Condo tax credits can contribute to sustainability

    A reader writes in response to an Oct. 18 NewsWorks report that Philadelphia stands to lose $6 million a year with the passage of a bill currently before the City Council that would give a tax credit to condominiums that pay to haul their own trash. He explains how tying the condo tax credit to mandatory recycling programs could actually be a boon to the city.

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has determined that condominiums are entitled to trash pickup. A bill sponsored by Councilman Jim Kenney is working its way through City Council to provide a $200 a year tax credit (per unit) to pay for collection service provided by private haulers. NewsWorks reported on October 18 that this credit would divert $6 million dollars in revenues from Philadelphia’s coffers.

    Approached properly, the condo tax credit does not need to be a burden. In fact, it could be a great opportunity to actually generate revenue and support sustainability.

    Condominiums require collection two to four days a week, or even daily in the largest complexes, to provide the equivalent of once-a-week collection services for residents. Unlike the trash bags and cans used in most of the city, condos tend to use common containers, ranging from 64-gallon Toters to huge 40-cubic-yard compactors. By weight, more than 70 percent of this waste—household waste—is either recyclable or organic and compostable. The reality is most of this material is being mixed together and trashed.

    I would propose that the condo tax credit should be conditioned to full compliance at each condo with mandatory recycling plus food waste collection for composting. This should include a requirement to install user-friendly recovery systems in each condo, information for the members on how to participate, and submission reports from the hauler on how much is recovered. Unlike the city, condos have access to private-sector vendors who can provide the services that make all of this possible.

    Recycling is mandatory in Philadelphia: The City should deploy its SWEEP officers and be diligent and rigorous in its enforcement, issuing fines for those who refuse to comply.

    This is a win-win-win-win.

    This is win for the condo members, many of whom have been asking for recycling for years with no response from management. This provision will force the issue and deliver full value for their tax dollar and membership fee, getting trash collection, recycling—and food waste collection for composting—a service not available to most city residents. If the city makes it possible for condo members to participate in the Recycling Rewards Program, (http://www.phillyrecyclingpays.com) they will also earn credits that can be redeemed for product discounts.

    The city and the taxpayer win. The enforcement should be adjusted to penalize building owners and management companies who do not comply. The fines are much higher than the tax credit. Fines collected from those who choose not to respond would allow the city to recoup more than would be lost in revenues from tax credits.

    The local economy wins. The recycling and composting industry will grow. New services, and with it new collection equipment, will be either purchased or leased with a bump in jobs, business revenues and associated tax revenues.

    The environment wins. We reduce our carbon footprint and get one step closer to sustainability.

    Maurice Sampson is the founder of Niche Recycling, Inc., of Philadelphia.

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