Philadelphia isn’t a dumpster, although in some areas it can certainly look like one. Walking around the city now, it’s hard to believe that in 1952, Philadelphia was twice named the “cleanest city in America” by national sanitation advocacy groups. A lot of work must be done to make our city less filthy.
That’s why we were pleased to see last week’s enactment of the city’s new clean corridor bill, which singles out 84 areas for enhanced litter enforcement.
Under the new legislation, designated by Mayor Kenney’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet, the city will monitor these areas with cameras and impose increased fines on those who dump trash there. The locations include the Italian Market, Ogontz Avenue, Broad Street, and FDR Park, all well-known for their litter problems. Under the new rules, fines can be doubled for throwing garbage out of a car window and tripled for more severe dumping in the designated areas.
City officials acknowledge that they aren’t going to fine their way out of a long-standing problem, but the hope is that the new fines and tougher enforcement will change some sloppy habits.
This push for cleanliness comes on top of a more aggressive anti-dumper program. Last fall, the city and United by Blue, a local company, organized volunteers to help remove 245 tons of trash from a dump on the west bank of the Schuylkill. City crews used heavy construction equipment to remove large items, like couches, a bathtub, and construction debris. The rest, including tires and toys, was pushed into manageable piles that were carted away.
Additionally, Councilman Mark Squilla plans to reintroduce a bill restricting the use of plastic bags, a good idea that received too little traction among his colleagues last year. The bags create more litter around the city and get snagged in machines at recycling centers that separate trash.
Last month, Nic Esposito, the director of the mayor’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet, announced that the city would launch a street sweeping pilot program, the first of its kind here in nearly two decades. This is a positive step, since of the 20 largest cities in the U.S., only Philly lacks a street-cleaning program.
Put together, these are all laudable efforts but there’s more to do — and it’s not just up to our legislators. Everyone in Philadelphia has a stake in the city’s cleanliness and we should all take part in protecting it.
If residents or visitors see litter on the ground — and it’s not, say, a discarded needle or half-eaten cheesesteak — they should pick it up and toss it in the nearest trash can. If there isn’t a can nearby, they can call City Council to lobby for additional trash receptacles. Council, in October, passed a bill making it easier for neighborhoods to get trash cans.