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Apply to be a cleaner

Learn more about becoming a cleaner and apply here.


Do more

Support Glitter

Want the litter off your block? With Glitter you can pay to a Cleaner to keep it clean! Each subscriber will be assigned their own Glitter Cleaner and be thanked by Ya Fav Trashman on Instagram. Sign up here. 

Are you on the board of a civic or other neighborhood organization and want to help sign up your neighbors for Glitter? Get in touch and they’ll send you materials to share with them! Emails us at [email protected]

Businesses have a lot to gain when they partner with Glitter – the first is cleaning up a neighborhood that matters to them. And the second is great brand exposure and promotion in the app and with @YaFavTrashman. Want to learn more? Get in touch to learn about Sponsorship Tiers and pricing.

More ways

To make Philly cleaner

There’s a lot we all can do to address the root causes of dirty streets, too.

Produce less trash

One third of our city’s waste is food waste. You can make an impact by turning your food waste into garden gold.

Community composting is in the works at these local sites: Liberty Lands gardenPearl Street Garden: Urban Tree ConnectionCollins Smith Barrick play gardenLawncrest Community GardenHardy Williams Academy Mastery Charter8th & Poplar FarmTemple Community GardenBrewerytown GardenGreensgrow FarmsSt. James School, and Tioga Hope Garden. Find a site near you and reach out.

Or, sign up with Bennett Compost or Circle Compost for curbside pickup.

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

Put your trash out like you care about sanitation workers

Follow @yafavtrashman and implement his tips, including “tying up wood, breaking down boxesdrilling holes in the can for when it rains or putting a lid on the canbringing the cardboard in when it rains so that it doesn’t get heavy and soggy and all messy,” he says. “If we started there, then a lot of the other initiatives that we want to do will become second nature.”

You can also initiate or participate in a neighborhood cleanup.


To this story in CitizenCast

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“Lyft for Litter”

Philly is still the only big city without widespread street cleaning. A new app from MilkCrate and Ya Fav Trashman is stepping in to pay individuals a living wage to help clean up.

“Lyft for Litter”

Philly is still the only big city without widespread street cleaning. A new app from MilkCrate and Ya Fav Trashman is stepping in to pay individuals a living wage to help clean up.

Here in “Filthadelphia,” citizens have long been up in arms about the city’s trash problem.

Residents named litter as the “second most pressing issue” facing the city in the Philadelphia Chief Administrative Office’s 2017 Residents Survey. In the 2019-2020 survey, street cleanliness once again made citizen’s top three concerns. And that’s in part because dirty streets aren’t just gross. Studies have linked higher amounts of trash in the streets to a wide range of issues, including increased poverty, poor health and violence.

It’s also an issue that causes people to flee to the ‘burbs.

“The trash makes me want to leave Philly,” says Morgan Berman, a resident of Dickinson Square West—who’s especially sick of litter getting caught on her daughter’s stroller. “It makes me so angry that this incredibly preventable, ridiculous issue makes me want to leave the only place I’ve ever lived.”


Rather than moving, though, Berman decided to try to fix the city’s garbage problem. Since she launched tech company MilkCrate four years ago, she’s been helping nonprofits design apps that mobilize their volunteers. She wondered if those same tools could be applied to the city’s litter problem.

“I’ve really learned firsthand what it takes to use mobile technology to engage and motivate and track pro-social behavior through these organizations and the programs that they’re running,” Berman says.

Now, her brand new app, Glitter, is poised to help tackle the city’s trash problem by paying Philly residents a living wage to keep their streets clean. Berman has partnered with former sanitation department worker Terrill Haigler, better known by his Instagram handle @_yafavtrashman, to encourage residents to download the app and apply to become cleaners. Shortly after launching the app with Android and Apple this month, they brought on five corporate sponsors and received more than 300 applications. Glitter plans to hire the first team of cleaners this fall.

America’s dirtiest city

It’s not just a chip on our (often shrugging) shoulders—Philadelphia actually ranks dirtier than other similarly sized cities. A 2020 survey that looked at a range of cleanliness factors including garbage disposal, quantity of recycling collectors and pollution in 50 U.S. metro areas found that Philly was America’s dirtiest city, Forbes reports.

And Philly is dirtier despite spending more money per year to clean up litter than any other Pennsylvania city. A statewide study published in January 2020 found that Philly spent $48 million per year on litter reduction. That’s eight times more than Pittsburgh, though Philly is just over five times as populous.

Nearly 90 percent of those funds go towards picking up trash-strewn streets (not including the costs of regular trash pickup). The report found that 75 percent of the funds were spent on litter collection and abatement. Another 13 percent was spent on picking up illegal dumping. Only about 10 percent goes towards prevention and outreach.

And yet, after the 2008 recession, every other week street cleanings were cut due to budget concerns, making Philly the largest city in America without regular street cleaning. Last year—as trash was piling up on our streets—the city cut the Zero Waste and Litter cabinet due to a $649 million budget hole created by the pandemic.

“It makes me so angry that this incredibly preventable, ridiculous issue makes me want to leave the only place I’ve ever lived,” Berman says.

The mechanical street cleaning pilot program is attempting to address some of these issues, but it took years for the city to launch that program despite the fact that it was one of Mayor Kenney’s campaign promises. The program employs street sweeping trucks and individual cleaners to reduce the amount of trash on the street. Phase one of the program brought street cleaning to six neighborhoods in 2019 and phase two, which began this year, is helping keep 14 neighborhoods clean.

With all of this in mind, Berman approached the City in 2018 to see if they’d be interested in helping her fund an app-based solution to the trash problem. Back then, Glitter was known as PhilaSweep and funding for the project even made it into the Philadelphia Streets Department’s FY2020 budget.

But funding for the app quickly fell further and further down the list of the Street Department’s priorities until Berman was told that an RFP would be needed. A spokesperson for the Streets Department cited phase two of the mechanical street cleaning pilot program as their main funding priority when it comes to efforts to reduce trash citywide.

Berman persisted. Over three months, MilkCrate designed the app pro bono while Berman tried to figure out how she would fund the project. Her solution was to implement a subscription model where residents and businesses would pay a monthly fee to help keep residential blocks clean.

“If the city wasn’t going to pay for it, I needed to come up with a different plan,” Berman says. “I thought, how am I going to possibly reach all the people I need to reach to make this model work?

That’s where Haigler comes in. As a sanitation department worker, Haigler rose to local and national fame last year when he started an Instagram account that documented trash delays and gave city residents insight into the lives of the city’s garbage collectors. Berman knew partnering with Haigler could help get Glitter the attention it needed to launch a subscription-based model. Haigler had resigned from the sanitation department in February to focus on advocating for a cleaner city and running @_yafavtrashman full time.

“She says I have the megaphone,” Haigler says. “Automatically we just clicked. Our business styles clicked. Our personalities clicked.”

“Lyft for litter”

Berman and Haigler describe the app as “Lyft for litter.” Glitter’s paid cleaners can apply on the app’s website to make $20 to $30 each week for every block they’re responsible for cleaning. Cleaners will be limited to five blocks during the app’s pilot phase, but Berman and Haigler hope that picking up trash through the app can become a full time job that pays at least $15 per hour.

Litter collectors simply log into the Glitter team app, take a photo of the litter on their assigned block and start cleaning. When they’re finished, they upload a second photo to prove they reduced the amount of garbage on the block. The photos will be time-stamped and GPS-enabled so that Glitter knows its cleaners are picking up trash in their assigned areas. Payments are made to cleaners once a week using Cash App.

So far, they’ve received 300 applications from people interested in becoming paid cleaners. Berman and Haigler prioritize applicants whose mission aligns with Glitter, who are in need of money and who are willing to clean the most blocks.

The app is currently available to download for Android users and Berman and Haigler hope to have it in the Apple app store by the end of August.

“I believe that in the next six months, we’re going to see a dramatic drop in litter on the ground,” Haigler says. “It’s as simple as just paying people to keep blocks clean on a weekly basis.”

City residents looking to help keep Philly clean can download the public app and report litter sightings. They also have the option of buying a $140 per month Clean Your Block subscription, which will allow Glitter to dispatch their cleaners to a neighborhood on a weekly basis. Neighbors can join together to split the cost of a subscription for their block. If 10 residents split a subscription the cost comes down to $14 a month—about the same price as a standard Netflix plan.

For low-income areas, Glitter is working with corporate sponsors to fundraise the wages for weekly cleaners. They currently have about five corporate sponsors, including supermarket chain ShopRite and the sustainable delivery service The Rounds. Glitter is actively looking for more companies to sponsor blocks.

Berman and Haigler, both currently volunteering their time to work on the project, agree that the city should be responsible for keeping Philly’s neighborhoods clean. The trash problem in Philly isn’t just the result of people throwing garbage on the street. In many cases, trash blows out of lidless, overflowing garbage bins or is scattered accidentally during regular garbage pickups. In cases where people deliberately litter, it’s often driven by the fact that there aren’t any public garbage bins nearby. Haigler and Berman’s long-term goal for the app is that the city starts using it to organize litter collection and to provide the funds for the block cleanings.

“I believe that in the next six months, we’re going to see a dramatic drop in litter on the ground,” Haigler says. “It’s as simple as just paying people to keep blocks clean on a weekly basis.”

Garnering city support

The Streets Department says they will consider funding the app if it proves to be successful at keeping the city’s neighborhoods clean. “If the app is piloted and successful, the City will consider an RFP, but the pilot must be objectively proven to reduce litter citywide,” a Streets Department spokesperson said in an email.

The app already has some endorsements from City Council members. Councilmember Mark Squilla and Derek Green supported city funding for Glitter’s pilot and continue to support the app’s efforts. State Representative Jared Solomon also supports the idea of using the app to help address Philly’s trash problem.

“I do think the Glitter app can help the city’s litter problem because it engages and incentivizes residents throughout the city to pick up street trash,” Squilla said in an email. “We do sponsor street/block cleanups and offer prizes to the nicest block, but nothing like this incentive is currently available to reduce litter.”

“I challenge anybody and everybody to look at the zip codes that have the highest amount of gun violence, and then look at how dirty they are,” Haigler says.

In the meantime, there are other things the city and its residents can do to keep our streets clean.

Germantown resident Matthew George started a GoFundMe to place a series of bright orange garbage cans throughout his neighborhood to help discourage littering. He later turned the project into a foundation called I Love Thy Hood.

Businesses or residents who want a public trash can can apply to receive one through the website and can place it outside with their regular trash pick up. George funds the project through donations and selling clothing and other merchandise through their website. Since starting the project they have placed 106 trash cans throughout the city, collecting a total of 100,000 pounds of waste.

Broke in Philly logoOthers see litter collection as a way to reduce poverty by creating well-paying jobs. Street cleaning jobs can create stability for people struggling with addiction or those who have been recently incarcerated by providing them with consistent pay and helping them reenter society—as the non profit Ready Willing and Able has been doing for years.

Last year, the City started a Same Day Work and Pay pilot program that paid people $15 an hour to clear vacant lots, clean street corridors and perform basic maintenance tasks. They also connected the workers to social workers who could help them obtain housing or mental health care services. (The city could take a page from Albuquerque, New Mexico and make it permanent.)

Haigler and Berman believe that litter collection could be a full-time job for as many as 200 city residents. Plus, in Haigler’s mind, litter is deeply entwined with these and other social issues. He believes making a dent in the city’s litter problem will also help reduce issues like poverty and gun violence, he says.

“I challenge anybody and everybody to look at the zip codes that have the highest amount of gun violence, and then look at how dirty they are.”

The Citizen is one of 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic mobility. Follow the project on Twitter @BrokeInPhilly.


Ideas We Should Steal: 10 ways to fix our garbage mess

How to Organize a Street Cleanup

How to Fix Philly’s Trash Problem

Mystery Shopper: Reporting Illegal Dumping in Philadelphia

Header image courtesy of Glitter

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