Recycling: Get Loud, Get Answers

by Evan Belser

This Thursday, February 22, at 1PM in Room 400 of City Hall there will be a City Council hearing regarding Philadelphia’s grossly inadequate recycling program.

The hearing will be a landmark in a decade of advocacy on the matter.

The advocates have argued their stance in terms of environmental stewardship. As it stands, only 5 percent of the City’s annual 1.4 billion pounds of residential waste is diverted from a landfill or incinerator.

The advocates have also argued that our floundering recycling program depletes resident’s faith in city services. Most residents don’t understand the program, don’t know where to get a bin or what materials can be recycled.

The angle for governmental accountability has been employed. After all, a 1987 ordinance (1251A) sets many performance standards for recycling in Philadelphia; the large majority of these provisions are not met, especially the one requiring at least a 35 percent diversion rate.

Landfill fees continue to rise and the value of recovered material does as well. This means better recycling will save the city money. This has been a more recent addition to the advocate’s toolkit, especially after the May 2005 City Controller’s report which concluded that Philadelphia could save $17 million if we were to achieve that 35 percent diversion rate.

All of these points are as valid as ever, but for the first time, this issue has more than rationale- it’s got people. The Recycle NOW Philadelphia campaign consists of at least 5 chapters of volunteer citizens collecting petition signatures, civic group endorsements, and haranguing candidates for city government whenever possible.

This Thursday, all in attendance will be expecting answers from the Streets Department about recycling. Tough but fair questions have been asked publicly of Street Department Commissioner Clarena Tolsen in a letter from the Recylce NOW Philadelphia Steering Committee.

We can only wait and see if we get helpful, honest answers. But we are certain to make progress no matter what, because our strong turnout will fill City Council chambers and make it very clear that Philadelphians want better recycling. It’s time that we get loud, that we get answers.

2007-02-18 09:57:00

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