To effectively tackle litter in Philadelphia, it is important that we first understand litter conditions across the city. In 2017, the CIty conducted a City-wide Litter Index, where trained staff members from six departments surveyed and documented litter present on Philadelphia’s streets, vacant lots, and other public properties. Data from the survey was released in early 2018 to help Philadelphians understand and visualize litter conditions throughout the city. While serving as a public resource, the Litter Index data is also being used internally by City departments, allowing them to develop data-driven strategies and policies for addressing litter in our city. The data is being used:
1. To Create Neighborhood-Specific Plans for Controlling Litter
In partnership with the Streets Department, other City agencies, and nonprofit partners, we are developing neighborhood-specific plans (Neighborhood Litter Plans), which lay out strategies for addressing litter and illegal dumping in individual Philadelphia neighborhoods. Selection of neighborhoods is being guided by the Litter Index data — areas of the city with the highest Litter Index scores (and worst litter conditions) are being prioritized in this process, which includes engaging residents and community-based organizations working in specific neighborhoods through community meetings, using their feedback to develop plans, implementing services, and continued follow-up. Efforts to develop Neighborhood Litter Plans are already underway in two neighborhoods, Southwest Philadelphia and Kensington. Stay tuned for the release of plans for these neighborhoods!
2. To Guide Which Parks and Recreation Sites Will Have “Waste Corrals” Installed
To discourage illegal dumping at recreation centers and playgrounds, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) is installing waste corrals at certain sites, using Litter Index data for site selection. The waste corrals provide a designated place for facilities to put their trash so that household waste is not added to facility-generated waste curbside. So far, PPR has installed waste corrals at four sites, and they plan to add 15 more waste corrals throughout the city. “Our trash situation has been 99% resolved,” said JJ Postiech, the Recreation Leader at Francisville Recreation Center, one of the sites that received a waste corral. “I have not seen much trash on the corner in weeks.”
3. To Develop a Plan for Optimizing City-wide Waste Receptacle Placement
A team of staff from various City departments is working to analyze the Litter Index data in conjunction with a newly-created map of trash can locations city-wide and the results of a behavioral science study the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet conducted around waste receptacle placement in parks and along commercial corridors to develop a data-driven strategy for optimizing waste receptacle placement around the city.
4. To Determine Potential Waterway Dumping Hotspots
The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) is analyzing Litter Index data along with its own operational data to determine if additional waterway dumping hotspots should be included to its maintenance schedules and watershed protection programs. This data can also help PWD target certain areas for focused education and outreach around litter and water pollution.
5. To Help Philly Orgs and Residents Conduct Their Own Analyses
One of our goals is to have community members use the Litter Index data and platform to conduct their own surveys and analyses. On July 26, we are holding a Litter Index Community Training to give representatives from community organizations and residents a basic understanding of the Litter Index, an overview of tools with which to understand and visualize City data, and guidance on how to conduct litter surveying in their communities. Learn more and register to attend the training here.
The City will conduct Litter Indexing yearly, allowing departments to test the effectiveness of policies and programs and track changes over time. City surveyors will head out into the field to begin the 2018 Litter Index survey in early August. Stay tuned for updates!