November 6th, 2019
For two years, illegal dumping–the disposal of waste on a site with no license to accept waste–has been a rampant occurrence on the most eastern blocks of Ashdale Streets. For two years, residents have had to endure individuals dumping trash in their neighborhood. Anilda Davila, a local Philadelphian who went to Temple University, decided to address this issue by calling a community meeting on November 6th, the first of many to attempt to end this practice. Illegal dumping and littering is far from just a local issue; it is estimated that the US spends about $11.5 billion cleaning up litter annually for roughly 50 billion pieces of trash.
Although illegal dumping has been occurring in North Philly for two years, its culprits have not yet been identified. A lack of lighting in the area and the fact that dumping occurrences happen at night makes it nearly impossible for individuals to be identified by local surveillance. However, meeting attendees have a strong feeling that the culprits are individuals within the community.
There was an overwhelming consensus that the dumpers need to be held accountable. Though the Philadelphia Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP) has helped remove some of the larger pieces of trash, such as tires and mattresses, residents don’t see this as a sustainable solution. Meeting attendees agreed that simply cleaning the area would not stop future dumpers from continuing their action; in fact, it might even incentivize the behavior, as culprits will see that people are cleaning up after them. Purchasing a commercial-sized dumpster for the neighborhood was also proposed, but the idea was quickly shut down because there were too many logistical concerns, such as where the budget would come from and how the dumpster would be serviced.
Illegal dumping brings up concerns related to public health and the safety of the neighborhood children, problems that are more serious than just an eyesore. “Our children walk past it to go to school everyday,” said Diane Carson, a local resident. Trash takes up the entire side of the road, so children who attend local schools are forced to walk in the middle of the street, putting them in harm's way of passing automobiles.
In addition to safety issues, some research papers have also illustrated a correlation between large amounts of odorous trash (landfills) and respiratory problems , though more research should done to make any firm claims. Citizens commonly cite respiratory complications, diseases from rodent infestation, injuries, and depression as some of the health impacts of garbage exposure. Older adults, children, and those with preexisting health conditions are most vulnerable to this public health issue . Dumping of certain items can also severely contaminate the neighborhood with harmful chemicals like asbestos . Garbage also attracts pests such as rodents and bed bugs; for instance, old tires are ideal for mosquito breeding.
Going forward, Anilda and her team plans to get more officials involved to find a long term solution. These include people from the Environmental Division of the Philadelphia Police Department that could issue fines and arrests for individuals caught illegally dumping, and District Eight’s city council representatives, such as Cindy Bass, who could potentially pass legislations or secure funding. The short-term goal is to plan quarterly cleanups to keep the blocks walkable and safe while a long term solution is being devised. This past Saturday began the first of many community cleanups at Ashdale and Mascher street.