Philly touts trash collection numbers in City Council budget hearings

On-time trash collection is better than its in been in more than a decade, according to Philly Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams.

A municipal sanitation worker collects trash in Philadelphia

A municipal sanitation worker collects trash in Philadelphia, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

As Philadelphia City Council slowly pores over the budget and queries various department heads, there’s some evidence that city services are performing better than under the most intense impacts of the pandemic.

Despite frequent complaints about trash on the streets, Philadelphia Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams says the city has improved its trash collecting efforts. Williams admits that during the pandemic, the city was constantly falling behind in picking up trash, but now, the process is running much more efficiently.

“The on-time collection rate, which is trash that is being collected by 3 p.m., is 97%. That is higher than we have been in the last 15 years even before the pandemic,” Williams said.

The commissioner explains the solution was a relatively simple change to the way collections are done and making the best use of the available equipment by hiring more people to use it longer. “The administration added additional crews that allowed us to utilize trucks twice a day with additional people,” he said.

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Amid the pandemic lockdowns, the city saw a 30% increase in trash as residents were stuck inside. That surge of trash has subsided, Williams said and the extra crews have figured out most of the places where people are putting out additional trash and have addressed it.

Councilmembers also got an update on the return of city workers to in-person work following pandemic restrictions in the past few years. Only about half of those employees are back in the office. As a result, the city is reworking some of its office space contracts.

“During the height of the pandemic, we re-negotiated some of our leases to get some early savings, and we’re working really hard with our architects and engineers to say, ‘okay, what do we actually need? Do we need this space?’ said Public Property Commissioner Bridget Collins Greenwald. “Hybrid is still here, and I anticipate that it will stay. I don’t know what that will look like.”

The city is also looking at some locations to set up “hoteling,” where employees can reserve a workspace for a short period of time when they are not able to work at home.

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