Since Mayor Nutter took office in 2008, the recycling rate in Philadelphia has nearly tripled, thanks largely to progressive work by the Philadelphia Streets Department, which runs the largest single stream curbside recycling program east of the Mississippi.
To further increase residential participation in recycling, the City launched Philadelphia Recycling Rewards, an innovative partnership with RecycleBank. The program records the amount of material a community recycles and rewards residents RecycleBank Points that can be redeemed for discounts, gift cards, or charitable contributions at participating merchants and nonprofits. The program began in February 2010 and by the summer will be available city-wide.
In July 2009, the Streets Department replaced 700 wire trash baskets throughout Center City with 470 Big Bellies, 210 of which have recycling receptacles attached, allowing people to recycle on the go for the first time in Philadelphia. The City collects 14 to 18 tons of recycling from the street containers every month. The Big Belly solar-powered trash compactors have another benefit; they can be emptied only one time a day instead of three, which has reduced the number of trucks on the streets. During the spring and summer of 2010, the Streets Department will install nearly 500 more Big Belly trash compactors and 200 recycling units across the City.
The City is also working to improve commercial recycling rates. In fall 2009, the Streets Department began requiring Philadelphia businesses to submit their recycling plans to an online registration system. Streets Department staffers in the field can now connect to the recycling plan database and write tickets if businesses are not following their approved plans.