The Global Fight Against Litter - Philadelphia

The Global Fight Against Litter - Philadelphia

The Global Fight Against Litter

Zero Waste in Philadelphia


There’s a global demand for resources and the planet’s resources are not infinite. This has led many big cities across the world to implement sustainability plans and practices.

This is especially evident in the US, which is one of the world’s biggest producers of waste. The amount of waste generated in the US has almost tripled since 1960, and something needs to be done.


The US city of Philadelphia has earned the unfortunate nickname ‘Filthadelphia,’ because of its litter problem. Each year, the city disposes of almost 1.5 million tonnes of waste, which is roughly 1 ton per resident. Millions of dollars are spent cleaning the city up, and even though the current recycling rate is around 40%, there is more to be done before it can claim to be a sustainable city.

The Zero Waste campaign

The city has just committed to the Zero Waste and Litter Executive Order, which sets a goal of achieving zero waste by 2035. Other cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta, have already signed up.

A committee is being set up which will coordinate efforts across local government departments and the private sector to tackle the waste and litter problem. Research will be done to see how plans can best be implemented.

The zero waste plan sets a target to eliminate the use of landfill and incinerators by 2035, and to reduce waste at source. To do this, the city will aim to divert 90% of waste from landfill and convert the other 10% into energy.

Implementing the plan

Philadelphia might have a harder time achieving zero waste, because unlike many of the newer US cities, it has a high rate of poverty, an ageing infrastructure and transport network, and very densely populated urban housing areas.

This is why there’s a definite need for a comprehensive plan of action to put zero waste in place while taking into account the city’s challenges and limitations.

The strategy

The zero waste committee has come up with a 4 point strategy to help them achieve the zero waste goal by 2035. The strategy is focused on:

Reducing and diverting waste in buildings

Recycling and other waste diversion strategies will be implemented in municipal and commercial buildings and a waste audit programme will be put in place.

Reducing and diverting waste at events

There will be a zero waste events programme which will use the city’s busy public events and the tourism industry to promote sustainable living.

Engaging the general public in reducing and diverting waste

The zero waste partnerships programme will encourage residents, community groups, local government departments, businesses, and other institutions to reduce waste, increase recycling, and increase composting

Looking at all the ways to achieve zero waste

Over the next 10 years, the city will be looking at waste collection and recycling services for households and businesses to check for any gaps in efficiency and to look for areas where improvements can be made. Various research studies will help to identify gaps in what businesses and residents can currently recycle.