On any given day — whether in North, Northwest, Northeast, West or Southwest Philadelphia — you can walk past disgusting piles of trash including abandoned cars, plastic bags, water bottles, old masks and even broken toilets. The mounds of tires sometimes call to pyromaniacs to set them ablaze — posing a public safety threat.
Philadelphia officials have raised fines and installed cameras to catch dumping offenders, yet massive amounts of debris persist in neighborhoods across the city.
“This is about more than being tired of hearing our city called ‘Filthadelphia’,” said Kim Paymaster, chair of the Plastics Reduction Task Force of Weavers Way Co-op. “Uncollected trash, litter, illegal dumping, plastics that pollute our waterways, and other unnecessary waste is a public health and quality-of-life issue for Philadelphia’s residents — particularly for Philadelphians in neighborhoods that suffer from poverty and crime.”
According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, picking up garbage and pulling weeds around abandoned homes could lead to a drop in gun crime.
While mayoral candidates get pulled in a million different directions on the campaign trail, the Waste Free Philly coalition is directing their attention to cleaning up the city and improving Philadelphians’ quality of life.
Their demands touch on efficient waste collection, recycling, litter prevention and enforcement programs. The group, made up of waste reduction advocates, has demanded that the next mayor:
1. Within the first 100 days of their administration, appoint a new position of Deputy Streets Commissioner for Zero Waste and establish a Mayor’s Office of Zero Waste to direct zero waste strategies and the Streets Department’s collection and abatement operations in cooperation with other operating departments.
2. Appoint experienced people to the positions of Streets Commissioner, Deputy Streets Commissioner of Zero Waste and Deputy Streets Commissioner of Collection and Abatement, and support them politically and financially. This would include a national search for candidates for these positions.
3. Direct the Mayor’s Office of Zero Waste to recommit to implementing the Zero Waste and Litter Action Plan and developing strategies to achieve zero waste by 2035.
This includes cracking down on enforcement of the plastic bag ban and implementing bans on other single-use plastic, such as cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers, balloons and sticks for balloons, food containers and beverage cups/containers as well as cigarette butts.
4. Formally announce an intention to develop and implement a program to end littering and dumping by 2028 as a priority and produce a graduated plan to eliminate dumping in Philadelphia by 2028.
This includes having the Managing Director’s Office put a new, concentrated focus on illegal dumping enforcement coordination across departments. This has also been brought up as a quality-of-life issue on the campaign trail.
5. Mandate all departments under the Mayor’s Office of Zero Waste to use data and outreach to regain public trust and hold departments accountable for transparency of data and outreach.
Some of these items seem like over-request, under-expect; but they have to shoot their shot.
And we implore the mayoral candidates to look at these demands and how having clean streets and environmentally aware policies can improve lives and attitudes in Philadelphia.
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