Thursday, November 26, 2015


This week, more than a month after the mayor's trash-fee idea was offically put forward, trash, and its proper disposal, seems to be the talk of the town.



This week, more than a month after the mayor's trash-fee idea was offically put forward, trash, and its proper disposal, seems to be the talk of the town.

A long-awaited expose on the Big Belly solar-compacting trash cans that now litter Center City (ha!) arrived on Wednesday from the pens of Catherine Lucey and Emily Schultheis, and uncovered the fact that the cans are... working perfectly, saving the city money in less-frequent collections by compacting the trash as it adds up. And more are coming:

Another 440 Big Bellies - dubbed for the company that manufactures them - are being installed this spring and summer in commercial districts throughout the city, along with 185 recycling cans.

That "along with" phrase packs an untold story. When the Big Bellies first appeared about a year ago, I chastised an anonymous woman for tossing a potato-chip bag into the recycling bin alongside the trash portion instead of putting it in its proper receptacle. But having now spent many instances walking up to one with my hands full or otherwise not in the mood to touch a greasy handle in order to throw away some small piece of trash, I gotta ask: Why is the recycling portion of these double units a simple hole to toss into while the trash part requires several hydraulic-oriented movements to accomplish? Seems to me that making throwing trash away easier, rather than harder, would be a boon to a city that's launched multiple anti-litter campaigns and still finds trash lying around all over town.

This recycle-vs-toss issue, and its intersection with littering, comes to the fore in a City Howl Help Desk column about getting ticketed for not separating recyclables. Setting aside the focus, which is that the person in question says it wasn't even her trash that spurred a ticket, let's note the fact that she "wasn't aware of city recycling procedures, such as which items must be recycled." Hmmmm, if only the, cough, Greenest City in America would do a concerted, accessible, Web-friendly public-education campaign on exactly what to recycle and how, more people might actually participate in this initiative, leading to less trash to pick up (both from people's residences and off the street).

And after all that, what of the trash fee itself? In an unrelated story we learn that "Council seems to have rejected the trash-fee plan. Many members prefer a proposal to raise property taxes."

As Ronnie Polaneczky pointed out back when the trash fee was just a rumor, it's not enough to punish or tax people for generating trash. The trash is going to get created, and it's going to get discarded somewhere, somehow. What's needed is a comprehensive policy to minimize trash by boosting recycling awareness and incentivizing its adoption. Philly's recent strides in the latter area are to be commended, but the simple mechanisms of making throwing the right thing away in the right place both easy and comprehensible could make all the difference.

UPDATE 4/16: Ben Ditzler of RecycleNOW Philadelphia sends along, "hot of the presses," a very handy flyer from Niche Recycling that goes a long way toward what I'm talking about above. While the content and presentation is good, though, it needs to get into the hands of all Philadelphians. That's the kind of thing the city administration should be handling and/or funding.

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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

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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