Squilla proposes banning new dumpsters in Center City

It’s been a big year for trash receptacles in Philadelphia. First came the nationally recognized dumpster pool phenomena that briefly won the city nationwide notoriety, which then was swiftly banned by the Department of Licenses and Inspections. Now First District Councilman Mark Squilla wants to ban all new dumpsters in Center City.

Squilla’s dumpster reform bill advanced this week, receiving a positive hearing from the Committee on Streets and Services Wednesday and its first reading before the full council at Thursday’s session.

The bill would amend the Philadelphia Code’s “Use of Dumpsters” section that limits where the garbage receptacles can be placed in the public right-of-way. Current prohibited locations for dumpster licenses include certain auto-oriented commercial districts and in locations the Streets Department seems unduly obstructionist.

Squilla’s bill would prohibit new dumpsters from “any location within the boundaries of Bainbridge Street, Spring Garden Street, the Delaware River and the Schuylkill River where a licensed dumpster was not located before September 7, 2016.”

As Center City blossoming with new restaurant and retail businesses, adjoining alleys and even commercial thoroughfares have been populated with increasing numbers of dumpsters.

Many of the smaller streets (and alleys) of Center City have been relegated to acting as mere service corridors, hosting delivery and dumpster services that often disincentivize pedestrians. Freed of the unsightly hulking metal boxes, there are numerous other uses that Philadelphia’s alleys could be put to—especially those that are already home to alley-facing businesses and housing.

“We want all new places that are opening to consider storing their trash internally in the future,” councilman Squilla told PlanPhilly after the council meeting. “As we grow as a city we don’t want to be adding [dumpsters], we don’t want whole commercial corridors full of trash containers. With all the new retail opening up you can imagine seeing dumpsters in front of every store on chestnut street. That’s not what we want.”

Squilla says there is already a law that requires new construction to provide trash facilities on the inside of the development. But he says it hasn’t really been enforced. By adding this more narrowly cast ordinance to the previous bill, he hopes that L&I will begin cracking down on those who would install fresh garbage canisters in Center City.

Center City District (CCD) has long been a proponent of cleaning up the alleyways within their purview. As far back as 2007, the business improvement district argued that dumpster-lined alleys were choked with filth and vermin. In a 2007 essay entitled “Commercial Alleys: Turning a Liability into an Asset,” CCD found 43 alleys and small streets in the BID’s boundaries and that about one-fourth were in abominable condition.

Although Center City District is often at one with downtown businesses, there can be no doubt that many owners—and restaurants especially—may resist sacrificing valuable space to keep their trash amassed inside.

Squilla says he hasn’t heard of any opposition to his bill yet.

“I don’t know if people just don’t know about it or if they aren’t paying attention to it,” says Squilla. “Or maybe most of the businesses realize they are supposed to already be doing this.”

The bill could be passed as soon as next Thursday’s council session.


Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal