Last week, we took a look at the ways the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
and other members of the new Keep Philadelphia Beautiful
(KPB) city-wide anti-litter coalition are tackling illegal dumping in Philly. Another important conversation revolved around encouraging business owners to be more active in combatting litter.
Beth McConnell, policy director of the Philadelphia Association of CDCs
, Michelle Kim, a program officer at LISC Philadelphia
, Director Alex Balloon of the Taucony CDC
, Akeem Dixon of the People's Emergency Center
and the Enterprise Center
, and Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
Deputy Director of Policy Andrew Sharp participated in this discussion.
Participants noted possible best practices as well as existing challenges.
"There’s no cross-city litter program in the city," explained Sharp. "It’s incredibly siloed."
"We should not be afraid to say the City should be paying more money for these things," McConnell suggested.
Another theme was encouraging SEPTA to take a greater role in combatting litter by ensuring properly maintained receptacles at transit stops. Dixon expressed concern about plans for new surface transit shelters
that don’t also include a nearby place to put refuse. Trashcans should be better aligned with transit routes, the group agreed.
"It’s not about cleaning. It’s about engagement," Kim said of reaching out to business owners who can help combat problems of trash block by block.
Or as Dixon put it, "The best app in the world is called talking to each other."
Participants pointed to the success of ensuring SWEEP
s officers aren’t just enforcers, but a friendly face and resource in the streets.
Suggestions for helping businesses included amnesty from fines for any owner who calls 311 to report excess trash outside their building. Currently, many owners and managers may not make the call for fear they’ll be punished for the mess. Sometimes, participants pointed out, trash outside one business may not have come from that business at all, but been illegally dumped there or blown by the wind.
Attendees also said that Streets Department
staffers could come to more neighborhood meetings, and that there could be higher-profile awards or incentives for business owners who consistently maintain a tidy street and sidewalk.
Balloon also pointed to an existing City ordinance that needs better enforcement: Take-out restaurants are required to have an external trashcan onsite, but many don’t follow the rule, resulting in piles of Styrofoam cast-offs nearby.
KPB leader Michelle Feldman, chatting with Flying Kite
after the meeting, said January’s gathering drew just as many participants as the initial one in October 2015, though this time -- based on surveys following the previous meeting -- the discussion was more targeted and specific. She hopes a unified city plan will emerge from the coalition; the next litter convening will be held sometime in April.
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Litter Convening members