The Circular Philadelphia Built Environment Working Group collaborated to set a policy roadmap for how to engage small-scale haulers in Philadelphia to increase recycling and reduce illegal dumping of construction and demolition debris.
Circular Philadelphia is proud to announce the release of its second-in-a-series of policy papers in advance of the next mayoral administration and new city council taking office in 2024. The policy paper, entitled Expanding Access to Construction Debris Recycling in Philadelphia: A Policy Guide, is intended to be a comprehensive, yet digestible, well-researched paper on how to engage Philadelphia small-scale haulers to increase recycling and decrease illegal dumping of construction debris through policy. In short, it makes the case for the why and lays out clear guidance on the how to achieve this major goal. This work was the culmination of nine Circular Philadelphia members and participants on our Built Environment Working Group putting in dozens of hours of work to create this paper.
Circular Philadelphia’s theory of change has an end goal of market transformation, which may seem like the most important part of the arc. But as the saying goes, all great journeys start with the first step. And for Circular Philadelphia, there is no more important step than identifying the policies that are either not present or blocking the path toward market transformation.
The Circular Philadelphia team discovered two things when conducting research for this paper. The first is that despite some past efforts, Philadelphia’s policy toward illegal dumping is almost entirely punitive and tries to arrest the way out of the problem, which rarely works. The second is that there are existing examples in Philadelphia of this type of engagement to use incentives to solve city issues, which we were confident could be applied to illegal dumping.
Read the expanding access to construction debris recycling policy paper online.
To make the case for action, the Circular Philadelphia team laid out the current state of affairs when it comes to construction debris recycling and illegal dumping in Philadelphia. We make a strong case for how much money is being wasted trying to either clean up illegal dumping or arrest illegal dumpers, with little to show for it. We then explore facilities, contracts and existing City policy that could be used in a policy solution.
We then researched other solutions where other cities are using proactive engagement rather than punitive measures to ensure that haulers are properly handling construction and demolition debris. These examples took us all over the globe from King County, Washington to the city of Accra in Ghana and right back to Philadelphia’s Organic Recycling Center.
Crafting and Evaluating Policy Recommendations
With these examples, we improved upon the original policy proposal that we released as a policy flyer in October of 2022 to introduce our concept and collect other feedback from the general public. We also presented this policy idea at Green Building United’s Sustainability Symposium in May. In the end, we came up with these four steps to create policy that will increase construction debris recycling and reduce illegal dumping in Philadelphia.
Step 1: Leverage the existing contract to place construction debris recycling containers at sanitation centers.
Step 2: Allow vehicles no larger than a pick up truck or van to dispose of C&D debris.
Step 3: Charge small scale dumpers a nominal fee.
Step 4: Create a cost neutral policy by offsetting operational costs.
Taking a cue from the former Philadelphia Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet’s strategy for creating policy, the Circular Philadelphia team ran this proposed legislation through three crucial questions to ensure the policy’s success:
- Can we do it?
- Will it work?
- Is it worth it?
Our premise is that if we could not defend the policy against these three questions, then we could not, in good conscience, promote this policy. However, we were pleased and energized to be able to defend the policy against these questions, and we are very optimistic about its potential success.
We conclude the paper by exploring budgetary considerations, quality of life and economic benefits of the policy, and the first steps policy makers will need to take to create this policy.
However, this paper is not just for policy makers. This is for any stakeholder that wants common sense, yet effective, policies to address the detrimental effects of mismanaged construction and demolition debris on Philly’s streets and waste streams. Together, we can make this policy a reality and use it to engage local entrepreneurs to be part of the solution to Philadelphia’s illegal dumping crisis and failing recycling rates.
But to get there, we need to take that first step on this journey. If you’d like to do that, please consider becoming a member of Circular Philadelphia and/or contacting firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get involved.