When it comes to eco-friendly cities, the “Filthadelphia” nickname is accurate. As any citizen who tries to start recycling in this city knows, even small, environmentally friendly tasks are complicated here. But our mayor is trying to change that.
Mayor Michael Nutter has new intentions to make Philly one of the greenest cities in America. Though this seems far away, there are simple things that Nutter can do that will help this city become much cleaner and more sustainable.
The easiest thing that can be changed is recycling. The city has a recycling rate of just 6 percent. One of the reasons for this low rate is the confusing and inefficient recycling information provided by the city’s government.
Rules of recycling in this city change by neighborhood, including what, how much, how often and where you can recycle.
This is the confusing setup Nutter is stepping into as the new mayor. In his first budget, announced Feb. 14, Nutter has allocated $6.5 million in the fiscal year 2009 for weekly, single-stream recycling.
Single-stream recycling is when all recyclables, including cardboard, paper, cans, glass, plastics and metals, can be put in the same recycling container.
In May 2008, single-stream recycling will expand into North Philadelphia on a biweekly basis. By January 2009, weekly recycling will be citywide.
“Single stream recycling consistently results in the capturing of more recyclables because of ease for the resident,” said Marshall Budin, director of recycling at Temple. “The more sorts, the lower the participation rates and the lower the set out rates because it’s a hassle.”
Philly desperately needs an overhaul of recycling. While this is a great start to dealing with the city’s environmental problems, Nutter cannot become lax on this issue in the future. Allocating millions of dollars for recycling is certainly progress for Philly, but the mayor needs to continually improve the program for it to be effective.
Nutter must educate businesses and residents about the new recycling patterns and enforce recycling rules for businesses.
Budin said the city’s enforcement of recycling by businesses and universities was previously lenient.
“Word started getting around that the city would increase improved [recycling] compliance, but that really wasn’t enforced,” Budin said. “There are businesses surrounding Temple that don’t have recycling programs set up, and you need the enforcement.”
Nutter can make sure the laws are not disregarded by first requiring that businesses recycle, giving them a certain period to comply and then using progressive steps to target those who aren’t fulfilling the requirement.
Recycling is a much-needed first step to Philly’s almost laughable initiative of “Going Green.” The city certainly can’t claim any part of being green until city-wide recycling is implemented on a regular basis and includes a majority of citizens. Hopefully, Nutter can be the one to get rid of the filth.
Morgan Ashenfelter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.