- In one of the first public moves from Philadelphia's new Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet, the city will pilot a litter index program in two neighborhoods to develop a better understanding of waste patterns, as reported by Government Technology.
- The project will start with a paper survey system utilized by Keep America Beautiful to document "every piece of litter, garbage and trash they see." The results will then be uploaded into a digital system using GIS software.
- The pilot is set to begin in March and expand to the whole city by this fall. The goal is to eventually conduct two citywide litter indexes per year and use the data to provide online public reports about street cleanliness quality.
Mayor John Kenney created this cabinet with an executive order in December 2016 and tasked them with developing a plan to achieve "zero waste" by 2035. In addition to the larger questions of how to divert waste from landfills and incinerators, the cabinet will be looking at how waste affects quality of life. Reducing illegal dumping and improving community engagement to prevent litter is a key part of this overall plan.
Kenney has floated the idea of resuming regular street cleaning, though that comes with a high price tag. If comprehensive litter data can be cross-referenced with other information the city could potentially target its litter education and prevention efforts more effectively. For example, litter rates might be worse in areas with more vacant lots or higher crime rates, or could be connected to the timing of curbside collection schedules.
Governments around the world have tried many methods to tackle litter, from public shaming to higher fines to proposed regulations on specific items such as cigarette butts. Though until someone can figure out the psychology behind this behavior, funding for cleanup efforts will still be necessary. Advancements in surveying technology could play a key role in understanding some of these patterns and similar work has also been done to map beach litter.