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Photo: Matt Rourke

The Philadelphia mayor's office has unveiled an expansive plan to clean up “Filthadelphia,” and they're enlisting Penn's help.

The Zero Waste and Litter Action Plan, initiated by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, aims to reduce litter in the city and end the city’s use of landfills and conventional incinerators by 2035. To implement the plan, the Kenney administration partnering with various local institutions including Temple University, Swarthmore College and Penn.  

“Litter is an issue that has plagued Philly for a very long time,” Nic Esposito, the director of Philly’s Zero Waste Plan said. “Being that we have so much crossover with [Penn’s] sustainability office and now with some of their research, we’re exciting to be working with Penn on this issue.”

Penn political science professor Dan Hopkins has been enlisted as an academic partner to work on the reduction of litter. 

As a member of the project’s behavioral science subcommittee, Hopkins conducts experiments throughout the city to better understand what motivates people to recycle and how the placement of trash cans in public spaces can reduce littering. 

“I’ve been excited to see behavioral science integrated in this work from the ground up,” Hopkins said. “The city had the foresight to bring us in not just on the back end to analyze what happened afterwards, but from the very beginning so we can provide advice about what policies would be more or less useful.”

The Kenney administration devised the Zero Waste 2035 campaign late last year, but Penn has been working to clean up its campus for several years now. 

In 2014, Penn launched the Climate Action Plan 2.0, which aimed to divert more than 90 percent of Penn's away from landfills. The initiative also aims to increase student awareness on sustainability and climate change, promote sustainable design and reduce solid waste. 

College junior Karen Chi is a member of the Eco-Reps program, which engages students to work on small projects that advance the goals of Climate Action Plan 2.0.  

Chi said while Penn keeps its campus fairly litter-free, she thinks more trash cans could be placed near food trucks since they generate a large amount of waste. Chi isn't alone; several other student groups on campus say more needs to be done to make Penn a truly clean and green campus. 

The Penn Environmental Group advocates for the establishment of a green fund, which would set aside a portion of University revenue for future, large-scale green initiatives such as increasing the use of solar panels around campus, and adding gardens and water-collection technology to buildings.

“We want to make sure it’s targeted and doesn’t become another research fund that students don’t know about or understand, but specifically a fund that will be making Penn more sustainable and innovative,” said Susan Radov, political director of the Penn Environmental Group and College junior. 

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