A couple years back, South Philly resident Morgan Berman found herself walking through the city on New Year’s Day and couldn’t help but notice one thing: all the trash. And then, she decided to do something about it.
“I guess I was in that resolution mode of, ‘I have to do something, I need to change this,’ ” says Berman, the founder and CEO of Philly-based app company MilkCrate. The resolution: Use her skills as a tech entrepreneur to make an app to help clean up the city.
With that, Berman started down the road to developing Glitter — a forthcoming app that will allow residents to report litter in the city, and even get paid to pick it up.
After trying unsuccessfully to get city funding, Berman went the private route, and connected earlier this year with Terrill Haigler — better known as @_yafavtrashman on Instagram — to get the ball rolling. Berman’s message, Haigler says, was serendipitous: One of his goals was to develop a way to communicate with people and clean up the city.
“I was like, ‘OK, Jesus — I see you,’” he says.
The pair hopes the app can help with Philadelphia’s ongoing trash woes. In a way, Glitter is like a privatized version of the city’s block captain program, which is run by the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee. Both Haigler and Berman, who is also president of the Dickinson Square West Civic Association, say the block captain program lacks good communication and could be much more effective at cleaning up blocks. They hope Glitter can help fill that void.
“It is our hope that this ignites a movement of people that know Philadelphians deserve to live in a clean city,” Haigler says. “It’s corporately funded and resident funded. We hope to do this with the city — the residents, not the government.”
But how does the app work exactly, and what can you make as a paid cleaner? Here is what you need to know:
What is the Glitter app?
Glitter is a free, public app that Berman describes as “Lyft for litter.” It will let you report litter anywhere in the city, sign up for block-cleaning services, volunteer for cleanup events, and apply to be a paid Glitter Cleaner.
If you’re selected as a paid Glitter Cleaner, you’ll have to download a second app, which will let you track your weekly cleanups, request garbage bag pickups, and report illegal dumping.
» READ MORE: How to organize a block cleanup in Philadelphia
When does the app come out?
Not yet. Berman says the app has been submitted to the Apple App Store, but has not yet been approved. Berman and Haigler hope it will be available for download by late summer or early fall. You can follow the Glitter app on Twitter for updates.
What neighborhoods will Glitter cover?
When the app launches, Glitter will start relatively small with its pilot area of Dickinson Narrows in South Philly, where Haigler and Berman live. Once they work the kinks out and get more funding, the plan is to expand into other areas of the city.
“We’ve got 16 blocks we’re going to cover, and then we have three more corporate sponsors that are in the payment collection process,” Berman says. “Once we get those checks, we’re going to be able to unlock more neighborhoods.”
Who will pay cleaners?
Corporate sponsors, mostly. Initial funding to help pay cleaners is coming from companies, such as sustainable delivery service The Rounds and supermarket chain ShopRite. The goal for now is to have 12 corporate sponsors — one for each month of the year.
In the future, Haigler and Berman plan to allow individuals, groups of neighbors, and neighborhood organizations to sign up for “Clean Block Subscriptions” to pay cleaners directly. It will cost about $140 a month for a standard residential block, and include one cleaning per week.
You can apply to have a cleaner for your block through the Glitter website, and Glitter will begin matching cleaners to blocks once they build up enough funding and demand, Berman says.
“What we’re doing with the corporations is trying to find a huge chunk that we can do, particularly in low-income areas that maybe won’t be able to afford it,” Berman says. “And then we’ll try and find neighbors as we grow our user base to take over. For now, we just want people to indicate interest, and we’ll get back to them.”
How do I sign up to be a cleaner?
For now, you can apply to become a paid Glitter Cleaner via a form on the Glitter website. You can specify the number of blocks you want to clean, and the neighborhoods where you’d like to do it. Once the public Glitter app is released, you’ll be able to apply there, too.
The expectation is that you clean your assigned blocks once a week. Haigler says he will help cleaners get necessary supplies such as gloves and trash bags, and also arrange for garbage pickups once the blocks are cleaned.
To prove you did the work, you’ll check in by taking a picture before and after you cleaned each block. And the app has a timestamped, GPS-enabled tracking system that shows where you cleaned and when.
How much can I make as a cleaner on Glitter?
When the app launches, you should expect about $25 to clean a residential block. Cleaning bigger or more commercial blocks will pay more. Payments will be weekly and come through Cash App.
The goal is to ultimately provide Glitter Cleaners with a living wage of $15 an hour.
“Depending on how many blocks they do, that will determine how much they make,” Berman says. “We think that based on the amount of work it takes based on the types of blocks, it will be about $15 an hour.”
In Glitter’s pilot phase, cleaners may be limited to a five-block maximum, Haigler says, so you can probably make between $100 and $500 a month for now — though it could increase to $600 to $800 later.
Haigler says he hopes the program won’t just make our city cleaner, it could also could help with other problems, too. “It’s my one hope that I can employ or get some of these kids that are involved in the gun violence and illegal activity to put the guns down and pick the brooms up,” he says. “Because if you look at the gun violence, in the zip codes where it’s happening, those are the dirtiest zip codes in the city. There’s a connection there, and it isn’t by accident.”