Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Trash fee: budget fix or green idea?

The idea of a $5 per week fee for trash pick up took on a slightly different cast last night at the Sustainability Forum, held at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Trash fee: budget fix or green idea?


The idea of a $5 per week fee for trash pick up took on a slightly different cast last night at the Sustainability Forum, held at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Rina Cutler, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utlities was one of three presenters at the forum – along with City Finance Director Rob DuBow, and Sustainability Director Mark Alan Hughes. She suggested that while her idea to charge for trash pickup had its root in saving money, it might also fit within the city’s larger sustainability strategy.

Here’s the rationale: If they have to pay for trash pick up, maybe people will think twice about how much trash they produce, and perhaps start recycling more. (Now be honest: how much of that stuff you throw in the trash might go into a recyling bin instead?)

The city pays $68 per ton to the landfill operator to take our trash. The city makes money with its recyclables.

So is the trash fee a budget idea, or a sustainability idea? Maybe both.

The forum packed the house at the Academy, and one of its highlights was a surprise visit by the Mayor himself. This was a clever move: the sustainable folks –- young, educated city dwellers – are an important consituency, and it was at the first mayoral forum, organized in 2007 by Christine Knapp of PennFuture, where Nutter says he knew he could be mayor. Mainly because the four other candidates proved themselves to know bupkis about sustainability. Then-candidate Nutter had done his homework, and his was a clear victory at that first forum, so last night’s visit was a bit of a victory lap. The crowd gave him some love, a resource that he has found to be dwindling of late.

The crowd also seemed enthralled by Mark Alan Hughes (a former Daily News columnist) who is both cool and smart and presented an impressive (and daunting) 15 point strategy to make the city the greenest in the land. Check out the website at (www.phila.gov/green/ ).

Rina Cutler is no slouch either. She’s sharp and funny and no-nonsense. One of the best points she made last night: This place is a dump. People think nothing of dumping their trash all over the sidewalks. Which made me wonder: if people don’t know to throw their big gulp cups and potato chip bags in the trash instead on the sidewalk, how will we ever let them know that it’s time to weatherize, recycle, and reuse?

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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