City of Philadelphia quadruples recycling rate in just four years

Philadelphia was the first city in the United States to pass a comprehensive curbside recycling law, so it was a shock to many city planners when they found out that only 5 percent of the city's residents recycled their trash in the early 2000s. However, with a combination of single-stream recycling programs, public awareness campaigns and increased revenue, the City of Brotherly Love has come a long way toward creating a greener community, according to

The process to increase the city's recycling rate was a long series of trial and error. The area's first recycling program required residents to separate their recyclables - cans in one container, glass in another bin and so on. This extra work discouraged many residents, so the city rolled out its own single-stream recycling initiative which allowed them to put all of these materials, as well as cardboard and plastic. However, the biggest boost from the recycling program has to be the added revenue that the properly disposed waste has generated.

"We're at an all time high of $65 a ton for recycling for the city of Philadelphia. That is phenomenal," Carlton Williams, deputy commissioner of the Streets Department, told the news source. "We're paying $66.50 a ton when we're throwing things away as trash."

What sets Philadelphia apart from other urban areas is the city's SWEEP (Streets Walkways Education and Enforcement Program) program. This group puts city employees to work roaming the streets to help streamline the recycling process and hand out warnings and tickets to residents who aren't doing their part. This extra incentive has worked wonders to increase Philadelphia's recycling rate, and it has helped put people back to work as well.