A NONPROFIT GROUP'S effort to keep litter off the streets of East Passyunk backfired when neighbors used trash bins to dump household garbage, electronics — even discarded furniture.
But the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corp.oration is fighting back, enlisting the help of the Streets Department's Streets and Walkways Education and Enforcement Program (SWEEP), as well as City Councilman Mark Squilla.
After the city did away with wire trash bins and replaced them with Big Belly compactors on Passyunk Avenue, Samuel Sherman, PARC's executive director, bought 30 of the banished baskets to install in the area.
"There was a certain faction of the neighborhood that said, 'You're gonna live to regret this,' " Sherman said.
Aside from being costly to maintain, and despite overwhelming demand from neighbors all over Philadelphia, Streets Department officials have said wastebaskets in residential areas seem to create litter problems and exacerbate existing issues.
Sure enough, East Passyunk neighbors gradually began dumping bags of household garbage into and next to the bins, and eventually two members of Sherman's five-person cleaning crew spent most of their workweek hauling trash and replacing the can liners.
"It got so ridiculous that someone balanced a sofa on one of the cans," Sherman said. He estimated the cost of labor, maintaining the trash bins and replacing the liners to be $30,000 per year.
The solution is sad, but simple.
"One by one, they're being pulled off the street," Sherman said.
Rather than give up all hope, SWEEP will send officials to monitor the remaining cans for bags of household garbage left teetering precariously on the wastebaskets and try to find the offenders.
"If we can identify offenders, they will be fined; fines could range from $50 to $150," said Keisha McCarty Skelton, a Streets Department spokeswoman.
"They say if they catch a couple, the word gets out," Sherman said, "so we're hoping that works, but we'll have to wait and see."
Lindsay Baumstein, an East Passyunk neighbor who has dumped household garbage in the bins, was upset when the baskets began disappearing. Using the cans for household garbage is a matter of practicality, she said.
Baumstein cooks chicken for her elderly cat, Coco, and used the cans as an alternative to hoarding festering chicken carcasses while she waits for once-weekly trash collection.
"People take advantage of everything," Baumstein said. "That's what trash cans are for."
Sherman doesn't see it that way: "I think it's just laziness. I don't understand how people can generate so much trash."
Lax enforcement of anti-litter and dumping regulations has compounded problems in the densely populated neighborhood, which is more dense than it ever should have been because single-family homes have been split into apartments, Sherman said.
"It's a lot of converging issues here causing the problem," he said.