On October 24th, Circular Philadelphia held our inaugural members meeting to bring together the organizations, businesses and individuals who are collectively driving the circular economy in Philadelphia. We’re very proud of the 51 individuals and the 26 organizations that have signed up as members, including our founding members. And we were excited to have many on hand at our members meeting at the beautiful South Philly Meadows in FDR Park.
What we think really defines the circular economy is that instead of preaching scarcity and having to limit a majority of society to save the planet, this movement contends that we can protect life and resources on this planet while also creating the conditions for the average person to be comfortable, fulfilled and thriving.
This mindset was on full display as we took time to not only do the business of driving the circular economy forward, but also having some fun during the lawn games networking hour of the meeting.
Check out Maurice Sampson of Niche Recycling taking a moment away from helping guide the recycling movement in Philly, as he has for 30-plus years, to show off some of those frisbee skills.
Or how about Rudi Saldia of Bennett Compost and Daniel Lawson of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation stepping away from the city composting site they’ve been working on and playing some bocce ball.
But when it was time to get down to business, we left the games, and Circular Philadelphia cofounders Nic Esposito and Samantha Wittchen took members through all that we’ve accomplished in just four months. Some of those highlights included:
- Working with the Philadelphia Health Department to amend policy and allow reusable containers by-right for take out food, as well as working with the Philadelphia Office of Sustainability, ECHO Systems and Tiffin Restaurants to spread the word to other restaurants that want to introduce reusable containers in their business.
- Working with the Philadelphia Health Department and Philadelphia composting companies to create a transparent reporting mechanism for food establishments that attain composting contracts to satisfy health inspections and then cancel soon after.
- Working with businesses, advocates and regulators to develop policies that will help the building deconstruction sector thrive in Philadelphia.
- Working with partners like All Together Now PA to map textile reuse and recycling options in the Philadelphia region.
- Mapping all of our member organizations and businesses on a searchable web-based platform to circularity that already exists in the region.
- Forming our board, whom we will be introducing in a forthcoming blog post.
We also heard from our members. Melvin Powell of Sunflower Philly spoke passionately on the need to use vacant land in Philadelphia not only for community space, but also for sustainable economic development. Many of the circular businesses present at the meeting stated the need for more space to collect materials such as glass, textiles and other recyclable material in more decentralized neighborhood locations close to residents. These lots could serve that purpose.
Danielle Ruttenburg of Remark Glass advocated for more publicly funded incentives for businesses that are making the move toward more circular practices and keeping waste out of area landfills and incinerators, which cause pollution and adverse health effects. She acknowledged that things like the Sustainable Business Tax Credit, administered by the Philadelphia Office of Sustainability, was a great start. But more small, local businesses need access to that opportunity, and the city needs to increase this support.
The City right now spends upwards of $45 million to landfill, incinerate or recycle our waste. Imagine if just $5 million of that went to circular businesses to reduce waste and create economic opportunity.
Our next members meeting will be in 6 months, but we also plan to have more events that add value for our members and other people interested in building a circular economy. This past Wednesday, we took our members’ feedback and briefed Philadelphia City Council, at the invitation of circular economy supporter Katherine Gilmore Richardson, on the need for support of these initiatives through that legislative body. We anticipate having many more opportunities like this to advocate and act for the circular economy.
We’re excited about the next 6 months—and also the next 6 years and beyond—as we transform Philadelphia into a place of less waste and much more opportunity. If you’re excited by the work we’re doing and want to support Circular Philadelphia, please become a member today.
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