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Solving Philadelphia’s waste problem

Dallas Herbert

A coalition of Philadelphia’s leading waste reduction groups is asking Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates to commit to achieving Zero Waste by 2035 through five actionable steps.

Waste Free Philly released its “5-Point Mayoral Agenda for a Clean and Waste-Free Future for Philadelphia” at an event held last week at Girard College.

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The coalition is calling on all mayoral candidates to make a pledge that, upon their election as mayor, they will pursue the following agenda:

• Create a Mayor’s Office of Zero Waste to direct waste operations across city government and appoint a new position of Deputy Streets Commissioner for Zero Waste.

• Appoint experienced and accomplished individuals to waste leadership positions.

• Recommit to implementing the Zero Waste and Litter Action Plan.

• Establish a program to end litter and dumping by 2028.

• Regain public trust in how the city collects trash and recycling.

“Philadelphia spends $48 million a year on litter and dumping. In the last eight years, recycling has dropped from 22 to 8 percent, and waste collection has never been so inefficient,” said Maurice Sampson, Eastern Pennsylvania Director for Clean Water Action, who served as the city’s first recycling coordinator in 1985 under Mayor Wilson Goode. “This will only change if the next mayor is firmly committed to changing the culture from waste collection for incineration to collection for recovery for the circular economy.”

The coalition’s founding partners are Circular Philadelphia, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Plastic Reduction Task Force of Weavers Way, Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks and Clean Philadelphia Now: A collaboration between Trash Academy and Clean Water Action.

Dallas Herbert, a Lawncrest resident, represented Clean Philadelphia Now.

“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.”

Each organization has developed an individual platform and goals for the mayoral candidates that, together, focus on waste and recycling collections, litter and dumping, plastics reduction and the circular economy. The 5-point agenda represents areas of overlap of these platforms and maps a path to success for Philadelphia’s next mayor.

“Philadelphia’s waste problem is solvable,” said Nic Esposito, Director of Policy and Engagement, Circular Philadelphia and the city’s former Zero Waste and Litter Director. “If our next mayor follows the steps we’ve outlined, Philadelphia can achieve Zero Waste by 2035. Now is the time for all of the candidates to commit to cleaning up our city.” ••

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