With the announcement of Greenworks Philadelphia, Mark Alan Hughes exiting the Mayor's Office of Sustainability in triumph, it would seem that Philadelphia is well on its way to the stated goal of "Greenest City in America."
But the question Earth to Philly asked back in March still pertains: Lots of cities, if not all of them, want to be the "greenest in America" - what do we think gives ours the edge?
There's a move right now to ban plastic bags from supermarkets, which E2P will cover in further detail when the smoke clears. Instead, though, our ace in the hole could be that our mayor is someone who has been pushing universal recycling since the 20th century. And Mayor Nutter has stood firm in stepping up curbside collection in the face of painful budget cuts. But in this area, we're still left in the dustbin by San Francisco.
Already the city with the highest recycling rate in the nation, yesterday S.F. pushed the envelope further by making recycling - and composting! - mandatory and punishable by fines: $100 a pop for residents and most small businesses, all the way up to $500 for others. The ordinance will take effect this fall.
Here at Earth to Philly, we're all for exploring new ways to get people into the mindset that recycling should be automatic. But it's not just municipal jealousy to say this seems a little much. People joke about "the recycling police," but this would make that a wacky reality.
At the very least it would probably have been a better idea to phase the law in, starting with larger businesses, where a massive amount of waste occurs daily, and whose employees are likely to be city residents. After six to nine months of corporate consciousness-raising (and high-profile publicity when fines must be assessed), individuals would be better primed to get with the proverbial program.
As it is, with the problem of enforcing this on a per-house basis, there's a real chance for a backlash. That would be bad for San Francisco - and good for Philly! But only in the short term, because it would be bad for the planet, and as that recycling icon reminds us, what goes around comes around. So come on, West Coast, and get it right!