Promoting recycling has always been a central feature of the environmental movement. It’s good for the earth, and it’s something each and every one of us can do to make a difference. The Council has been behind some of the biggest recycling victories in the region over the past decade, including helping to quadruple Philadelphia’s recycling rate and Delaware’s mandatory recycling law. While we are proud of these victories, there are still improvements to be made.

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Recycling in Delaware

In 2010, Delaware passed legislation to phase-in mandatory recycling for much of the state by 2014. Since its passage, the percentage of recyclable material diverted from landfills in Delaware has increased every year, and over 100 new jobs have been created as a direct result of the increase in materials to process. The Council is proud to have helped convince lawmakers to vote for this legislation, and we are optimistic that Delaware will continue to improve its recycling rate.

Recycling in Philadelphia

In 2009, Philadelphia had the second-worst recycling rate among major cities in America (the only city worse than us was Houston). The Clean Air Council, as part of the Recycling Alliance of Philadelphia, took part in a campaign to improve Philadelphia’s dismal recycling program.

A revamped program was launched in west Philadelphia to test out a new procedure. The first major change was that recycling was collected on a weekly basis instead of every other week, and on the same day as trash was collected instead of separate days of the week. The pilot program also implemented single-stream recycling, meaning all recycling went into the same bucket as opposed to having to sort the material into different buckets. The last, and perhaps most significant change, was the implementation of the Philadelphia Recycling Rewards program, administered by RecycleBank. The program works by rewarding individuals and neighborhoods for recycling, earning points which can be redeemed for various deals and discounts.

Together, these reforms made for an incredibly successful pilot program, and it wasn’t long before they were implemented city-wide. Philadelphia ended up quadrupling its recycling rate, and is now above the national average for cities nationwide which recycle.

Philadelphia’s recycling program has greatly improved since 2009, but there are still significant gaps in it. For instance, the reforms above boosted curbside recycling of individual households, but don’t affect commercial recycling. Businesses, apartment buildings of more than six units, and schools are all required to recycle, but getting building owners to implement recycling programs isn’t easy and commercial waste haulers have been known to simply throw recycling in with trash. Additionally, food waste is a significant source of material which could be diverted from landfills, but the city has no compost program.

For more information on recycling, please contact Logan Welde at, or call 215-567-4004 ext. 126.

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