Do Something

Make your voice heard

Find out who represents you on the City Council and reach out to let them know you want the city to take action on our trash and litter crisis.

Here you can find instructions on how to sign up to comment on council meetings and how to speak at public hearings. You can review the agendas on the calendar here and watch meetings live here.

The official website for the Office of the Mayor provides basic information and a contact number, but you can also reach out using this form.

Remember, election day is Tuesday, November 7. Here is everything you need to know to be ready:


Be part of the solution

How to handle trash and litter

Don’t be a part of the problem, be part of the solution. 

What do you do if you need to dispose of bulk household trash like tires, Christmas trees, appliances, or yard waste? The city provides six sanitation centers where you can dispose of these items safely and at no cost. Here’s what you need to know about legally getting rid of bulk trash.

Whether you have residential or commercial questions about trash and recycling in Philly, here is your resource.

Find details on the who, where, when, and how to report illegal dumping, using a convenient online form or by contacting 311.

Feeling like you want to help clean up?

Take a look at Judith Robinson’s Susquehanna Clean Up/Pick Up Inc.

If you and your neighbors want to work together to get your block clean, sign up for Glitter’s service here Or, if you’re passionate about cleaning up litter and want to earn some extra money, apply here to join the Glitter Litter team

Want to organize a street cleanup yourself? The Philadelphia Citizen has everything you need to know to get started.

Read More

What is Memo to Madam Mayor?

Cherelle Parker is the presumptive next mayor of Philadelphia, a position she has earned by winning the Democratic primary — with 33 percent of a 27 percent turnout.

Her biggest challenge is to make Philadelphia believe in itself again; on the campaign trail, she showed swagger. Now it’s time to transfer that mojo to the city’s collective psyche. She can do that starting now, by speaking out on current issues and by starting the process of putting a team together that will convince Philadelphians that the days of minding the status quo are over.

So here’s the next of a string of modest proposals we’ll be putting forth before the soon-to-be new mayor: You’ll never have more political juice than on November 8, the morning after election day. Be ready on day one to make the changes we need. What do you think Parker should channel that energy into? Let us know!

Check out the first installment in our series:


To this story in CitizenCast

Welcome to the enhanced audio edition of Roxanne’s story

And go here for more audio articles from CitizenCast

Memo to Madam Mayor: Hire a Kick-Ass Trash Czar

The next in a series of political and policy advice to presumptive Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker looks to New York City for an idea she should steal: Appoint a sanitation commissioner

Memo to Madam Mayor: Hire a Kick-Ass Trash Czar

The next in a series of political and policy advice to presumptive Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker looks to New York City for an idea she should steal: Appoint a sanitation commissioner

Remember back in 2015, when Jim Kenney was first running for mayor and promised to reinstate citywide street cleaning? That … didn’t happen. Eight years later — after a second promise during his 2020 inaugural address — the Streets Department is slowly rolling out weekly sweeps in neighborhoods, a very small step towards giving Philadelphians what we deserve: a clean city.

Because right now, it is not. Trash cans overflow on Broad Street. Gutters are clogged with bottles, streets strewn with trash that blows out of open containers (and is tossed from open windows). Plus there’s this this: Some 10,000 tons of waste and more than 80,000 tires are illegally dumped on our streets in a given year — mostly in low-income neighborhoods — almost none of which anyone will ever be punished for.

What does that look like? This, for example:

Trash — overflowing bags, carpets, plastic, cardboard — fills a Philadelhpia pathway.
Dumping in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of the Streets Department.

We’re a mess. And we feel it, psychically. Even the mayor seems to get this. “We know there is a direct correlation between a clean neighborhood and how people feel and perceive the safety of their community,” as Kenney told the Inquirer in March.

Idea We Should Steal from New York

The (possibly) good news is, like all the mayoral candidates this year, Cherelle Parker, who will presumably take office in January, has promised to clean up the city, though she is light on specifics. Other good news: Parker can look to New York City Mayor Eric Adams for an example of how she might tackle this problem.

Adams has repeatedly declared his intention to “Get Stuff Clean” in New York, and a few months into his term he appointed as Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch, who is boldly disrupting the way New York City deals with its mammoth trash problem.

Tisch comes from legendary New York stock. Her father is president and co-CEO of the Loews Corporation; her mother is former chair of the New York State Board of Regents; the family co-owns the New York Giants and has their name on NYU’s school of the arts. She has both a law degree and an MBA from Harvard. Tisch started her government career in 2008, with the New York Police Department, where she was most recently deputy commissioner of information technology. Both former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Chuck Schumer praised her when Adams appointed her.

NYC Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch, a blonde woman with a dark suit and brown vest stands at a podium beneath an overpass, and speaks to a crowd. To her right: NYC Mayor Eric Adams. Courtesy of the New York City Department of Sanitation.
At the podium: New York City Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch. To her right: Mayor Eric Adams. Courtesy of the New York City Department of Sanitation.

A year into her term, Tisch talked with New York magazine about some of the ways in which she is rethinking trash in her city. In the last year or so she has:

    • Created TrashDash — like CompStat for garbage — that uses data and constant communication to measure the department’s progress. Tisch explained to New York how it works:

What we do is we take, for example, 311 complaints about miscollections or dirty conditions and we look at the numbers citywide, by borough and by district — week-to-date, the 28-day period, year-to-date. We publish it every Monday morning at 11am, just like they do with CompStat at the NYPD. And every week on Thursdays, we bring a different borough in and the executives here grill each borough on their stats. Some of the stats are customer-related — what are our customers telling us? And other stats are workforce efficiency.

    • Began truly enforcing garbage-related infractions, like failing to clean up in front of a property or putting trash out incorrectly.
    • Took responsibility for all trash pickup, rather than the piecemeal approach that had previously involved NYC’s Parks and Rec and Department of Transportation.
    • Changed the time when residents could put trash on the curb in bags from 4pm to 8pm, a way to also encourage New York businesses to use trash cans with lids, which can be put out earlier and help keep rats away.
    • Moved up the hours of trash pickup, so one-third of collection in the busiest parts of the city starts at midnight, which means garbage bags are out on the curb for less time.
    • Launched an anti-littering campaign for the first time in 20 years.

Tisch said these changes have led to a 25 percent reduction in the number of rat complaints to her department from June 2022 to June 2023, a stat that speaks to a generally cleaner city. (This was before the work of New York’s new Rat Czar — appointed by Adams this past spring — really got underway.)

We don’t even have a separate department dedicated to sanitation. Trash pickup here is a subset of the Streets Department, overseen by a deputy commissioner.

That’s not all. Under Tisch, New York City is considering eliminating up to 150,000(!) parking spots to install shared street containers for household waste, as several cities in Europe and elsewhere do — which also would cut down on the amount of trash piling up on the street. (TBD on how much car owners are freaking out.) And the city will institute curbside composting citywide by the end of 2024 after running a pilot in Queens that collected three times more food waste than previous attempts at composting — something Tisch attributes in part to better marketing.

That gets to another thing: The Sanitation Department’s informative, super weird and hilarious TikTok account under Tisch. Here, for instance, a video reminding New Yorkers to move their cars for street cleaning, set (in mood and music) to Sara McClachlan’s Angel:

@nycsanitation Full ASP is back today! Please move your car so we can keep streets clean, safe & healthy. Link in bio. Thanks #sarahmclachan for the inspo💚 #dsny #fyp ♬ original sound – nycsanitation

Philly can do this. Parker can do this.

This is not to say that these particular innovations are what Philadelphia needs to no longer be seen as Philthadelphia. Or, even to say that all these still recent changes will fully clean New York, which a New York Times reporter recently described as “a bit of a global pariah when it comes to trash.”

But the boldness of Tisch’s plan under Mayor Adams is unlike anything Philly has attempted in our perpetual battle against trash. We don’t even have a separate department dedicated to sanitation. Trash pickup here is a subset of the Streets Department, overseen by a deputy commissioner. He’s probably dedicated and hard-working — and the last couple years have been especially trying — but that does not exactly scream HIGH PRIORITY.

In Mayor Kenney’s first term, he tasked his Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet with creating a plan that would put the city on the path to producing zero waste by 2035. The plan, released in 2017, included dozens of recommendations, from launching a Litter Index, to starting curbside composting, to creating marketing campaigns to change resident behavior. According to updates over the next couple years, there was progress. But Kenney dismantled the Cabinet to save money during the pandemic and has never again made waste a priority.

But Philadelphians themselves say over and over that cleanliness is important to them, and studies have shown that clean neighborhoods are safer and healthier neighborhoods. This is something all of the mayoral candidates recognized, and why each of them talked about trash pickup on the campaign trail.

“We step over garbage, we sit next to garbage, we see garbage on our streets. Instead of saying why doesn’t one of these agencies do something — these are our blocks, these are our neighborhoods — so we need clean up participation from neighbors.” — New York City Mayor Eric Adams

In her first public speech a few days after winning the Democratic nomination in May, Parker touched on the issue. “We need to be picking up trash on sidewalks and our streets, and we need to do that around the clock,” Parker said. “When you think about sanitation workers and their (pick ups), that will have to increase dramatically in order for us to allow Philadelphians to see a culture of trash be changed in our city.”

Her biggest push, Parker said, would be expanding a program she sponsored when she was in City Council: PHL Taking Care of Business uses City funds to hire neighborhood nonprofits to pick up trash, akin to the Center City District’s work downtown. In 2023, the City is expected to spend about $7 million on the program, according to The Inquirer — but so far, the results have been decidedly meh. On the Litter Index scale from 0 (no litter) to 4 (a lot of litter), Taking Care of Business corridors got a score of 2.0, compared to 2.3 for ones without a cleaning program. That is small ball at a time when we need boldness.

That can come from emulating New York, by finally creating a Department of Sanitation — or at the very least hiring and empowering a Trash Czar to think of and execute big ideas. Or she can build on ideas from other cities. Dallas and Flint, Michigan, for example, have invested manpower and technology to robustly enforce and prevent illegal dumping. Austin’s Resource Recovery department oversees trash pickup, and also the city’s efforts towards Zero Waste by 2040; in Los Angeles, the department that hauls away garbage (and compost) is also tasked with climate mitigation, as reflected in the name: Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment.

Singapore tackles bad citizen behavior by mandating community service for dropping litter — something Kenney’s robust Zero Waste plan recommended for short dumpers. For that matter, Parker could pull that plan out of a drawer and actually enact the ideas developed over several months, by smart stakeholders — rather than, as new mayors are wont to do, starting from scratch.

And, like Adams, Parker could talk trash to us in a way that makes us all feel responsible for making and keeping Philadelphia clean. As Adams said last November when he launched his “Get Stuff Clean” initiative: “We step over garbage, we sit next to garbage, we see garbage on our streets. Instead of saying why doesn’t one of these agencies do something — these are our blocks, these are our neighborhoods — so we need clean up participation from neighbors.”


Cherelle Parker at Ultimate Job Interview. Photo: Sabina Louise Pierce

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