Enviros want more focus on Philly trash

Last week, when city council approved Philadelphia's new $256 million solid waste contracts, environmental groups complained that they had not been consulted -- nor had the city's solid waste advisory committee, which apparently is more of an informal group than anything.

Here's the story previewing the vote.

And here's a blog post with more details after the vote.

Earlier today, they delivered a letter to Mayor Nutter, asking that he appoint a formal group and that the city complete a ten-year solid waste disposal plan, as required by state law. They also want to meet with the mayor.

I told a spokeswoman at the mayor's office that I planned to post the letter and I invited the mayor or anyone else in his administration to comment. None so far, but stay tuned.

Here's the letter:

Clean Air Council * Clean Water Action * PennEnvironment * PennFuture *
RecycleNOW Philadelphia * Sierra Club Southeastern PA

Mayor Michael Nutter
Office of the Mayor
City Hall, Room 215
Philadelphia, PA 19107
June 14, 2012

Dear Mayor Nutter:

The above citizen-based environmental organizations write to you today to request a
meeting to discuss solid waste and recycling in the City of Philadelphia. In particular, recent
events have illustrated the need to discuss public involvement in setting solid waste policy.
We want to thank your Administration, as we have in the past, for shifting the city to
single-stream, weekly curb-side recycling. That said, and as you acknowledged in your
Executive Order No. 15-08 (Dec. 2008), there is much still to do, and we believe it is
important that we work together to achieve more.

Yet, on June 18th, the Greenworks Update will be released, and the environmental
community has had no input into the waste reduction component of this important policy

While the December 2008 Executive Order established a Solid Waste & Recycling
Advisory Committee [SWRAC], your administration has yet to officially appoint members to
that committee. It now meets informally. So we call on you today to officially appoint
members to that committee for each of the constituencies described in Executive Order No.

But we need to go one step further, as the controversy last week around the City

Council votes on the new Waste Management and Covanta contracts illustrated. Experts in
solid waste were not given nearly enough notice to weigh in appropriately. We lacked the
time and the data to evaluate whether these contracts represented progress toward reducing
trash and waste in Philadelphia.

Further, the contracts were never discussed with the informal SWRAC. A few
handpicked experts received a very small preview of the contracts, but we do not believe that
this is an appropriate approach for an Administration committed to transparency and
process. There was time for greater public involvement, as we were told last week by the
Streets Commissioner that the parties to the contracts concluded negotiations in March.

That is why we also call on you to commit your administration to seeking feedback
from the SWRAC on all contracts, planning, regulations and proposed legislation on solid
waste, while such policy is still in draft form. While the SWRAC can invite in additional
experts to provide input and may also decide, as a body, to create its own subcommittees, we
do not believe it is appropriate for your Administration to create its own review committees
for solid waste policy. Such conversations should take place in open, public meetings.

Even as the question of these contracts was closed by City Council last week, a new
issue has arisen with the announcement of the “Greenworks Update and Progress Report
2012,” circulated on June 6th.

We expect that the new Greenworks Update will address Philadelphia’s vision for
reducing solid waste. We have not had any opportunity to provide feedback on these
elements. It seems as though the policy has already been written in the form of the Covanta
and Waste Management contracts. Discussing the solid waste components of the new
Greenworks Update would have been a good exercise for a fully appointed SWRAC. It
should have then discussed the Greenworks Update in the context of writing Philadelphia’s
state mandated 2010-2020 Philadelphia Municipal Solid Waste Plan.

We would like to request a meeting with you, before the end of June. Representatives
from each of the citizen-based environmental organizations listed above would attend to
discuss these matters. We believe we share a vision of making Philadelphia a leader in urban
sustainability. Your staff can contact Joseph Minott at the Clean Air Council [215.567.4004
ext. 116] about coordinating the meeting and he will reach out to other members of the
coalition about scheduling.

Thank you for your time. We hope we can continue to work together to increase
recycling, cut down on trash and eliminate waste all together.

Joseph Minott, Executive Director, Clean Air Council
Brady Russell, Eastern PA Director, Clean Water Action
David Masur, Director, PennEnvironment
Andrew Sharp, Outreach Coordinator, PennFuture
Benjamin Ditzler, Board Member, RecycleNOW Philadelphia
Dennis Winters, Conservation Chair, Sierra Club Southeastern PA