In light of Philadelphia’s recent budget crisis, the city is toying with the idea of charging each of its households a weekly $5 trash collection fee to close the budget gap.
While it decides whether to implement the fee, the Philadelphia Department of Streets is collecting money from nearby off-campus real estate companies for trash violations.
“Right now, we’re getting slammed by city trash violations,” said Jill Kerrigan of TempleTown Realty.
The realty group, which operates more than 60 properties near Main Campus and houses about 500 Temple students, is being hit hard by various violations that include trash found outside of disposal containers and recyclable items found in students’ trash bags.
In 1987, Philadelphia passed Bill 1251A, the city’s mandatory recycling ordinance – the first mandatory recycling law of its kind in a major U.S. city. The ordinance allows for the city to specify what items are to be recycled and to issue fines to those caught with the specified recyclable items in their trash bins.
Oxford Village has been hit with fines from the Department of Streets, as well.
Michael Ross, a resident of the apartments at 15th and Oxford streets, said student tenants were recently issued warnings about the violations. It was the first he’d heard of the city’s policy.
“I wasn’t aware that they got fined,” the senior psychology major said.
Student tenants like Ross, however, were not issued any fines by Oxford Village management.
“I guess it just came out of their pocket,” Ross said.
Management personnel at Oxford Village declined to comment on the current situation but has held meetings with tenants in each apartment to explain the consequences of not properly sorting waste.
“If you leave your trash out on Sunday, I don’t know who they are, but they’ll pick through your trash, and if you have [recyclable items] in the bin, they’ll fine you for each one,” Ross said. “I think it’s a $20 fine or something like that.”
According to recyclenowphiladelphia.org, the city’s Streets and Walkways Education and Enforcement Program officers enforce the trash laws and may issue $25 tickets to those in violation of them.
To avoid a fine, recyclable items do not necessarily have to be placed in blue recycling bins issued by the city. Instead, items can be placed in any rigid container marked “RECYCLING,” according to the Streets Department’s online list of frequently asked questions.
Kerrigan said TempleTown hopes to “instill in tenants they need to separate trash from recyclables.”
As for the city’s possible $5 trash pickup fee, it is currently under review.
Property management companies of student housing are unsure how the weekly $5 fee will affect Temple students.
“We haven’t gotten anything in writing from the city,” Kerrigan said. If the fee is “rolled into real estate property taxes,” Kerrigan said students would not likely pay it.
A representative of Oxford Village, Janie McMorris, said operators of the student apartments have not yet determined how the fee will affect tenants at 15th and Oxford streets.
Five dollars may not seem like much, but eventually, it adds up. The fees may help the city raise an additional $85 million to $105 million a year. That money may prevent the city department from cutting jobs and reducing monthly garbage collections.
“[Five dollars] per week per household seems like a reasonable cost to not decimate services that people are looking to the city to provide,” said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and utilities.
A Feb. 20 blog post by philly.com titled, “Trash free: budget fix or green idea?,” suggested if the city’s residents are paying for trash collection, “maybe people will think twice about how much trash they produce and perhaps, start recycling more.”
Daniel Doherty, vice president of Students for Environmental Action, doesn’t think the trash fee would really affect freshmen and sophomores living in on-campus housing.
“If the students living off-campus are paying the fee directly out of their pocket, then I think there will be some tough thinking of how to reduce one’s waste because that fee will add up quickly,” the junior social studies and secondary education major said in an e-mail interview, “considering you can easily fill up a trash barrel with the crap left over from just one Friday night party.”
Chelsea Calhoun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.