Philadelphia has a serious trash problem, and anyone who is serious about fixing it knows there are several contributing factors. One factor is the way the City deals with commercial trash service. Ever walk past a putrid alley filled end-to-end with dumpsters? In reality, these "dumpster alleys" are former streets that have effectively been taken away from the public due to the way the City deals with commercial trash service. Other cities have fixed this problem and returned these streets to the people. We can too.
Currently, the City lets each commercial business decide for itself which commercial trash service to use. That sounds reasonable, but it leads to a number of problems. Imagine a row of twelve restaurants and shops on a neighborhood commercial corridor. There may be six or more commercial trash haulers between those twelve businesses.
Each commercial trash hauler requires the business to use its own dumpster, and because it takes a long time for a typical business to fill an entire dumpster, the trash sits and begins to decompose for a few weeks until the dumpster fills up. This happens with each dumpster, creating a symphony of awful smells that only deter people and attract rats. Meanwhile, six different trash haulers are sending trash trucks, backing up traffic far more frequently than is necessary.
This current system, which at first seems reasonable on its face, is in reality inefficient, wasteful, and counterproductive. A consolidated commercial trash service would mean fewer dumpsters in the street, more inviting commercial corridors walkways, and less foul-smelling alleys that attract various nuisances.
The lack of organized commercial trash hauling service also creates a perverse incentive for businesses to "short dump" their trash on vacant lots, near train tracks, and any other place they are likely to get away with it. Violators do this because they would rather risk the minimal chance of getting caught rather than contract with a private party for trash removal. If the City were to organize and contract commercial trash service, the illegal dumping incentive would no longer exist and Philadelphia would be a much cleaner city.
It’s time to for the City to contract commercial trash service just as it does with recycling: divide the city up into districts, and contract a single service provider for each district. This proposal would cut down the amount of space wasted on storing garbage, it would reduce traffic congestion caused by circling garbage trucks, and it would help reduce illegal dumping that plagues the city.
This is the first step toward restoring our historic alleys back into great public spaces for people and commerce.