As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Philadelphia Streets Department has faced challenges maintaining trash and recycling collections on a consistent schedule. This includes workforce shortages and 25-50 percent increases in trash and recycling tonnage curbside due to more waste being generated at home. 

During this time, it is especially important that we all do our part to properly manage our waste and reduce the amount of waste we are generating wherever possible. This helps to lower the tonnage of trash for our city’s sanitation workers and reduce litter, helping to make Philadelphia a cleaner and more sustainable city.

Here are a few tips on how you can properly manage and reduce your household waste:

Make sure you recycle properly, follow City set out guidelines, and stay informed about service updates.

Prevent food waste.

Over 20 percent of the trash residents set out curbside is organic material like food and yard waste, and food waste can lead to pest issues when set out curbside. To keep these materials out of the trash:

  • Donate unneeded, edible packaged food to organizations serving individuals in need. Find an organization to donate to.
  • Reduce food waste at its source by meal planning and prepping, storing food properly, and making sure you eat all that you buy. For packaged foods, “sell-by,” “best-by,” and “use-by” dates relate to peak quality or flavor, not to food safety. Use the “sniff test” to check for obvious spoilage.
  • Start composting or use an in-sink garbage disposal to manage food scraps instead of placing them in the trash. Learn about composting options in Philly.

Donate or recycle clothing, electronics, and other household items.

  • Use Retreivr* for free curbside pickup and recycling of clothing, shoes, and electronics. Schedule a pickup with Retrievr.
  • Use the City’s Recycling & Donation Finder** to learn where to recycle or donate different items locally and keep them out of the landfill. You can search by address or by material to find a list of locations nearest to you. Start your search with the Recycling & Donation Finder.
  • Bring used electronic items including computers, monitors, televisions, and other computer-related equipment to the City’s Sanitation Convenience Centers. Find the Center nearest to you.
  • Donate or sell furniture and other used household items. Give unwanted items new life by gifting them to a neighbor through a neighborhood Buy Nothing group.

Replace disposables with reusables.

  • Swap out disposable everyday items for reusable options, such as: water bottles, shopping bags, plates, napkins, utensils, straws, cups, cleaning cloths, personal care products, and more. Investing in high-quality reusable items reduces waste and often saves money in the long-run.
  • Buy products packaged in glass, metal, or other reusable or refillable containers to reduce reliance on plastics, which are not recycled at high rates and lead to much of the litter in our city. Where plastic cannot be avoided, be sure to purchase items packaged in plastic made from post-consumer recycled content.

Rent or borrow seldom-used equipment and clothing.

Use durable household items and repair what you have before buying new.

  • Use durable, long-lasting household items, and get help repairing broken items with the Philly Fixers Guild.

Properly dispose of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

  • Need to dispose of used gloves, masks, or sanitizing wipes? DO NOT put them in your recycling bin or throw them in the street. You can help keep sanitation workers, recycling plant operators, and your fellow Philadelphia residents safe by placing these items in the trash in securely tied bags.


*The City of Philadelphia has a contract with Retrievr. Learn more about Retrievr and the City’s partnership with the company here.

** To learn about adding your organization or company to the City’s Recycling & Donation Finder, contact

Disclaimer: Reference in this blog to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of website visitors, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the City of Philadelphia.