It’s just one piece of the puzzle, but it shapes the overall picture: Philadelphia wants to draw attention to its garbage problem and take a decisive step forward with an action against wildly placed flyers and notices across the city. And finally, the malicious nickname “Filthadelphia” (“Filth” means “dirt”) should be a thing of the past in the foreseeable future.
The city and citizen groups started the initiative together in June. Residents of the metropolis in the US state of Pennsylvania collected more than 8,500 pieces of paper that were stuck to traffic lights, traffic signs, lamp posts, trees and fences. “These ads often end up as junk, and a littered community is bad for people and bad for business,” said Nic Esposito, chairman of the Philadelphia’s Zero Waste Committee.
This was brought into being around two years ago by Mayor Jim Kenney to decisively tackle the waste problem that has persisted for decades. This year, the group presented 31 proposals for short-term and long-term measures in order to come closer to the stated goal of becoming “90 percent free of waste” by 2035. The notices do not play a major role. But the action was a fun way to sensitize the population, says Esposito.
The city paid the collectors 50 cents for every notice they dropped. These included flyers for concerts as well as offers to buy houses or vehicles. After two weeks, 1,000 pieces of paper were collected calling for the sale of junk cars. Placing such notices illegally is subject to a fine of 300 dollars (just under 260 euros). In the case of repeat offenders, the sum increases to up to 2000 dollars (a good 1700 euros).
In these cases, the initiative tries to track down the bill posters and cash in, says Esposito. In the case of notices advertising a theater performance or a music event, for example, the group is called and made aware that they have posted unauthorized posters. Esposito explains that some are completely surprised.
What happens now with the collected notices? It is clear that an art project should start with this in the fall. How exactly is still open, the citizens should be allowed to have a say. The city is working with the “Trash Academy”, a project of the public art program Mural Arts Philadelphia, to turn the posters into the most useful. It is important to create awareness that the notice boards will ultimately end up in the trash, says project manager Shari Hersh.
The “Trash Academy” was launched in the summer of 2015 after the trash problem was raised as a major concern of the residents at a citizens’ meeting. “Right at the front, in front of green spaces and above all else, there was concern about the garbage,” says Hersh. Since then, the “Trash Academy” has been clarifying the problem in the city’s neighborhoods and looking for creative, innovative solutions together with the residents.