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Dear Akeem and Keep Philly Beautiful teamed up to answer your litter Qs

Ugh! Litter is sooo yucky! September 22, 2017 Category: ColumnFeaturedLongMethod

Cool Things Wit Cool People is a monthly advice column by Akeem Dixon focusing on community development. To ask a question, email, or reach out @akeemdixon.

In our current world of strong, varying opinions, one common thread of frustration is litter and waste of all kinds.

Philadelphians love to be referred to as the home of passionate sports fans, restaurants and cheesesteaks, but are simultaneously working tirelessly to rid us of the titleholder of one of the country’s dirtiest cities. Last December, the mayor even appointed a new Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet to tackle the issue holistically.

With the help of Michelle Feldman of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, this month’s Cool Things With Cool People column will help you find the right place, way and agency help to dispose and reduce waste consumption.

Question #1:

Dear Akeem and Michelle, 

How do I find out if an item is or isn’t recyclable?

— Anonymous


You can head to to find the most current list of what is and isn’t recyclable curbside in Philadelphia. Remember to keep food and liquids, styrofoam and plastic bags out of your blue bin! (Some big box stores have special dropoffs for recycling plastic bags, so be on the lookout for one near you.) Placing non-recyclables in your blue bin can lead to contamination of whole loads of recycling or injuries at recycling plants — so trying to recycle often AND correctly is key to a more sustainable Philadelphia.

Indulge us while we get even nerdier about recycling, and waste management in general:

  • Test your knowledge about Philadelphia recycling ins and outs at
  • You can turn any hard-sided container 32 gallons or less into a recycling bin by writing “Recycling” on it, or by using a handy blue “recycling” sticker from the Streets Department
  • Have some fun with’s great recycling search function for those hard-to-recycle items

And if you really want to get nerdy about recycling, take a virtual tour of a materials recovery cacility (an industrial site where recyclables are sorted) via the education section of Recommunity Recycling’s website.

From our Partners

But if we could encourage you to visit any treasure trove of resources, it would be Philadelphia’s new one-stop-shop for all matters litter and zero waste: Read about the city’s new Zero Waste and Litter Action Plan, peruse resources to bring to your neighborhood, and more (yes, more!).

Question #2:

Dear Akeem and Michelle, 

Councilman David Oh’s office has asked me about hazardous waste, specifically needles in Kensington. I wanted to ask about distributing and collecting sharps containers.

Dave Bridley, founder of Not in Philly


To answer your question, we reached out to Impact Services since they are at the center of this initiative in Kensington. Casey O’Donnell, Impact’s executive director, said:

“As you probably guessed, Prevention Point is our partner in this. We do clean up needles using a wand that has a grabber on the end and a couple people are designated to needle cleanup. We always give a safety speech about not reaching into piles of leaves or trash and always using tools. Prevention Point often joins us for cleanups.”

We also checked in with Jose Benitez, executive director of Prevention Point Philadelphia. He said:

“Prevention Point Philadelphia has been working with partners like Impact Services, the City of Philadelphia and others to assist in cleaning up discarded syringes. PPP has trained and partnered with a number of community groups in Kensington to provide training on how to safely clear discarded syringes, and safely dispose them. We have also provided community groups with red biohazard bins to ensure that syringes can be stored and disposed of safely.

We can provide community organization with biohazard bin which when full we would gladly take in and dispose of the syringes safely. We recommend that people use tongs to pick up a syringe.  If you do not have a biohazard container you can use an empty soda or juice bottle to put it in and bring it to us so that we can safely dispose it.”

Question #3:

Dear Akeem and Michelle, 

Does the city currently have data on how much litter we experience throughout Philadelphia, and where that litter is concentrated?

— Anonymous


As part of the Zero Waste and Litter Action Plan, the city and partner entities will be conducting a twice annual litter index to get up-to-date and granular data to best answer this exact question. The Streets Department, Parks and Recration sites, public schools and more will all be surveyed on a 1 to 4 scale, with 1 indicating little or no litter and 4 indicating a site that would require intensive cleanup efforts. This data will be made publicly available on

Starting next year, you’ll be able to search for your address and your litter index score will pop up. Best yet, you’ll be able to see a whole host of other information about your block — what your trash day is, your recycling diversion rate, your closest sanitation convenience center, if you have a block captain or commercial corridor cleaning program, your closest Parks Friends group, and more! And if you find out you don’t have a block captain or the closest park to you doesn’t have a Friends group, maybe think about starting your own. points you towards resources for doing that as well.


Next month, Cool Things Wit Cool People is partnering with Philadelphia 3.0 Director of Engagement Jon Geeting to answer readers’ questions about all things local government; think of it as Politics 101. Send your Qs to, or reach out on Twitter @akeemdixon.


Cool Things Wit Cool People

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