On January 21, Carlton Williams, streets commissioner of the Philadelphia Streets Department, participated as a keynote panelist for Virtual WASTECON during the session, “Outside the Box:  Reinventing Your Organization in Response to COVID-19”. Williams highlighted the challenges the Department experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and what actions it took to address them.  Check out some of the actions it took below. Learn more about the Department’s efforts to address its challenges.

How has the Philadelphia Streets Department been impacted by the pandemic?

Williams: The Streets Department was challenged with delivering some of its core services including the collection of curbside trash and recycling. The Department experienced significant collection delays this past summer. With the COVID-19 outbreak the Department saw increased household tonnage up to 30% as a result of residents staying home as well as staff attendance issues caused longer than usual collection delays. Severe rainstorms causing downed trees and flooding also hampered crews’ ability to collect materials on time.

What actions did the Streets Department take to address collection delays?

Williams: The Streets Department executed various tactics to address the collection delays. It quickly went into action to deploy its own resources and work with other City departments to implement solutions.

  • Supplemented collections with staff from its Highways Division and other City departments
  • Hired over 150 part-time employees to supplement staffing levels
  • Modernized systems to capture and display data in real-time utilizing technology and GPS to increase efficiencies in route monitoring
  • Utilized various communications tactics to inform the public

How did the Streets Department leverage technology to address challenges during the pandemic?

Williams: The Streets Department recognizes delays in trash and recycling collections have a significant impact, especially during the pandemic. In September, the Department launched PickupPHL, a new web mapping tool designed so residents can view and track the status of daily trash and recycling collections in near real-time. The platform also allows users to determine if a block has been visited by a trash, recycling or both trucks and identify where collections are taking place daily. For the first-time ever Philadelphia residents can see the daily progress on residential collection routes. PickupPHL is the third component of the Streets  Department’s  StreetSmartPHL platform. Residents can access the site at www.StreetSmartPHL.phila.gov.

The Streets Department offers 10 tips on how residents can help reduce collection delays and improve litter conditions by curbing the amount of trash set out for collection during these unprecedented times.