Do Something

Let's get our trash handled

Here are steps you can take — and responsibilities that the city must take — to relieve our trash and litter crisis.

Rally your neighbors and beautify your block! The Citizen talked with @YaFavTrashman to bring you this How-To Guide on organizing your own street cleanup.

If you and your neighbors want to see your block cleaned up, sign up for Glitter’s service here.

Are you a property manager with trash pick-up needs? Did your garbage vendor fall through? Are you moving to a new place and wound up with a lot of junk to dump? Did you just throw a huge party and spent days filling trash bags? Download the Trashmitter app for iPhone and Android, and see how easy it is to have garbage picked up and disposed of responsibly, or join the gig economy and become a Sweeper!

Check out CleanPHL’s zero waste guide and the Recycling Resource Finder to learn how to dispose of other types of waste—like cooking oil, electronics, and scrap wood—responsibly.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania developed technology to make the city’s cameras better able to catch illegal dumping. The pandemic put adopting that technology on hold. Read the paper on the program here. If you want the city to pick up where it left off, reach out to your representatives on the city council.


Learn More

About the impact of litter and trash

Litter is everyone’s problem, and everyone can pitch in to solve it!

This article from Sciencing about litter will help you understand the impact of trash when it doesn’t end up in a trash can. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection wants you to Be Anti-litter! Read up on ways to be anti-litter at home and in your community, and check out the PA DEP’s helpful video. 

Feel like sinking your teeth into a research study? Check out this early paper on the relationship between litter and crime: Crime, New housing, and housing incivilities in a first‐ring suburb: Multilevel relationships across time

Get Involved

Your toolkit for better citizenship

One of the founding tenets of The Philadelphia Citizen is to get people the resources they need to become better, more engaged citizens of their city.

We hope to do that in our Good Citizenship Toolkit, which includes a host of ways to get involved in Philadelphia—whether you want to contact your City Councilmember about keeping the city’s streets clean, get those experiencing homelessness the goods they need, or simply go out to dinner somewhere where you know your money is going toward a greater good.

Find an issue that’s important to you in the list below, and get started on your journey of A-plus citizenship.

Vote and strengthen democracy

Stand up for marginalized communities

Create a cleaner, greener Philadelphia

Help our local youth and schools succeed

Support local businesses

Guest Commentary: Cleaner Streets are Key to Philly’s Success

Local business leaders on what the City must do to bring more visitors — and their economic impact — to Philadelphia

Guest Commentary: Cleaner Streets are Key to Philly’s Success

Local business leaders on what the City must do to bring more visitors — and their economic impact — to Philadelphia

You can tell a lot about a city government’s desire and effort to provide for its residents by looking at its streets. Fundamentally, citizens demand our streets be safe and clean. Removing our collective waste is one of the original functions of modern municipalities. A failure to do so shows a lack of will and leadership. We know that Philadelphia is a world-class city. We need to ensure the people in charge lead like it.

The Independence Business Alliance is the LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce for the Greater Philadelphia region. We are active citizens of our communities in addition to being business owners. As voters in Philadelphia decide who the next mayor will be, we, as business owners, want to stress the “four c’s” we think our next leader must address: the cost and clarity of doing business in the city, crime and its devastating impact in our neighborhoods — and the cleanliness of our streets.

The last two are of great importance to our members, many of whom work in hospitality, tourism and the arts. These are industries that rely on clean and safe streets to welcome our tens of millions of visitors each year. Thanks to two comprehensive studies by the Urban Health Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, we have proof of the linkage between crime and cleanliness. Researchers there found that by choosing vacant parcels randomly throughout the city, and turning them into regularly maintained green spaces, gun violence dropped significantly in the neighborhood. The biggest reduction in crime numbers were in the poorest places, showing that helping the blocks that need it most has the greatest effect.

It breaks our collective hearts when our favorite teams lose; we should care just as much if we lose out on major economic development or hosting major cultural events. Our image matters. We should be ready for our moment in the spotlight.

But study participants noted that more than statistical improvement, their positive feelings and self-esteem toward their home increased. They made more of an effort to do things with neighbors. That sounds like a better place to do business. In this day and age, your workday does not begin when you arrive at work; it starts on your stoop.

There are many possible solutions to this ever-present problem. Restoring funding cut from the 2008-09 recession as well as the recent pandemic would be a great start. Laws to curb illegal dumping need to be enforced. Technology can be better utilized to improve pickup route efficiency and identify what Big Belly bins need to be emptied. It’s vital that a “back to basics” strategy is what our Streets Department needs because Philadelphia is once again about to get a close-up on the international stage.

We are no stranger to hosting events of worldwide importance, however, 2026 is a game changer for our city. When the World Cup and 250th Anniversary of our nation happens here, our leaders must be prepared to meet the moment. Millions of visitors will be here to enjoy all that makes Philadelphia one of the best cities in the world. They are seeking an experience of discovery full of memories. If their trip is dampened by the presence of overflowing trash, they will go home carrying a poor impression of us. They might not be eager to return and spend money here, and they likely won’t recommend that others make the trip, as well.

The city faces incredible competition from other metropolises to host the same events, recruit large employers and receive government funding. It breaks our collective hearts when our favorite teams lose; we should care just as much if we lose out on major economic development or hosting major cultural events. Our image matters. We should be ready for our moment in the spotlight. If our next mayor doesn’t prioritize cleanliness and trash removal, they may have to deal with embarrassing headlines like our friends in New York; we don’t want to hire our own “rat czar.”

Zach Wilcha is the CEO of the Independence Business Alliance, the LGBTQ+ Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Greg DeShields is the Executive Director of Tourism Diversity Matters.

The Citizen welcomes guest commentary from community members who represent that it is their own work and their own opinion based on true facts that they know firsthand.


Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm

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