Mayor Kenney’s Waste Reduction Goals Are … Interesting

Photo illustration by Joe Trinacria.

This week, under the executive order of Mayor Kenney, the city’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet unveiled its plan to help reach the mayor’s extremely lofty goal to help Philadelphia emit zero waste by 2035.

Get this – the city disposes nearly one ton of waste for each of the roughly 1.5 million people living here annually. That garbage is, of course, taken from our curbsides to landfills and incinerators for disposal. But with these spaces filling up and the growing concern that incineration is more harmful to the environment than it’s worth, the mayor has proposed that Philadelphia eliminate both methods for remediation. Read more »

Hallelujah! Center City Is Getting New Trash Cans… And They’re Free

Photo by Peter Tobia/EPA

Philadelphia City Council approved a tentative deal to bring 275 new trash compactors to Center City on Thursday and all we can say is it’s about damn time.

Outfitted with foot pedals, the new garbage cans will be provided to the city free of charge in exchange for advertising rights under the yet-to-be-finalized contract, the Inquirer reports. The agreement also calls for the restoration of 125 existing solar-powered trash compactors already in place. Read more »

Don’t Like Philadelphia’s Littered Streets? Adopt a Block

Screenshot of Not in Philly map.

Not in Philly quietly launched late last year and the site is quickly proving to be a genius community-built answer to a better-looking and better-smelling Philadelphia.

Short for “Litter? Not in Philly!” the platform says it’s the first map-enabled adopt-a-block site in the country that allows people to claim a city street that they promise to clean up once a week for six months. That’s right—there are people in Philadelphia who have pledged to pick up those used diapers, pesky plastic bags, roaming soda bottles and dirty condoms of affairs past that we trample everyday. And there are people in our city who cared enough about the litter problem so much so that they organized and built an entire site around a solution.

Volunteers from Philly’s grassroots civic coding group Code for Philly built the tech, and Not in Philly founder, Dave Brindley, tells me design firm Think Company has also gotten in on building the online tool. (The company is holding a hackathon on June 17 to improve the platform.) The site provides an interactive map of Philadelphia that is detailed and segmented, allowing users to zoom in on every single block of the city. A green highlight on a street signals that it’s been adopted, while a gray highlight means a block is unclaimed. There’s no cap on how many people claim a block. The site also even displays the number of streets in given neighborhood and the number of streets already participating, giving a clear sense of whether a neighborhood is covered.

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Kenney Creates Trash Cabinet to Make Philly Cleaner … by 2035


Photo | Jeff Fusco

Mayor Jim Kenney has signed an executive order that aims to make the city a little less dirty.

The order will allow for the creation of a 16-member Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet, which will essentially gather existing employees from the city’s most prominent offices – including representatives from the School District of Philadelphia, the Office of the District Attorney, SEPTA, PennDOT, the Department of Planning and Development and the Commerce Department – so everyone can get together and talk about trash.  Read more »

Is Pennsylvania America’s Dumping Ground?

Saying that Pennsylvania has become one of America’s top importers of other states’ trash, Sen. Bob Casey has introduced a bill that would let officials impose new standards and fees on out-of-state garbage dumped here.

“Pennsylvania shouldn’t be a dumping ground for trash from other states,” Casey said in introducing the bill last week.

The proposal could have a big impact in Bucks County, where 75 percent of new trash at the Tullytown landfill in 2014 came from New York and New Jersey; 60 percent of the new garbage at nearby Falls comes from those two states. Read more »

Fix This: The Embarrassing Metaphor That Is the Trash-Filled Municipal Services Building Sign

Photo by Jennifer Kates

Photo by Jennifer Kates

This September, as many as two million people (and maybe more) will bum-rush Philadelphia to see Pope Francis. Lots of them will walk by the Municipal Services Building, the most important government building in Philly besides City Hall, and expect it to be halfway presentable.

Instead, this is what they’ll find: Alongside the structure, there is a sign for the Municipal Services Building concourse that is stuffed with old, grimy trash. A plastic screen has been removed and people are actually dumping litter into the sign itself, despite the preponderance of trash cans in Center City.

Nothing says “Philly doesn’t have its shit together” more than this. This atrocity sits right outside of the Municipal Services Building, which is a hop, skip and a jump from where Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke, District Attorney Seth Williams, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, judges, commissioners and every other elected official in town goes to work every day! And yet the screen somehow still hasn’t been replaced and the trash hasn’t been removed! And it would take five seconds to do! Read more »

The No-Bullshit Guide to a Litter-Free Block


Not on your block.

Philadelphia’s reputation as one of the filthiest cities in the nation is old and well-deserved. City Hall should be doing more to fix the problem. But you know what? So should city residents.

And so we’ve put together the ultimate guide to cleaning up your block, with decades of know-how gleaned from city officials, block captains, civic leaders and longtime residents who have wrestled with litter for years. You won’t find the same old advice here you’ve heard a thousand times before: “Just call 311.” Instead, we’ve uncovered tricks to actually get 311’s attention (let’s just say a little public embarrassment never hurt), score free cleaning supplies from the city, organize a block cleanup that’ll actually be well-attended, and more. It’s the inside scoop on winning the War on Trash.

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How the Big Blue Bin Has Made Recycling Awfully Expensive

recycling sorting facility

A recent story in the Washington Post headlined “American Recycling Is Stalling” sent a shockwave through environmentalist circles. America’s recycling business, once lucrative for both cities and private employers, is now devolving into a “money-sucking enterprise,” the story concluded. And that’s despite years of growth in curbside recycling. One of the big culprits? Ironically, it’s blue bin recycling,  according to the Post:

Trying to encourage conservation, progressive lawmakers and environmentalists have made matters worse. By pushing to increase recycling rates with bigger and bigger bins — while demanding almost no sorting by consumers — the recycling stream has become increasingly polluted and less valuable, imperiling the economics of the whole system.

Before we go further, what exactly are the “economics of the whole system”? As ubiquitous as recycling has become, the business model is rather opaque. How does the city make money from empty soda cans on the curb? Read more »

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