How Philadelphia’s tire collection program helps support East Falls Town Watch efforts

The first tire that caught Leon Joshlin’s attention on Saturday morning was his own.

Beginning his preparations for the Streets Department’s 2012 Tire Round Up, Joshlin noticed that the front passenger tire of his Dodge Caravan was sagging somewhat. Bending down for closer inspection, he noticed the head of a nail lodged between two treads.

In light of the difficulty found in locating a mechanic on a weekend morning, Joshlin called AAA to request a tire change-out. Within ten minutes, help arrived and the deflated tire was exchanged for the spare.

Joshlin asked the mechanic if he wouldn’t mind rolling the tire to his home – “So they don’t steal it for recycling,” he explained.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Six-week tire collection program 

Since 1995, the Streets Department Sanitation Division – in conjunction with the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee – has sponsored a tire collection program that seeks to combat the illegal discarding of tires throughout Philadelphia.

As many as 150 registered community organizations throughout the city can participate each year, each receiving a payment of 50-cents per tire, up to $500.

On Saturdays, collection sites are located throughout the city to accept illegally discarded tires – “donations” from locations that are required to pay a fee for private disposal – i.e. auto repair shops or car dealers – are not eligible for the program.

The six-week effort runs through Aug. 25.

Rounding up extra funds for EFTW 

On Saturday, Joshlin – a long-time East Falls resident now living in Germantown – was rounding-up under the auspices of the East Falls Town Watch, an organization which has participated in the Tire Round-Up since 2000, according to EFTW President Mary Jane Fullam.

Each year, Joshlin and Fullam lead their organization’s efforts to collect as many tires as possible, in order to fortify EFTW’s budget.

“Most years we get 1,000 tires,” she said, in reference to the maximum limit imposed by the Streets Department. In addition to their own scouting, EFTW often receives assistance in the form of leads or tips from community members.

In response to an announcement placed by Fullam in July’s edition of The Fallser, Joshlin’s collection efforts were augmented by the assistance of a Mt. Airy-based businessman.

Teaming up with a tire collector

Pulling the Caravan to the curb of a Mt. Airy side street, Joshlin is met by Hal Jones, who greets him with a grin.

With dozens of discarded wheels serving as his backdrop, Jones said, “I’ve got a couple of tires for you.”

Jones is proprietor of Atelier Art Services, which provides transport and storage for fine art. He’s been at his current location for 21 years, and has amassed his cache of tires from the neighborhood and from his sideline hobby of auto racing.

Earlier, Joshlin had expressed concern that his personal goal of 100 tires would go unmet. Now, his concern was space, but fortunately Jones solved that by volunteering the use of his company’s delivery truck.

Together, they expressed wonder at the seeming ability of tires to multiply when dumped in an abandoned lot.

“Well, when you put one tire there,” said Jones, “they reproduce immediately.”

“They do!” Joshlin agreed. “One tire can reproduce – it may take two animals, but only one tire.”

‘It’s not exactly a glamorous job’ 

In convoy, Joshlin and Jones set out for the drop-off center, which was located at Palethorp and Ashdale Streets in Olney.

Along the way, Joshlin observed two tires along the road, and stopped to retrieve them.

One of the unfortunate byproducts of recent rains is that the sidewalls of every discarded tire in the city contains about a quarter gallon of water inside, fouled by dirt, grime, and whatever else ends up discarded on a city street.

It’s nasty stuff, so Joshlin bailed the liquid using a discarded coffee cup, which populates roadsides with a frequency similar to that of tires.

“It’s not exactly a glamorous job,” Joshlin observed earlier in the day, “but the Town Watch really needs the money.”

“It doesn’t really have that much funding, so every little bit helps,” he said.

Surpassing expectations 

Arriving at the site, city sanitation crews are roused from their chairs and buckets, and spring into action.

Just before, Joshlin said he usually keeps an eye out on the workers, given the potential for miscounting.

However, he kidded, “If they over-count, I don’t usually say anything.”

His Nissan truck backed up to a city garbage truck, Jones began to offload, literally throwing the tires into the hopper of the city vehicle, the numerical capacity of which the operator refused to speculate.

With Jones’ work completed, the operator shouted “48,” after which the site supervisor depressed her clicker three additional times before submitting the first tally.

Afterwards, the city crew unloaded Joshlin’s Caravan, bringing the morning’s total count to 63.

With the pink receipt documenting his efforts in his hand, Joshlin expressed relief.

“I didn’t even expect 50 the way we were going,” he remarked. “Hal really came through.”

The final count for EFTW 

While the Streets Department was not immediately available to provide a tally, Saturday was a good day for EFTW – 82 tires collected, just shy of Joshlin’s earlier-stated goal, and a good start for EFTW’s efforts.

Later in the afternoon – after the second drop-off and the second pink receipt – Joshlin guided his Caravan down 5th Street toward Roosevelt Blvd. and looked down to inspect his clothing, now caked in dirt and splattered in sludge.

“I might as well put these aside to wear for next week,” he said.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

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