Recycling is picking up in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Rodrigo Muzell reports on a potential deal between Philadelphia and the non-profit RecycleBank that would establish an awards/incentive system for residents: “With recycling up 46%…” However, the real news-worthy information in his article is the improved rate of recycling since the city went to a ‘single stream’ system, which does not require residents to separate glass, metal, and paper. Since June 2008 the diversion rate, the percent of waste diverted from landfills to recycling, jumped from 8.4% to 12.4%, according to Muzell’s report. Overall there was a 46% increase in recycling in the city.

Thanks goes to Muzell for updating us on the successes of Philadelphia’s (still new) efforts at serious recycling. The one non-useful piece in his article is the comparison between Philadelphia and Germany, which he says has diversion rates up to 99%. Since 1991 Germany has had an ordinance that requires manufacturers to take responsibility for recycling their own packaging materials so a comparison between Philadelphia and Germany is not very meaningful. Even a city of our size does not have the market leverage to accomplish what Germany has.

It would be more enlightening to see how our city stacks up against other US cities and communities. That would be closer to an apples-to-apples comparison, and I suspect that we would not yet rank very high even in that group. The really good news is that our mayor is serious about improvements and an incentive program, such as the one Muzell reports on, might add to the momemtum we’re building toward being a much more environmentally responsible community.

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