Mayor Kenney: Let's make Philly a zero-waste city by 2035

Nonrecyclables are separated out from recyclable materials at a waste-management plant in the Northeast.

Each year, Philadelphians dispose of 1.5 million tons of commercial and residential waste — one ton per resident — and the city spends millions of dollars clearing our public spaces of litter. If Philadelphia is to become a cleaner, greener, and more equitable city, we need to address these challenges head on — deliberatively and together.

That’s why, in December, the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet was created to coordinate city operating departments and outside stakeholders like Keep Philadelphia Beautiful in tackling the pervasive issue of litter in Philadelphia. In order to reduce waste before it even becomes litter, the goal is to move us toward becoming a zero-waste city by 2035 by diverting more than 90 percent of our waste from landfills. This week, the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet is excited to release its action plan, which you can find on cleanphl.org.

This road map — guided by the principles of equity, collaboration, civic engagement, and data-driven action — outlines new policy proposals, partnerships, and programs, as well as assessment tools to track the efficacy of our efforts. The city is committing to a twice-annual index to identify and track litter hot spots (using Keep America Beautiful’s one-to-four scale, with one being litter-free). Beginning in January, that data will be released on cleanphl.org for residents and community groups to build and sustain their own efforts. Events and commercial buildings — large and small, municipal and privately run — will have more resources to divert their waste. And the Streets Department is developing a partnership program that will work to engage and provide incentives for residents, civic organizations, and businesses that adopt zero-waste practices.

If Philadelphia is going to be successful in this effort to make our city cleaner and more sustainable for our residents and visitors, and for future generations, we all need to do our part:

  • Sweep up in front of our houses and make sure we’re setting out our trash properly each week;
  • Think about the items we throw away and whether they can be recycled or replaced by a reusable product;
  • Go to cleanphl.org to find out how to become involved in our neighborhoods through the Streets Department block captain network, a parks friends group, or another program.

Philadelphia won’t become a litter-free and zero-waste city overnight, and without all of us working together. But the Kenney administration and the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet are committed to achieving these goals, and we hope you will roll up your sleeves and join us. The hard work is just beginning.

Jim Kenney is mayor of Philadelphia. james.kenney@phila.gov 
Michelle Feldman is director of Keep Philadelphia Beautifulmichelle@keepphiladelphiabeautiful.org