It turns out knowing what to recycle in Philly isn't the hardest part of actually recycling.

It turns out knowing what to recycle in Philly isn't the hardest part of actually recycling.

Paige Gross

Why it’s so hard to get a Philly recycling bin

Those blue bins are elusive.

Paige Gross Headshot

As hard as Philly residents try, recycling within city limits is no easy feat.

Since the city began supplying its residents with recycling bins in 1993, the program has grown — more materials are now accepted by sanitation collection services and the pick-up days have increased from twice a month to every week. The size of bins used for collection have also grown from the original 12-gallon bins to today’s much larger 32-gallon receptacles.

But many Philadelphians still struggle to figure out what they can recycle, how they can get it picked up and where the heck they can get those city-issued blue bins.

Keisha McCarty-Skelton from the Streets Department told Billy Penn between 40,000 and 60,000 bins are distributed by the city each year; 36,300 have been given out so far this year. The city obtains them through a contract with Peninsula Plastics, based in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

Any city resident can head to their nearest Sanitation Convenience Center and pick up a bin for free, with proof of residency.

But it isn’t necessarily that easy. When bins run out, it can be hard to track one down.

In mid-March, Billy Penn reached out to each center, with only one saying they currently had bins available for pick-up. The Port Richmond center said it was out of bins and probably wouldn’t have more until the end of May. The North Philadelphia location was also out, as well as the Southwest center, which told us to try calling back on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday. No assurances though — they didn’t have a set time for more bins to come in. The Northeast location was also out, and said it wouldn’t have more until the end of April.

The Northwest Philadelphia sanitation center told Billy Penn late in February that they were currently out of bins and were “hoping to get more in the next week or two.”

Nearly a month later, the center said that they’re still out and still “hoping to get them in soon.” Bin seekers should try another center.

“There are times when supply can exceed demand before crews can replenish a location,”McCarty-Skelton said. “Delivery of bins is provided as soon as possible upon notification.”

When Billy Penn reached out to the Northwest center on March 31, they had gotten a new supply. So had the Port Richmond, West Philadelphia and Northeast locations. The Southwest center was still waiting and gave the same advice to call back next week on Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

Many see city-approved bins as a hot commodity — so much so that they’re often stolen, like this Reddit user laments.

Recycling will be accepted in most neighborhoods if put out in paper bags, but the city struggles enough with sanitation collection during the winter months, thanks to wind and inclement weather.

Instead, in a bin shortage, residents can use any bin up to 32 gallons, as long as “recycling” is written clearly on it, or the city-issued recycling sticker is added. Many neighborhood associations try to get a hold of bins for its residents, like the The South of South Neighborhood Association.

Other neighborhood groups, like the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association, have taken the issue into their own hands. NLNA posted on its website in September that the city-issued bins were too small for many neighborhood residents, so the organization bought bins in bulk and gave them to residents for a preferred $15 donation to the association.

Green Philly created this collection of centers and organizations that often have bins, but residents interested in picking them up should call to check if they’re available. Make sure you know what can and can’t be recycled. (Sorry — no greasy pizza boxes or cassette tapes here, but piles of junk mail are a go.)

You can grab a bin at the Northwest, Port Richmond, West Philadelphia and Northwest locations as of today, but there’s no telling how long they’ll last.

So, go. Like, right now.

 

 

 

 

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