How Philly recycles and composts trash and garbage after big events

Blog by Nic Esposito, Zero Waste and Litter Director

Food distribution at 2017’s Broad Street Run. Unused food was distributed to a local pantry.

This spring, there’s already been a ton of green on display in Philly with budding trees, flowers, and excited Eagles fans during the NFL Draft.

There’s been another aspect of this season that’s been super green, too: the way the City handled all the garbage and waste from both the NFL Draft and the Broad Street Run!

During each event, the City’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet helped marshal various agencies and organizations together to ensure effective “waste diversion” programs.

In other words, we worked to figure out what to do with all the trash and garbage that happens during big events — and we did so with sustainability in mind!

Some of the innovative tactics we employed included:

  • Putting combination recycling and trash bins all along the Parkway to promote recycling and make it easier for NFL Draft attendees to responsibly dispose of waste.
  • Working with the Mayor’s Office for Community Empowerment and Opportunity to use the Food Connect App, recovering all uneaten food from NFL Draft vendors for distribution in local pantries and meal distribution centers for those in need.
  • Working with food vendors to ensure they all had access to 3-bin systems that allowed fans to recycle, dispose of trash, and compost uneaten food and paper flatware during the draft.
  • Staffing waste bin systems with Waste Watcher volunteers. Organized by the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet and the Office of Sustainability, these volunteers both ensured quality control of materials entering the bins as well as educated attendees on how to properly divert their waste.

    Volunteers with Waste Watchers during the NFL Draft in April 2017.
  • Turning food waste from the NFL Draft into green garbage gold by taking it the Fairmount Park Recycling Center where it was processed into nutrient rich compost to be used in Philadelphia gardens and parks next fall.
  • Ensuring that the paper cups Broad Street Run participants drank out of were lined with carnuba wax, not plastic, so they could be recycled. In the end, we sent along three trash trucks full of used water cups to be composted at the Fairmount Park Recycling Center.
  • Working with Philabundance to recover over 1300 pounds of unused food from the Broad Street Run and distributing the food to a local food pantry.
  • Partnering with Circle Thrift to recover sweatshirts and other outer layers Broad Street runners discarded along the route for resale in Circle Thrift.

Hosting events for hundreds of thousands of people is no easy feat; adding the complexity of diverting recycling and food waste might have been impossible years ago.

But, today, thanks to a collaborative effort across City government, along with great partners outside of government, our efforts were successful!

A lot of people, both locally and nationally, have taken notice of our efforts, too!

In the coming months, the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet will be unveiling a comprehensive plan for how to develop similar strategies citywide, 24/7, 365!

Help Philadelphia grow its sustainability efforts: Sign up for the Waste Watchers email list to get updates on upcoming volunteer opportunities and projects!


Top