Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Trash-fee tradeoff: Junked parks

If the city makes it more difficult or expensive to get rid of our trash, the trash will show up in our parks.

Trash-fee tradeoff: Junked parks

In today’s Daily News, I wrote about the city’s flaky handling of the trash-fee question, which Mayor Nutter has answered with a decision to forgo a tax for the time being.

He said the timing wasn’t right and that the notion hadn’t been fully developed.

This was a great decision. Not just because we all deserve a thorough, well-considered plan if we’re to pay additional taxes for something that ought to be a given – i.e., public sanitation services.But because of the damage that a half-baked plan might potentially do to Fairmount Park.

In researching the column, I spoke with Lauren Bornfriend, head of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, to discuss with her a notion that had been nagging at me ever since the trash-tax idea was floated:

If the city makes it more difficult or expensive to get rid of our trash, the trash will show up in our parks.

Bornfriend didn’t want to discuss specifics about a trash tax (she was more focused on coaxing good candidates to apply for membership on the Fairmount Park Commission, before yesterday’s application deadline passed).

But she did say that dumping remains a huge problem in the Park. Bags and bags of garbage find their way into our green spaces there, dumped off the main roads, into ravines, at the bottom of hills. You name the place, it’s been desecrated by trash.

“Philadelphians have a bizarre relationship with trash,” she says. “Why they won’t wait until trash day to put it at the curb is beyond me. When they want to get it out of the house, they just get it out of the house,” she says.

Short-dumping is also a big problem. One small-time contractor I spoke with said he has paid city sanitation workers extra money, straight out of his wallet, to haul off construction debris that wouldn’t normally be accepted by the city for disposal.

“It’s routine,” he says. “If you don’t have enough trash for a dumpster, you can always find a trash worker to pay off. Where they take it, I don’t know.”

In my own neighborhood, you can always find a small-time entrepreneur with a  truck who will haul away large items – torn sofas, broken picnic tables, old dishwashers, you name it – for a flat fee.

I suspect some of it finds its way into the park. Don’t believe me? Drive down some of the park’s more remote roads and see for yourself.

I think the city could run a successful trash-fee program. But it needs to be well-thought-out, user-friendly and fair to all citizens.

Otherwise, people looking to avoid the fee will dump their trash in the park – or any other remote place where, under cover of night, we won’t see them do the deed.

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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