ordinary can. There are a wide variety of bear-resistant containers available, just make sure they are no larger than 32,45 gallon, and weigh less than 50 lbs. for collection personnel .

Did you know?

Bears are great climbers and can easily scoot up and over fencing if there’s something on the other side they really want. Black bears are also good diggers and can tunnel under-neath fencing as well.

Remember that garbage in an enclosure still gives off odors that attract bears and other wildlife. Check your home and property often to make sure there’s nothing else for bears to explore after they give up on the trash.

To learn more about how to reduce animal access by bears, or other wildlife, visit the Living with Wildlife Foundation’s website at This non-profit organization tests and certifies containers for the International Grizzly Bear Committee. You may be helping to save a bear’s life.

If you have questions or concerns, you are welcome to reach out to Sara Letton, Sustainability Coordinator,, 530-542-6175.