Everyone knows that recycling is a small yet important way to help the environment—and the City wants residents to do it. But does the City of Philadelphia do its part to help make recycling convenient, accessible, and free for residents, by providing them with easy access to recycling bins?
We found out.
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- I went to the Philadelphia city services website at https://www.phila.gov/service-directory/ and looked up “recycling bin.”
- I clicked on the recycling bin page, and found out that if I live within the city of Philadelphia, I can get a recycling bin for free. Hurrah!
- Unfortunately, I also found out that I have to go pick it up myself at one of six locations in Philly.
- Looking at the map, I discover that I could pick up my recycling bin at the facility closest to where I live, at 5100 Grays Avenue.
- The website recommended calling ahead to confirm its hours of operation. So I did, using the number for the location. They informed me that I could come to pick it up that afternoon, and that I would need Philadelphia Identification when I came—recycling bins are only free for residents of the City of Philadelphia.
- That afternoon, I drove 10 minutes to the location of the facility. After getting slightly lost (my fault, not theirs), I entered the facility and went to where I saw a giant stack of recycling bins.
- I informed the man working there that I came to pick up a recycling bin. He asked for my Philadelphia identification, which I showed him. . He recorded my license plate number and gave me a form to fill out with my name, address, and phone number, and a question that asked if I already had a recycling bin.
- He then loaded my brand new recycling bin into the trunk of my car, and I was good to go!
As you can imagine, this process might prove more difficult without access to a car, so I checked how long it would take to get to the same facility using public transportation. There is a bus stop on my corner that would take me all the way to Paschall Ave and 49th Street in 13 minutes. There, I would get off the bus and walk an additional six minutes to the facility. Of course, I happen to live one bus ride away from the facility—for Philadelphians not so lucky this would be much more onerous. (There are only six locations to get a free bin in the whole city of Philadelphia!) In either case, the real challenge would be carrying the recycling bin all the way back home.
Research: 5 mins
Transportation: 10 mins each way + (5 mins getting lost)
Picking up the bin: 3 mins
Total: 33 mins
Result: A brand-new, beautiful, and—more importantly—free, recycling bin!
Takeaways: The City of Philadelphia has developed a well-organized, efficient, and accessible approach to getting recycling bins to residents—that is, if you have a car, or access to a direct bus route, and are able-bodied enough to carry a bin across town if necessary. You have to wonder what citizens who are not in these positions would do, and if the city should be offering designated days when they could drop off bins at people’s homes, even for a small fee.
You can pick up your free recycling bin at the location closest to you from 8 am-6 pm, Monday-Saturday.
Lightning Bolt Rating: ⚡⚡⚡
Sure, it was straightforward for me to get one, given my circumstances…but how can everyone recycle when everyone doesn’t have a car to get their bin? Shouldn’t the city offer drop-off services of the bins, even if it involves a minimal fee to offset the time/labor/gas to do so?
Special thanks to the students of Meg Cohen Ragas’ and Anne Gerbner’s high school journalism class at Germantown Friends School.Header photo by Katherine Rapin