Litter is More Than Just Trash

Julie Slavet
Aug 17, 2012

Who has been talking about litter in Philadelphia?

Penn Future recently hosted a stakeholder discussion called “Litter, Illegal Dumping, and Enforcement.” Speakers and panelists included members of Philadelphia City Council as well as representatives of city agencies and community organizations. TTF staff attended this event—because we care about litter, too!

 Litter, Illegal Dumping, and Enforcement

 A community member takes part in the discussion

Why does TTF care about litter?

We are very concerned because litter and dumped materials eventually find their way downhill and into the nearest stream. This is a major form of pollution in urban streams, including the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford creek system. As an organization that focuses on clean water, this is a problem! In Philadelphia, there are almost 300 dump sites—and 26% of them are within 100 feet of a waterway.


A pile of trash collected from a park by volunteers

Litter is far more than an environmental issue. Litter also affects people and businesses. Neighborhoods with a lot of litter have fewer people moving in, decreased property values, lower quality of life ratings, and more crime.  Vacant lots and dump sites attract more trash, vandalism, and other illegal activities. On the other hand, areas with little or no litter attract more long-term residents and business patrons, improving the neighborhood’s economy and quality of life .

Litter and illegal dumping are expensive for the City of Philadelphia. Costs include cleaning up neighborhoods, unclogging storm drains, patrolling to deter illegal activities, and enforcing dumping fines. Instead, this money could be spent on other programs, including city schools and parks.

What can we do to help solve this problem?

Most of the trash found dumped in parks and vacant lots is recyclable or the type of material that the city accepts at collection facilities! Put trash and recycling out on the curb on trash day and take other items (hazardous and construction wastes) to designated collection sites.

Encourage your neighbors to do the same, and thank those who do this already. To report litter, uncollected trash, abandoned cars, and other similar problems in your neighborhood, please call the City at 311.

For information about solar powered lights to deter nighttime dumping in your neighborhood, contact Phoebe at

If you’d like to work with us to plan a clean-up in your neighborhood, contact Alix Howard at or 215-844-8100.


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