We can have a thriving circular economy in Philadelphia.
Our next mayor must make it a priority.
Philadelphia’s next mayor and city council have an opportunity to grow the circular economy in Philadelphia in a way that works for all Philadelphians, but only if they make it a priority. While there are many actions Philly’s next mayor could take to advance the circular economy, we recognize that none of those actions are possible without a strong waste management foundation. And right now, the City is failing to get the basics of trash and recycling collection right.
We are at a crossroads. The pandemic laid bare deep, long-standing flaws with how the city manages trash and recycling.
It made it clear that we must transform this innovation-starved system to one that prioritizes recovery over disposal. Otherwise, we risk continuing to harm our communities and falling behind other major cities that have already embraced a recovery-based waste strategy. The City’s failure to properly manage waste underscores the need for structural changes without which we have no chance of achieving a circular economy.
Therefore, our 5-point platform below focuses on the structural changes that the next mayor must make to enable this transformation and sets the stage for Philadelphia to drive forward an equitable, circular economy that is prioritizes waste reduction, reuse and recovery over disposal. We call on all mayoral candidates to pledge to enact this platform upon election as mayor.
Create a position at the deputy managing director level to oversee cross-departmental operations, much like a public works director in other cities.
- Structure this position to oversee many operational efficiencies throughout city government including waste-related issues that are addressed by multiple operating departments.
Within the first four months of the administration, initiate a process to separate the Streets Department into two distinct departments–one that focus solely on streets and transportation, and then another focused solely on sanitation–as well as appoint accomplished individuals to the positions of Sanitation Commissioner and Streets and Transportation Commissioner that report to the deputy level public works director.
- Conduct a national search for the most qualified candidate for Commissioner of Streets and Transportation, Commissioner of Sanitation and Recycling Director.
- Seek candidates with a clear commitment to recovery-based integrated waste management and a demonstrated ability to collaborate and implement recommendations from staff.
Direct the Sanitation Commissioner to create and staff a Sanitation Planning Office in the newly created Sanitation Department within the first six months of the administration.
- Direct the planning office to seek out local, innovative ways to diversify materials management in the city and prioritize recovery over disposal
- In advance of the City’s waste and recycling contracts expiring in 2024, issue multiple RFPs to manage the various material streams that the City collects with an emphasis on local businesses that are already in Philadelphia.
- Fully fund the Sanitation Planning Office and mandate that Operations follow the recommendations of the Planning Office.
Direct the Sanitation Commissioner to set standards for collection that make use of innovative and appropriate technology for Philadelphia to increase the efficiency of operations and improve material recovery.
- Commit to directing the Sanitation Commissioner to develop a plan for implementing semi-automated collection, reinstating bulk collection, utilizing smart routing using the existing GPS on collection vehicles and rolling out recycling bins with lids to mitigate contamination and litter.
- Engage with Unions AFSCME DC 33, Local 427 and DC 47, Local 2187 in setting progressive labor standards, particularly as it relates to implementing semi-automated collection, reinstating bulk collection and professional development.
Increase transparency of waste and recycling operations through proper use and dissemination of transparent data.
- Re-establish the citywide litter index.
- Implement a neighborhood-based education and outreach campaign to repair the public’s trust in how the city manages waste.
- Make monthly recycling data available through the City’s website through a public facing dashboard and ensure that website is up to date with information on where to access recycling bins and drop off waste.
In the coming months leading up to the May 2023 primary, we’ll have opportunities for individuals and organizations to take action by contacting candidates running for mayor and city council to ask them to pledge to enact this platform. Watch this space for opportunities to get involved and elevate the circular economy during this election season.