Single Stream Rising

Philadelphia is expanding its single-stream recycling program by roughly 93,000 households. Starting in early March, residents in the west and southwest sections of the city will be able to place all of their recyclables in a single bin.

In the summer of 2006, the city began single-stream recyclables collection for 123,000 households in the northeast section of Philadelphia. Since then, the city has seen the tonnage of recyclables that it collects in the section increase by nearly 30 percent.

“Expanding this process, which makes curbside recycling easier for residents, will continue to increase the amount of material we divert from our waste stream,” said Philadelphia Streets Commissioner Clarena I.W. Tolson in a press release.

Carlton Williams, deputy commissioner of the Street Department's Sanitation Division, says the expansion is the next step in the five-year plan to convert the entire city to the single-stream program. New areas of the city will be added to the program every year, he says.

Currently the city's residential recycling rate is 7 percent, which is up from 6 percent in 2006. “If we can get 25 to 30 percent diversion rates in the new areas, I'll consider the switch a success,” Williams says.

Philadelphia has long searched for ways to increase its low residential recycling rate. At one point, the city began issuing fines to residents who weren't recycling after focus groups indicated that was the most effective way to motivate Philadelphians. However, the effort was soon abandoned after the city decided it needed its enforcement officials to work on other issues instead.