Tuesday, November 3, 2009

South Philadelphia


"When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves." - David Orr

Finding garbage in residential South Philadelphia is hard because the trash is much more ubiquitous. Much of the litter found in South Philadelphia is wedged between the curb and grass, caught at the bottom of fences, swept to the side with leaves. In fact, on a cold autumn night after rainfall, the trash and the leaves are practically one. But, still, none of the trash in these photos (taken along 19th St., north from Morris to Christian) is concentrated the way one finds littering in North Philadelphia. It might be that the area photographed is highly residential, establishing less "accounted-for" trash.

There might also be a difference in the dynamics of North and South Philadelphia neighborhoods -- it is this sense of community and togetherness that might prompt residents of a street to either watch where their trash blows or even clean the street themselves. Many of the houses had trash-bins and bags out in the street: the fact that this was on the whole street made me think that tomorrow might be Trash Day, but while some houses had their trash (and recycling!) in bins, some left their bags out on the street in front of their house. If this, however, is the greatest example found in a residential area of South Philadelphia, it raises interesting questions as to why these North Philadelphia residential areas -- even their parks -- remain in such ruin.

It is interesting to note that according to official rules, as presented by the South Philadelphia Communities Civic Association, placing garbage in front of the house the day before trash day could result in a ticket along with a $25 fee. Perhaps more awareness regarding this rule would deter residents from tossing their garbage outside well before trash pickup day. Additionally, mixing recyclables with regular garbage is also grounds for a ticket and fee! Primarily, residents need to be made aware of these rules; however, it is just as essential to strictly enforce these rules so that citizens have an incentive, for lack of a better word, to follow them.

Ironically, there is a sign posted on a broken down fence in the photographed area that reads, “NO DUMPING $200 FINE.” Considering the amount of trash laying around, this law is probably not strictly enforced. As with the other sites we’ve seen around Philadelphia, there is a chain reaction problem. The smallest bit of trash prompts others to leave theirs, and so on. People assume that if one person got away with leaving a bit of trash on the ground, there will be no conflict for them either. In order to promote a more permanent solution, the fine should be strictly enforced so that people fear the consequence.

The other photos show trash literally lining the streets. People have placed their trash cans on the curb waiting to be picked up the next morning, which might imply that getting garbage out of their own personal area is a priority to them. Unfortunately, the trash that is in a more communal area is not part of this weekly clean up. If every week when the trash was taken to the curb, residents could look around and clean up a little bit of the outside litter as well, great progress would be made.

Much of the trash seen in the photos taken along 19th Street consists of empty plastic bottles and wrappers. Unlike some other areas we’ve seen in past updates, there are no massive additions such as mattresses, tires, etc. Most of the trash is completely careless and not done with the distinct purpose of needing to get rid of something big. That is not to say that dumping larger trash into public places is a better alternative, but it should be recognized that the simple bags of potato chips are a lot easier to get rid of in a positive (and legal) way.

The South Philadelphia Communities Civic Association announced that single-stream recycling has also been expanded to South Philadelphia, along with West Philadelphia, which could be a reason for more controlled disposal in this area. Ecocycle.org describes single-stream recycling as a system that allows individuals to place paper fibers and containers all in one recycling bin, rather than separating bottles, newspapers, and cans from each other. The recycling processors take it upon them to make sure that though the various materials are mixed, they are used in an efficient manner. This convenient method of recycling certainly makes it simpler for residents to do their part in the green effort without much additional work.

As with any place covered in trash, there is the constant safety concern. There are clearly people living in this residential area. There are children who play outside and animals that exist in this sort of habitat as well. Just off of 19th St. on Ellsworth St. is the Lincoln Day Nursery Child Care and the Chew Playground/Recreation Center. Children are clearly an important part of the community and they certainly deserve the cleanest, safest environment possible. Cleaning up the area would promote both a safer and more appealing place to live, play, and visit.

Eco-Cycle. (Date of publication). Single-stream recycling comes to Boulder County. ECO-CYCLE. Retrieved from http://www.ecocycle.org/singlestream/

South Philadelphia Communities Civic Association. 'Single Stream' recycling expands to South Philadelphia. SPCCA. Retrieved from http://www.sophilacca.org/single_stream_recycling.htm

South Philadelphia Communities Civic Association. Representing our Neighbors from Snyder Ave. to 176 & 9th St. to Broad St. In Philadelphia, PA. SPCCA. Retrieved from http://www.sophilacca.org/

Blog written by Michelle McGowan

Photos by Tyler Antoine