- Due to earlier budget cuts that Philadelphia has not recouped from, the city is now the only major one in the US lacking a widespread street cleaning program, leaving residents to organize cleanups. Currently, the Streets Department provides cleanup organizers with materials three times a year.
- Streets Department Deputy Director Donald Carlton estimated that, if there city were to invest in a city-wide cleanup program, it would come with a one-time cost of $18 million and $3.25 million every year following its launch. Challenging the notion of a citywide cleanup effort is that residents resist having to move their cars so that mechanical cleaners can come through the streets, and that many of them would rather see funds spent on education. Philadelphia Mayor-elect Jim Kenney said he will leave it to the neighborhoods to decide if they want the city-wide cleanup.
- Several years ago, then-Mayor Michael Nutter launched an annual rally to motivate residents to pick up trash. This year, residents took on 700 projects, collecting over a million pounds of trash.
While some cities consider street-cleaning service essential, financially crunched Philadelphia has chosen to do without, leaving the municipality’s cleanliness quite spotty. Even where residents take charge, the streets are trash-filled again shortly after.
Mayor-elect Kenney said he will not force people to have clean streets.
"We should clean the city at least twice a year with a massive cleanup, which we're planning. But in the meantime, on a bi-monthly or monthly basis, I'm not going to have people screaming and yelling that they don't want to move their car from one side of the street..." he said, as reported in CNBC.
Carlton had concerns about a mandatory system too. "When you have a city with a school system that's struggling and you tell people, 'I'm going spend $18 million on mechanical equipment and $3 million on staffing while the schools are struggling,' you have to be careful on saying that that doesn't sound a lot. You'll get individuals coming back lashing at you saying, 'Give that money to the school board,'" he said to CNBC.
For now, one ambitious group in Philadelphia — led by two of their community association’s board members — has signed up for an alley "greening" project and is scouting for funding. Other cash-strapped cities have launched large-scale programs, calling on residents to volunteer to clean up their streets.