Buried in trash. Southwest Germantown has a problem.

Let’s trash talk. Philadelphia Daily News reporter Morgan Zalot has been eying Germantown. Today’s story, Germantown’s dirty secret: It can’t get rid of the trash, is no surprise.

The neighborhood has a longstanding litter and illegal dumping problem, but in 2010, Ainé and I noticed one area in particular had shifted dramatically. Had a trash bomb exploded?

We can start by squashing the blame game. It is after all The People who make the trash. Like the City, businesses and individuals have both the power and a responsibility to change litter culture. We’re trying on W Rockland St. What are Germantown’s business districts doing? What about the schools, churches, and community organizations? Lots of players in the mix…

There once was a curb…

Still, shopping districts need public trashcans and Southwest Germantown has a problem. At Coulter St and Germantown Ave, there are two old-school wire trash baskets (still there). A few weeks ago, you would have to travel south travel south .6 miles to the intersection of Logan St and Germantown Ave before finding another public trashcan (since removed). In between that .6 mile zone is a rundown but busy commercial corridor. We estimate there are 30 storefront businesses along this stretch, including the mostly vacant Freedom Plaza (Wister St and Germantown Ave). This shopping plaza is the site of the first protest against slavery. The zone just underwent streetscape enhancements and received new sidewalks and street lighting thanks to the ReStore Philadelphia Corridors program (yay!). Tree pits have also been cut but no trees have been planted yet. Still, there are no cans and the area is worse than it was a few years ago. Since August, there were several shootings along the Avenue. We heard the gunfire from W Rockland. “Trash breeds bad behavior,” says Allison Weiss in the Daily News. She’s right.

Welcome to the neighborhood. Sorry you got tagged already.

The Streets Department, who we have worked with on several successful projects, maintains that they did not remove any public trashcans along the Avenue south of School House Lane, which would include the zone described above. That is simply not true. We live here. Maybe they were stolen, suggested a commenter on Philly.com. A former representative for Streets told me in early 2011 that several cans were in fact removed because of short-dumping, and that if we wanted the new and improved (but faulty) BigBelly trash compacters, we’d have to advocate for them like other (better organized) neighborhoods have. That is a problem. Some neighborhoods need the City to set an example. On a small scale, removing the public trashcans set the wrong tone. Cue trash explosion.

In addition to business traffic, this route is heavy on pedestrian travel and transit with SEPTA’s long running 23 Bus route traveling along the Avenue. Should SEPTA play a role in handling commuter trash? Probably. Yet, down the road you’ll find zero trashcans surrounding the entire perimeter of Wayne Junction Station.

In the past two years, BigBelly compactors have been placed sporadically along other parts of Germantown Ave, notably at the intersection of Chelten Ave. But as of today, November 14, 2012, there are still no public trashcans between Penn Street, which has a shiny new and already graffitied BigBelly compacter, and Windrim Ave (the trash baskets at Logan were also recently removed). Thats .9 miles of no cans for shoppers, walkers, and transit riders.

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