In just four years, Philadelphia has quadrupled its recycling rate That is unequivocally good news and a credit to Mayor Nutter, who has been tirelessly pushing this issue forward since his days on City Council.
The Greenworks Progress Report for 2011 (PDF) puts it this way:
After years of steady growth in the city’s recycling rate, the Streets Department again recorded record rates of diversion in neighborhoods
across the city. In the first quarter of 2011, the curbside diversion rate was just over 20%, four times higher than the 2006 rate. Some sections of the city achieved diversion rates over 30%, and many neighborhoods have seen double-digit increases in recycling in the past year.
By switching to curbside collection of all plastics numbered 1 through 7 in August 2010, the Streets Department took the guesswork out of recycling in Philadelphia, which boasts the largest single stream collection program on the East Coast. Philadelphia Recycling Rewards also provides many residents with an extra incentive to make sure they recycle as much as possible. The increase in recycling didn’t happen on its own though, and thanks are due to block captains, neighborhood groups, and every Philadelphian who puts their bin out each week.
Earth to Philly has been chronicling these changes as they've come to pass (and sometimes before) and will continue to keep track as, one would hope, our numbers continue to climb.
There's also a good write-up over at Newsworks about the four-fold increase and how it was achieved - you may be gratified, or alarmed, to know that "trash police" are already out there giving tickets for non-compliance.
But let's not crack out the champagne just yet: Compared with other U.S. cities, our recycling rate, at 20 %, is still laughably low. San Francisco recycles 72 % of its waste. For Portland, it's 67 %, and for LA, 65 %. Even New York (55 %) and Chicago (52 %) blow us out of the water. And if you think this is city-by-city cherry-picking, the 2009 average city recycling rate was 32.5 percent. Only Philly's best-performing neighborhoods even came close to that.
In other words, we can all do better, and it must be admitted that the oft-quoted "greenest city in America" goal is still, shall we say, quite a ways off.
Ever get the sense that maybe some other cities are also aiming for it?