For the past three years straight, Philadelphia was named one of America’s dirtiest cities in Travel + Leisure magazine. Public trash might be one of the least glamorous topics known to mankind but imagine how glamorous a city could be if it’s trash was managed properly. The streets of the Graduate Hospital area are freckled with trash, where there are a total of four BigBelly Solar cans dispersed throughout the area. The South Of South Neighborhood Association and the Streets Department are working together to buy two more.
In short, BigBelly Solar cans are receptacles that compress waste using the power of indirect sunlight and allow clients to check how full they are from any computer or smartphone. The perk is saving money on everything involving trash-pick, like fuel and labor.
Standard sized receptacles cost around $5,000 for both the waste unit and recycling unit combined. Clients can make monthly payments rather than pay the total cost up front.
SOSNA implemented The Big Belly Campaign, where anyone can donate money online. The money directly goes toward the future purchases of two more standard sized receptacles. Residents and visitors agree that more cans need to be added to the campaign’s goal but SOSNA thinks six is the limit. SOSNA believes that adding more will result in residents using the cans to dump their personal trash rather than waiting until trash pickup day. However, resident Asha Suri already does just that.”
“I have a big family and we produce a lot of garbage,” said Suri, who lives near the BigBelly on the corner of 18th and Christian streets. “Why not take advantage of it?”
Trash bags can be seen piled up alongside and jammed into the units. Landlord Kat Henry explained why the cans cost her money.
“I’ve gotten tickets because the trash flies out of the can and into the front of the properties I own,” she said. “The mission they’re trying to accomplish with these things isn’t panning out well.”
Henry and others think the issue stems from the cans not being emptied enough.
“Not only are they not emptied enough but there are not enough,” said longtime resident Robert Tooey. “I also watch kids throw their trash in the streets while I walk my dog.”
Christian Street resident Mario Velazquez said he is sick of seeing his neighbors slaving to pick up other people’s garbage. He also said he received a ticket for the trash-filled sidewalk in front of his home.
“I went to City Hall and got out of it after I explained the situation,” said Velazquez. “At one point, I put out a trash can of my own for people to use.”
The Streets Department’s website explains that public trash cans need to be approved by the block captain and then reported to the Streets Department. About a third of Philadelphia’s blocks have captains. The Graduate Hospital area works a little differently because SOSNA serves as the go-to for public trash problems.
“Block captains need half of their neighborhood to sign a petition,” said Streets Department deputy commissioner Carlton Williams. “Then that person is the one to go to with ideas to better the block.”
When it comes to fines, Williams said many times people around the Graduate Hospital area get out of them because it’s not their fault.
The SWEEP team, a group of officers who issue street and walkway related fines, often have trouble determining if a resident is at fault or if the often-overflowing trash cans released waste with the help of the wind.
Williams said that if a person is fined for a trash-related issue that he or she disagrees with, the person is to check off the box on the back of the violation notice and wait for a hearing to be scheduled. The hearing will determine whether the violation gets waived or enforced.
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