Philly litter czar says new street sweeping program coming in 2019

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will soon announce a street sweeping pilot program following years of criticism over litter-strewn streets, said Nic Esposito, the director of the mayor’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet.

“Right now we are looking at a possible pilot program, hopefully in the spring,” Esposito told WHYY Radio Times host Marty Moss-Coane during Wednesday’s show. “We are putting it together with the cabinet, Managing Director’s Office, the Streets Department and the administration. We’ll see what that looks like, there will be more details to come.”

Esposito said that the city has not yet selected a target area for the pilot.  The official announcement of the program will come from Kenney, Esposito said. 

The on-air announcement comes a week after Kenney told Radio Times' Moss-Coane that the city was exploring the restoration of “some form of street cleaning” after nearly two decades without a regular, citywide street cleaning program.

Philadelphia is the only big city without regular street cleaning.

In his earlier Radio Times interview, Kenney outlined the obstacles that had led the city to eliminate the last remnants of regular street cleaning. The mayor had said that his political confidant and former South Philly councilman Frank DiCicco had nearly lost reelection due to residents furious over being ticketing for failing to move their cars.

“[DiCicco] was concerned with his re-election because people were so angry about having to move their cars when the streets were being swept,” Kenney said. “Think about how insane that was. So everyone was gun-shy after that.”

Kenney had promised to restore citywide cleaning during his 2015 election campaign and formed the Litter Cabinet to make good on that pledge. Since, Esposito has maintained that street sweeping is “not a silver bullet” for the citywide litter problem.

“We could sweep and then two days later it will go back to looking like it did,” he said.

He has said that the cabinet favors a holistic approach that includes data analysis, enhanced enforcement around short dumping and an initiative to give out trash can lids in certain neighborhoods.

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Newall, a Radio Times guest who has criticized the cabinet’s efforts to date, countered that the city sometimes seemed to be using studies as an excuse to delay the reintroduction of basic sanitation efforts.

“I think it’s great we’re doing all these studies … if it was on top of a basic service that the city was long past the need for,” he said. “Do the studies, then start the trucks. I’ll drive one.”


About the author

Ryan Briggs, Data Reporter

Ryan Briggs is WHYY's data reporter.  He works on the PlanPhilly team and across the WHYY newsroom on investigative features. Before joining WHYY, he covered politics, criminal justice and government policy since 2011. He has worked as a staff reporter for Next City, the Philadelphia City Paper, and City & State PA, while contributing stories to a variety of other news outlets as a freelancer, including WHYY.

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    Projects: Waste Not
    Photo Credit: Ariella Cohen/WHYY

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