Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Handles' messiah

Thanks to Juliana Reyes at the Daily News City Howl Help Desk, who did another fine write-up today about people and their nieghborhood problems - this one of special interest to Earth to Philly because of the focus on trash and its attempted disposal.

Handles' messiah

The city´s new Big Belly cans seem to have an attraction for household trash.
The city's new Big Belly cans seem to have an attraction for household trash. ELIZABETH MAGNER

Thanks to Juliana Reyes at the Daily News City Howl Help Desk, who did another fine write-up today about people and their nieghborhood problems - this one of special interest to Earth to Philly because of the focus on trash and its attempted disposal.

Rather than summarize and try to explain what got our attention in the article whose online title is "Dumping next to Philadelphia Big Belly trash cans a big problem," we'll just include the whole thing here, with a certain quote highlighted. Although, of course, if you're a longtime E2P reader, you knew what was coming once you got to "Big Belly" in the last sentence.

IT DOESN'T matter where you live. Port Richmond, Washington Square West or Forgotten Bottom near Gray's Ferry, you can't escape the barrage of household trash piling up next to your public trash cans.

Some of the people who put the trash there might be thinking: The garbagemen are coming to pick up the trash anyway, right? At least it's not in the gutter.

But that doesn't mean it's OK. Trash attracts rats and other pests. Indeed, it's illegal to dump household trash next to neighborhood trash cans (or anywhere other than your own curb on the designated trash day or at a city-owned facility). You could get slapped with a $300 violation or be arrested by the police Neighborhood Services Unit.

Sean Mellody, who lives in Queen Village, is bothered by the trash. In his neighborhood, he used to see people dumping bags next to a wire trash can every day. "I think it got so bad, they took the can away," he said.

He's also seen the problem around the Big Belly cans on South Street. He has some theories about why this happens. The Big Bellies could be full, Mellody said, or their trash bags too large to fit. "Or the handle is so gross, no one will touch it," he said.

Elizabeth Magner has noticed the practice growing around the Big Bellies in her neighborhood of Washington Square West. "This is disgusting and rude to everyone who lives in the area," she wrote to us. "Is there a way it can be stopped?"

TRASHED: Good question. We called Carlton Williams, deputy commissioner at the Streets Department, to ask if the city had any plans to combat this nasty trend.

The city is aware of the problem, Williams said. Anywhere there's a routine collection, people think it's OK to dump trash. Since the Streets Department always picks it up, it becomes "common practice," he said.

Williams mentioned the corner of 57th and Larchwood in West Philly, where 30-40 trash bags pile up outside a Big Belly every week "because they know we're coming." Streets sends enforcement officers to go through bags all over the city to find clues as to who dumped them. But the department plans to experiment with an educational initiative next spring, Williams said.

He wants to wrap the Big Bellies with messages about littering and dumping. It started with 50 Big Bellies on South Street, transformed into vibrant "Litter Critters" with the help of the Mural Arts program. With open mouths of teeth over the handles, the designs are meant to act as an incentive for throwing away trash correctly.

Yet, as Mellody said, dumping is still prevalent around the South Street Big Bellies. While the critters are fun to look at, Help Desk thinks a straightforward message like "No Dumping!" would do more good.

Plus, it's expensive to wrap a Big Belly. Williams said it costs about $500 for design and installation. This year, Streets will fund the project with its annual Department of Environmental Protection grant of about $1 million.

Williams hopes to wrap 100 Big Bellies a year starting next spring. With 900 of these trash cans on the street, it'll take some time to wrap them all.

BIG BELLIES WANTED: Some people think Big Bellies attract dumping, but Lorie DiBattista believes that Port Richmond needs them. The only trash cans in the area are in Campbell Square Park, she said, and they are always overflowing.

It's common practice in the neighborhood to stuff bags of trash into the sewers, DiBattista said. She once asked a child not to throw his trash into the sewers because it was littering. His response? That's not littering, he told her, that's where you're supposed to throw your trash!

Unfortunately, Williams told us there are no plans to buy new Big Bellies right now. The city will consider buying more based on a "needs assessment," and if it has enough resources. (The city is still paying for the Big Bellies it bought two years ago.)

HELP OUT HELP DESK: Help Desk has heard that the city's new gates at 25th and Locust have been malfunctioning. The gates, which protect pedestrians and bikers from CSX trains, are at the Schuylkill River Trail. If you've experienced the gates acting up, give us a call at 215-854-5855, email us at howl@phillynews.com or hit us up on Twitter: @phillyhowl. (Also check out the DN's Marquis of Debris at philly.com/MarquisFB.)

About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to energy@phillynews.com.


Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.


Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.


Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.


Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.


Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...


Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.


Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.


Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.


In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man





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