Report Emphasizes Zero Waste Policy, Highlights Litter Index

Philadelphia– Paving the way toward a waste-free Philadelphia is the goal of the Zero Waste and Litter Action Plan, unveiled today by Mayor Kenney and other officials. Also unveiled was an interactive, data-driven website for residents,

The report was produced by Philadelphia’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet, which was convened through the Mayor’s Executive Order to shape the City’s efforts for reaching the goal of zero waste by 2035.

“Philadelphia disposes of nearly one ton of waste for each of our 1.5 million residents,” said the Mayor. “So, while everyone knows cleaning up litter is important, we also have to concentrate on reducing waste before it has the chance to become litter.  I appreciate the Cabinet’s hard work on this Action Plan, which I believe is a great blueprint for achieving these vital goals.”

Philadelphia’s long-term Zero Waste objective is to fully eliminate the use of landfills and conventional incinerators by 2035. The plan focuses on waste reduction and diversion in buildings and at events, engaging the public in these efforts and the exploration into citywide organic material collection.

“This effort encourages everyone to rethink the items they use daily and even sparingly and asks residents, visitors and Philadelphia businesses to consider the impact the items they use have on our City’s systems, environment and infrastructure.” said Carlton Williams, Commissioner, Philadelphia Streets Department.

The Cabinet identified several measures to help the City reach its goal:

  • Advocate for products that eliminate need for incineration or landfill burial
  • Recover items for reuse, resale, recycling or utilization as waste to energy material – City goal is 10% waste to energy by 2035
  • Implement processes to manage flow of resources, and waste created by different communities, sectors and institutions
  • Promote low-impact or reduced consumption lifestyles
  • Encourage reuse of discarded materials to stimulate local economic and workforce development
  • Improve access to recycling and opportunities for organic material recycling

“Active and robust citizen engagement is a vital element to making Philadelphia a cleaner, more environmentally sustainable city,” said Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis. “Through the strategies outlined in this Action Plan, we will make resources more easily accessible and work with residents to help them maintain the cleanliness of their communities, recycle and consume more responsibly, and further reduce the volume of trash entering our municipal waste stream.”

Additional highlights of the report include:

  • Mandates and voluntary methods for waste diversion in municipal and commercial buildings, and at large-scale city-wide events. This includes a Building Waste Audit Program and a Zero Waste Events Program.
  • Programs that empower citizens to educate the general public on waste measures, volunteer at events to engage attendees in proper recycling and composting, and provide incentives for residents participating in waste and litter diversion efforts.
  • The Litter Index, which collects data through surveys of Philadelphia streets, parks, and vacant lots and provides a litter rating based on metrics established by Keep America Beautiful
  • The unveiling of a new website,, which provides a comprehensive platform for residents to identify organizational resources, engagement opportunities, and information for addressing litter abatement. will over time allow residents to access the City of Philadelphia’s Litter Index and find out the litter scores for their immediate areas.

The Cabinet also identified 31 recommendations to enhance regulations, policies or ordinances regarding such long-running issues as short-dumping, construction and demolition waste planning, vacant lot abatement and plastic bag use.

“We need people to get involved. The Action Plan spells out what the City can provide to help residents keep their block clean,” said Michael Carroll, P.E., Deputy Managing Director of the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems. “By making those resources easily accessible, residents will be able to maintain the cleanliness of their blocks and their communities.”
By moving toward the goal of Zero Waste, Philadelphia joins cities such as Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta in establishing progressive sustainability goals to address waste management and the public perception of litter and waste. Philadelphia disposes of nearly 1.5 million tons of residential and commercial waste each year.  The City’s commercial recycling rate was 45.4 percent, and its residential recycling rate was 20.3 percent in 2014. It is estimated that 400,000 tons of organic waste like food scraps and yard waste are thrown away as trash in Philadelphia annually.

To access the full report, visit