Building It Better Together: Philadelphia's biggest problem areas for trash

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Philadelphia's biggest problem areas for trash
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Philadelphia's biggest problem areas for trash. Bob Brooks has more on Action News at 6 p.m. on July 16, 2019.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Let's be honest, the city didn't earn the nickname like "Filthadelphia" for nothing.

Over the last few months we've taken a first-hand look at Philadelphia neighborhoods with junk piled high.

But in order to really see what the city is up against, we had to go out and get a little dirty.

Ikenya Riley and Thareek Thompson work for the Philadelphia Streets Department. Action News toured along with them for part of their route, starting at 30th and Lehigh streets.

We hear your Philly issues and we want to build it better together.

"After my first couple months I got immune to the smell," said Thompson.

Riley said, "It's not a bad job, it pays the bills."

They both said their biggest obstacle is how residents bag and dispose of trash.

"It makes it hard for us if they're not tied, if the bags aren't strong enough or if the cans are too heavy," said, Thompson.

"It's got all types of stuff, nails poking out."

Their crew chief, Sharon Branch, took us to the area of 27th and Lehigh streets.

Branch says each week a special crew comes in to remove junk here.

"I want them to stop littering in our front yard," she said.

But neighbors confirm it'll come right back.

"The trash just keeps piling up," said Sabria Williams of North Philadelphia,

To tackle the issue, Street Department Commissioner Carlton Williams said the department developed the Litter Index.

The Index gives each city block a score, with 1 being the cleanest and greenest and 4 being the most dirty and red.

"You can actually see what your rating is and then are recommendations on what you can do about it," said Williams.

One of the department's newest tools is the city's $2.2 million street sweeping program which launched in April.

Williams said if he had a bigger budget he would invest in more mechanical sweeping.

The six neighborhoods falling in the red area of Litter Index get sweepers.

Those areas are: Southwest Philadelphia, Strawberry Mansion, Logan, Kensington, South Philadelphia and West Philadelphia.

Williams is optimistic about the new program, but he is honest.

"Unfortunately in some areas is the litter is either staying the same or increasing," he said.

Another pilot program the city has introduced is Philacan-- a city issued outdoor garbage can.

Marie King of North Philadelphia said Philacan meets her needs.

"I love the program, keep it up," she said.

During our conversations with Philadelphians, storing trash inside was one of their main complaints.

"Right now if I got a whole lot of trash in the house before trash day it's gotta stay in the house," said E.L. of North Philadelphia.

And on trash day the can goes from just outside your home to the curb.

It's something Zero Waste and Litter Director Nic Esposito loves.

He's compared the program with work in other cities across the US and in Europe.

"I know it sounds crazy to think a better trash can is one of the best fixes," said Esposito. And if you want to help check the Litter Index, you can see if there's a block captain near you and what group's ready to try and help out.

"You can't start that conversation without actively being engaged in your neighborhood," said Espisito.

There's no question cleaning things up is going to take an effort from everyone of us.