Saturday, April 25, 2009


I really like Philly. Restaurants that give you the option to add vegan beef to your tacos, happy hour, murals everywhere, a year round indoor farmers market, great shops selling local artists work, a frozen yogurt place where you choose from a million flavors and toppings and then pay for it based on the weight, really, it's pretty cool here.

But the litter! Oh man, I've been here a number of times before, but now that my litter radar is super sensitive I'm noticing how bad it really is. I probably picked up a hundred pieces of trash so far today and that was in a two block radius. If I had stuck to my original goal of picking up every piece of trash I saw, I'd be fucked.

It's interesting because I've made some observations about the differences in the litter here compared to the litter in Boston. There's definitely just as much addictive trash (cigarette butts, empty booze bottles, coffee cups), but there's a ton of food trash here too. It really looks like people just rip open the package of everything they eat and throw it on the ground. And not only is there a ton of food trash, there's a lot of random trash. Empty lots will be filled with toilets and old tvs and other random household items. In Boston, you just don't see that. Apparently in Philly, anything goes.

Another observation I made is that there's definitely a shortage of trash cans here. In the downtown area and around the UPenn campus in West Philly where we were today, there were trash cans on every block, and in turn, less litter. In South Philly though, once you get passed South Street, it's impossible to find a trash can, and because of this (and probably a number of other reasons), there's litter everywhere. Philly needs more trash cans! Obviously everyone should take personal responsibility for the trash they create, but since this is an improbability, at least make it easy for people to throw stuff away. Even the convenience stores around here don't have trash cans in front of them. No wonder there's food trash all over the place!

I really think the root of the problem is that people just don't care. There shouldn't have to be public trash cans, if you have something you need to throw away and you don't see a trash can, bring it home with you and throw it away there. Know what I really want to know though? I always see signs on the highway that say that there's fines for littering but how often are people really penalized for it? It'd be amazing to stick a few police officers on the streets here and have them handing out citations. Maybe if it were strictly enforced people might be a little less inclined to litter. Who knows...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Litter Karma

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were picking up trash in Downtown Crossing on the way to Fajitas & Ritas. After finding the millionth losing lottery ticket on the ground in front of 7-11, we decided that the best thing to do was go in and buy one. What happened next? I WON A HUNDRED BUCKS! YES! I'm pretty sure it was litter karma rewarding me for all the trash I've been picking up all month. Win!

More later, I'm on a press check for the next two days and am trying to get some thoughts together for Delitter Bugs.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I've been picking up a lot of bad habits this month...

Thank God I don't live on Mission Hill right now. When I was in college and living in Jamaica Plain, I used to walk to MassArt along Huntington Avenue and it never ceased to amaze/disgust me how much litter covered the street in that area. Really? I mean, people really think that it's ok to just throw their trash on the ground? I can't even imagine eating fast food and then throwing my trash out the window, but people do it all the time! Why! Apparently, they've never heard of the trash vortex in the Pacific Ocean, or even worse, they have and they just don't care. Why don't people care? It's beyond me...

My ranting aside, I've actually been enjoying April's challenge much more than I thought I would. At first I felt kind of uncomfortable being seen walking around with a bunch of garbage in my hands, but pretty quickly I stopped caring. I haven't experienced any negative comments or stares, and it seems like people are more curious than anything else (although no one has stopped me to ask what I'm doing yet).

What's been really interesting is finding patterns in the litter that I pick up. The biggest conclusion I've drawn is that people with a bad habit, i.e. littering, usually have a bunch of other bad habits to go along with it. Honestly, 90% of that trash that I've found falls into the category of "Addictive Trash": empty cigarette cartons, vodka bottles, scratch tickets, and Dunkin Donuts cups. What's I've seen the most of though is cigarette butts. Somehow, there's a common misconception that tossing your cigarette butt on the ground isn't littering, but in reality, they aren't biodegradable, and even worse, two billion are thrown on the ground every day. I've already established that I'm not picking them up this month. I'd never make it anywhere on time if I stopped along the way for every one I found.

Soon I'm going to post about DeLitter Bugs, a project that Amanda and I came up with a few months ago. We're still hammering out the details so I want to wait to post until we've really figure it out. Stay tuned!