My most recent report on Philadelphia Street Trash includes this hot spot analysis of Philly311 Illegal Dumping Service Requests. You can download the report here.
Philadelphia’s 311 OpenData is an excellent research tool to investigate our street trash problem. Philadelphia has used data to fight crime (link) for a long time, it’s now time to use Philadelphia’s 311 data to fight street trash!
We have many of the basic tools necessary for implementing a state-of-the-art street trash management system comparable to our crime data system. We need to increase the City’s focus on street trash and integrate our many resources into a concerted program to address this chronic problem.
In this post I want to show how the City’s 311 data system can be used to better understand our street trash problem and identify potential control strategies based on resident provided street trash data.
Analysis of January, 2017 311 Illegal Dumping Service Requests
There were 1,277 illegal dumping service requests in January, 2017 (link). My earlier posts showed that illegal dumping service requests are increasing and that illegal dumping requests are increasing as a portion of all 311 field service requests (link). What can we learn about the types and locations of trash being dumped?
We can use the photos submitted by 311 users to classify the requests by type of trash, dump site location and dump situation conditions. That’s just what I did.
I downloaded the 1,277 January, 2017 illegal dumping service requests from OpenDataPhilly, selected those requests that had usable photos (302 ) and then classified request by Trash Description, Dump Location Description, and Dump Site Characteristics. Here is a link to my on-line Google Sheet where you can view the classifications and check out the photos.
Click the Link field to view the resident’s submitted image. A new window will pop up showing the actual url with a small arrow . Click the arrow to navigate to the resident’s image.
I used a series of pivot tables to summaries of the Jan, 2017 illegal dumping requests. Here’s what I found out:
- Residential trash (36%) was the most common type of dumping request, followed by tires and construction debris (12% each), mattresses (10%), mix of trash types (9%) and TVs (7%).
- 66% of illegal dumping requests occurred on sidewalks, followed by 15% on/near vacant lots – buildings.
- 58% of dumping requests occurred at single event sites, 27% at multiple event sites ad 5% at chronic dumping sites.
- Big Belly’s accounted for 5% of Philadelphia illegal dumping service request sites.
- Loose litter accumulation accounted for 5% of Philadelphia’s 311 illegal dumping service requests.
In my February 2nd post, I showed how Philadelphia’s Illegal Dumping 311 requests have been rising since the City started systematic data collection in 2015 (link).
Philadelphia’s 311 calls and on-line requests have been growing since January, 2015, so it is fair to ask whether Illegal Dumping requests are increasing as a share of all 311 service requests. I will give a quick answer then I will explain how I arrived at the answer for those interested in the details.
Yes, Illegal Dumping is increasing as a percentage of all 311 field service requests, as shown in the chart below.
Since information and directory assistance calls are included in the 311 OpenDataPhilly file, I removed them from the 1.2 million 311 records to determine the identify the field service requests. I then computed the Illegal Dumping requests as a percentage of the monthly field service requests, as shown above.
The illegal dumping trend is quite clear. Philadelphia residents are submitting more and more illegal dumping requests to 311 each month. The exception was January, 2016. It turns out that we had a 22.4 inch snow storm on January 24th which depressed the number of illegal dumping requests as residents had the pressing challenge of shoveling snow.
This is just a small example of the important information hidden i the City’s 311 raw data. Now that we have a well organized 311 data reporting and tracking system, we need to move forward with a routine analysis of our 311 data to understand trends and patterns.
Philadelphia Police’s Crime & Maps web page provides an excellent example of how we should use the City’s 311 data to prepare regular management reports for City officials, Council members and residents.
Philadelphia has a street trash problem that is being mislabeled as a litter problem. We all understand litter, the soda bottle, snack food wrapper that is tossed on the sidewalk. Unfortunately we tend to use litter for all “street trash”, both gross illegal dumping and the extraneous snack food wrapper.
I have started using street trash to label all street-sidewalk-vacant lot-park space debris, including tires, TVs, mattresses, bulky items-furniture, residential trash as well as the pedestrian snack food droppings. All is trash, all has wound up in our common space, hence the term street trash.
Here are several Philadelphia 311 illegal dumping service request photos taken from the 311 OpenDataPhilly website (link) on Monday, February 6, 2017.
Big Belly overflowing with trash. Notice plastic bag with happy face next to Big Belly.
Excess trash will eventually fall to sidewalk.
Illegal Dumping -bags of trash may rip,spill, and scatter over a wide area, appearing to be “litter” when it is actually trash.
Illegal Dumping – bags will rip and scatter trash, appearing to be “litter”
Street Litter – where did it come from? Was it dropped by pedestrian or dumped in a bag that ripped and spill trash?
Street Litter – looks like residential trash bag opened and spilled
We will only have clean streets when we address and begin to control our illegal dumping crisis. Much of what we call litter actually start as bags of residential trash that are placed on a sidewalk by someone unwilling to wait until the next trash day.
Let’s start to call all dumpers by their right name, DUMPERS. An old mattress or soda bottle tossed on the sidewalk comes from the same thoughtless behavior. We need to go after all dumpers, big and small.
Philadelphia’s Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet (link, link) is a great opportunity for Philadelphia to begin to control out waste & trash future. It is absolutely critical that we recognize the importance of illegal dumping in litter efforts. We need to tackle both illegal dumping and litter to get our streets to the cleanliness level that we want.
LA is using ArcMap, dashcam, GPS and cameras to develop detailed street cleanliness index. Click this link to see an interactive Story Map of this innovative use of GIS to tackle a pressing urban problem.
Cleanliness Indexes are available by 39,915 street segment and are summarized into operational grids.
Philadelphia, like LA, has a serious street trash problem. We need to dramatically improve our street cleanliness efforts. Following LA’s Clean Streets Index would be an excellent start for the Mayor’s Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet.
Philadelphia has been using a litter index to assess street trash conditions since 2007 (link). Here is the most recent litter index, downloaded from OpenDataPhilly. The actual dates for the litter survey data is not provided.
Philadelphia’s Litter Index provides a 1-4 composite score for 111 trash collection day area in the City. The City’s meta data file states:
The Litter Index is used to compare the relative cleanliness of different areas of the city of Philadelphia. he relative cleanliness of different areas of the city of Philadelphia.
Originally created in 2007, the Litter Index is used to compare the relative cleanliness of different areas of the city. The Litter Index is scored on a 1-4 scale with 1 being minimal litter and 4 being extremely littered.
The City’s Litter Index has a number of shortcomings which limit its usefulness as a City trash hot spot identification and management tool.
- Data collection is based on relatively large areas, with an average of 2.2 square miles. Seriously trash street segments are masked when the data is averaged over such a large area.
- Street Litter Index Values for specific areas vary widely from survey to survey, raising concerns about the reliability of the underlying methodology (link).
- There is no relationship between 311 Illegal Dumping Service Requests and Street Litter Index.
Los Angeles has developed a Street Cleanliness Index (link) which provides detailed street segment by segment data not available in Philadelphia’s index.
Here is a short video describing how LA used a dashcam, smartphone camera and ArcGIS to score each street segment in LA.
LA uses assigns a 1 to 3 cleanliness score for Loose Litter, Illegal Dumping, Weeds and Bulky Items as well as a composite score. Here is an example of the LA Cleanliness Score Map , showing segments with Clean, Somewhat Clean and Not Clean scores.
With the LA method, the Not Clean (red) segments standout. Philadelphia needs to adopt a detailed street litter index score system like LA so that we can pinpoint the badly trash street segments and begin getting our trash problems under control.
A vigilant 311 reported submitted this image at 01/05/2017 07:33:19 AM showing a dumped TV at 5800 Kemble Street.
Lets look at this dump site and the City’s Sanitation Convenience Centers.
Three of the 6 Centers are sjhown on this map along with the TV dump site to show the distance between teh dump site and a proper disposal site.
The Strawberry Mansion and NW Center are about 6 miles from this TV dump site. The dumper had a choice, he/she could have taken the old TV to one of these stations 6 days of the week, yet chose to dump it on the street corner. Why?
There are 2 main reasons why TVs get dumped on our streets:
- Many, if not most, Philadelphians are not aware of the City’s Sanitation Convenience Centers and their acceptance of old TVs and other electronic 6 days a week as well as mattresses, tires and other typical dump materials..
- The Dumper knows about the City’s Centers but simply chose to dump, rather than take the little extra time to bring it to one o fhte Centers.
The City’s San Convenience centers are an excellent program to try and help City residents handle trash between trash collection days.
Here are 4 simple recommendations for how the City can increase use of these Centers and reduce illegal street dumping:
- Public Service Announcements by all elected (City, State, Federal) officials in Philadelphia advising their constituents of the location of the nearest Convenience Center, days of operation and list of materials accepted.
- All Philadelphia Community Development Corporations and Neighborhood distribute public service announcements to their participants about the city’s Sanitation Convenience Centers.
- Mayor Kenney’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet review the success of the 6 centers and assess whether additional centers in high dump areas could help reduce illegal dumping.
- Mayor Kenney’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet conduct pilot study to see if a neighborhood based services can be provided to collect materials from eligible residents and transfer this material to a Convenience Center. This could help in those situation where resident needs help to get the trash to one of the 6 Centers.