Do Something

Demand action to stop illegal dumping

Reach out to your representatives on City Council and tell them to take action on proven solutions that curtail illegal dumping like implementing simple tech solutions before we have to appeal to the federal government.

Here you can find the schedule for the Philadelphia City Council meetings as well as instructions on how to sign up to speak. 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.


More solutions

What every citizen can do right now

Don’t be 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 a little more hands-on?

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

If you and your neighbors want 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.

Get Involved

Engaged citizens strengthen democracy

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 to voice your concerns about illegal dumping, 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

Reality Check: Philly Leaders, Act on Illegal Dumping

It’s a crisis akin to violent crime that the City and state have ignored for far too long, says WURD’s midday host, responding to a Citizen story this week about real steps being made in Houston.

Reality Check: Philly Leaders, Act on Illegal Dumping

It’s a crisis akin to violent crime that the City and state have ignored for far too long, says WURD’s midday host, responding to a Citizen story this week about real steps being made in Houston.

As a city, we keep talking about illegal dumping, but we’re not really, as a collective, setting the right tone or attitude — an all out action-oriented response that’s needed for a crisis of this level. Local policymakers, from the Mayor to City Council, only pay this problem casual lip service. Council, each week, is more interested in introducing meaningless honorific resolutions as opposed to encouraging serious, ongoing discussions about blight, dumping, pollution and other serious environmental and quality of life issues in Philly.

It’s tragic because an effective strategy that eliminates illegal dumping, combined with a city-wide focus on environmental justice, is part of the solution to violent crime.

Trash and illegal dumping in Philly must be treated as part of the violent crime crisis. It’s astounding, for example, that Philadelphia police have not been deployed for illegal dumping response and arrest, or at the very least fines. That seems like common sense — especially since we know trashed environments exacerbate violent crime. Yet, in order for that to happen City Hall has got to first set the tone.

We have a crisis in leadership and attitude in Philly, where for way too long we accept trash and “Philthy” as a norm and, weirdly, a badge of honor. It’s not.

Federal intervention, such as what the Department of Justice is doing in Houston, is absolutely appropriate in a case like this. It’s gratifying to see that some Black Philadelphians, as Nick Russo noted in a Citizen article earlier this week, are looking to follow the example of Houston residents who filed a discrimination suit against their city for not responding to complaints about dumping in their neighborhoods as effectively as they do in predominantly White neighborhoods. They should have a rock solid case: even extensive analysis from City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart’s office shows huge disparities between basic sanitation service performance in largely White and affluent neighborhoods versus what mostly Black and low-income neighborhoods get.

Black residents in Philly, too, often live in trashed and blighted communities to which the City fails to ensure basic sanitation services and puts them at constant risk of heightened violence because of the pervasiveness of the trash and illegal dumping problem. Far too long, that’s often viewed as normal simply because the people who live in those communities are Black. Yet, what we’re really seeing is the centuries-long result of racism, segregation and disinvestment. The Philly mindset and public discourse seems to think trash-free, green-spaced and tree-lined neighborhoods are impossible or unachievable when Black residents demand that — yet, we see those same types of neighborhoods permanently existing in areas that are predominantly White and higher income.

Solutions to this problem don’t just fall on local policymakers, either. State legislators also have a role to play here and consistently drop the ball: They should be looking into how federal Infrastructure Law funds (of which Philly is set to receive $735 million) and Inflation Reduction Act funds (the full extent of what comes to Pennsylvania is still pending) to addresses illegal (and fight to make sure Republicans who run the state legislature aren’t blocking it, which is what they typically do). And the Congressional delegation for the Philly area is also failing on this count: They should be looking for and securing federal dollars to explore and implement solutions.

We have a crisis in leadership and attitude in Philly, where for way too long we accept trash and “Philthy” as a norm and, weirdly, a badge of honor. It’s not. It’s not funny; it’s not some bizarre or charming character trait for us to celebrate. It never was. It’s a rot on the city and it continues to put residents at risk and ruin lives. It must be treated like the crisis that it is.

Charles D. Ellison is executive producer and host of “Reality Check,” a daily public affairs program on WURD and is @ellisonreport on Twitter.


Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm

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