Tag Archives: Illegal Dumpsites

Residential Neighborhood Trash Dumping

Residential trash dumping is a major source of street trash. This post examines Philly311 data for one south Philadelphia block to shown the chronic nature of residential trash dumping and to demonstrate how Philadelphia can use existing data resources to identify and tackle our trash problem.

S 19th & Hoffman Streets

The vacant lot on the NW corner of S 19th & Hoffman Streets has proven to be a chronic residential trash dumping site. Philly311 has recorded 53 Illegal Dumping Service Requests for this intersection since Dec., 2015, when the City started the current Philly311 system.

This Google StreetView from June, 2011 shows that this intersection is no stranger to illegal dumping. Notice the trash pile on the right side of the image from 6 years ago.

The following 12 photos are some  of the photos submitted to Philly311 by Philadelphia residents between February 7 and April 5, 2017.

Click any photo to start slideshow:


These photos demonstrate that the Hoffman & S 19th Streets area has a longstanding, chronic residential trash dumping problem that has not been effectively addressed.

  • Philly311 recorded and processed illegal dumping service requests for S 19th & Hoffman Streets 53 times
  • Streets Department dispatched crews to remove residential trash dumping multiple times
  • Neither Philly311 or Streets Department recognized the repetitive nature of the S 19th & Hoffman Streets residential trash dumping
  • No assessment of the S 19th & Hoffman Streets trash problem was made
  • No corrective action plan was developed
  • No remedial action was undertaken

My Illegal Dumping Hot Spot Analysis (link) shows that Philadelphia has dozens of residential trash dumping sites like the S 19th & Hoffman Streets site.

Philadelphia has the data, both Philly311 service requests and Streets Department work requests to identify and address residential trash hot spots. Unfortunately, no one is using the existing data to identify and address the residential trash dumping issue. While it is important to clean up trash dump sites, we must add an identification and prevention strategy/capability if we hope to reduce future street trash.

The Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet will be rolling out a new Litter Index database that will help tackle the City’s trash problem. My take-home message is that we need more than data to solve our trash problems, we need management processes to use the data to understand the causes of our trash problems, identify and take corrective actions and measure progress.

We need to assess our current trash collection policies and procedures:

  • Is City-wide once a week trash collection adequate?
  • Are there some neighborhoods that require more frequent trash collection? The S 19th & Hoffman Streets example shows that some areas need more frequent trash pickup.
  • Do we have adequate analytical capabilities in the Streets Department – Phill311 to identify chronic problem areas. The Police Department has an impressive Crime Stats capability that identifies problem areas and supports management efforts to adjust practices as needed. Philly311 and Streets Department need comparable capabilities.

Using Data to Tackle Philadelphia’s Street Trash Problem

Illegal dumping is a growing problem in Philadelphia (link)!  We need to understand  types – locations – frequency of  dumping to stop it. We have the data, we need better data analysis to effectively manage our trash problem.

Here are 3 charts that demonstrate how we can diagnose our trash dumping problem using January, 2017 311 illegal dumping service requests where citizens submitted photos.

Illegal Dumping Trash Types


Illegal Dumping Locations


Illegal Dumping Trash Events


Here’s what we can learn by studying the January, 2017 illegal dumping service requests.

  1. 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%).
  2. 66% of illegal dumping requests  occurred on sidewalks, followed by 15% on/near vacant lots – buildings.
  3. 58% of dumping requests occurred at single event sites, 27% at multiple event sites ad 5% at chronic dumping sites.
  4. Big Belly’s accounted for 5% of Philadelphia illegal dumping service request sites.
  5. Loose litter accumulation accounted for 5% of Philadelphia’s 311 illegal dumping service requests.


Using 311 Request Data to Understand Philadelphia’s Street Trash Problem

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:

  1. 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%).
  2. 66% of illegal dumping requests  occurred on sidewalks, followed by 15% on/near vacant lots – buildings.
  3. 58% of dumping requests occurred at single event sites, 27% at multiple event sites ad 5% at chronic dumping sites.
  4. Big Belly’s accounted for 5% of Philadelphia illegal dumping service request sites.
  5. Loose litter accumulation accounted for 5% of Philadelphia’s 311 illegal dumping service requests.


2900 Block N 19th Street Trash: Sept., 2016 and Jan., 2017 Views

Google Street View and Philly311 are 2 sources of photographs of street trash in Philadelphia.  A concerned Philadelphia resident submitted an illegal dumping service request for 2953–2999 N 19th St to 311 on Jan 2nd.  They included this photo.2900_bl_n_19th_st_311_photo

Here’s the Google Street View of the same location taken in Sept., 2016, just 3-4 months ago.2900_bl_n_19th_st_google_st_view

Yes, things have gotten worse in the past 3-4 months.  The tires and furniture have been dumped since Google passed by in Sept.

One of the key facts I have observed about trash dumpers, they return to the same dump sites over and over.

here are the same photos side-by-side for those who want to make a more detailed comparison.

Is Philadelphia Winning or Loosing the Street Trash Problem?

Philadelphia has a major illegal dumping problem  that contributes to the

311 Photo District 8: Furniture Dumping

311 Photo District 8: Furniture Dumping

City’s street trash problem. I have written about it in several previous posts (here, here, here). Philadelphia’s TV broadcast stations 6ABC and NBC10 have both reported on the problem.

The City has been fighting street trash for years. Penn Future’s Next Great City identified trash as one of the major priorities in the 2015 mayoral election (link).

So how is Philadelphia doing in our efforts to “clean-up our City”? Good question, unfortunately we do not have a clear, valid answer.

City Illegal Dumping Programs

Philadelphia has several programs to tackle illegal dumping, including the Streets Departments 6 Sanitation Convenience Centers, 311 illegal dumping service request responses and the Community Life Improvement Program’s (CLIP) vacant lot clean-ups.

Let’s take a look at the 311 Illegal Dumping and Vacant Lot Cleanup service requests trends to see how often our citizens report street trash issues.311_11_30_16_trend

The trend does not look good. We clearly have a seasonal trend, with higher number of requests in the summer months and lower 311 calls in cooler months. The 2016 fall numbers are considerably higher than the fall, 2015 call count.

My personal observations of District 8 trash hot spots indicate indicates that as soon as the City cleans up an illegal dump, it is re-trashed. Clean-ups are essential, however, we must increase our prevention efforts if we hope to slow the illegal dumping wave that is filling many of our streets and vacant properties with trash.

Why is Illegal Dumping So Critical to Street Trash Control?

Illegal dumping control is absolutely critical to an effective street trash control. Dumping is so rampant that many City agencies and others avoid proving trash receptacles in highly littered locations because past experience has taught them that trash receptacles are often attract residential and construction trash dumping.

Residential trash dumping does not make sense in a City with “free” weekly residential trash collection. yet we see residential trash across our City.  Residents can bring bulky items to one of the 6 Convenience Centers, yet we see many bulky trash items left along our roads.

I ask the Mayor and City Council to re-assess our street trash programs and see what we need to do to increase dumping prevention efforts, including increased camera and police surveillance in known trash dumping areas.

District 8 Illegal Dumps: 3/15/16 Report

I have written about District 8’s litter and illegal dumping previously( link, link, link). I took a quick survey of the illegal dump sites that I reported about in my previous posts.

Here is a slideshow of the 5 District 8 illegal dump sites I checked today.

Philadelphia has a serious illegal dumping problem which will not be solved by quick fixes, City Council and the Mayor must address this with Police action as well as serious fines/ vehicle confiscation.

Phila City Council Working on 5 Trash – Litter Bills

City Council is beginning to get serious about Philadelphia’s litter & trash problems. There are now 5 litter – trash bills moving through City Council:
  1. Bill 150198 – requires food stores to provide trash & recycling bins for patrons
  2. Bill 150217 – requires rental property landlords to provide secure trash & recycling containers in common areas
  3. Bill 150275 – requires construction waste plan for construction greater than $10,000
  4. Bill 150276 – requires all construction debris to be placed in construction dumpsters
  5. Bill 150373 – Single Use Bag Fee – regulates use of single-use bags and establishes fee for consumer use of single-use bags

Bills 150198 & 150217 have passed the Committee on the Environment and are now up for Council approval.

Bills 150275 and 150276 will be scheduled for committee hearing by Committee on Licenses and Inspections.

The single use bag bill (Bill 150373) will be assigned to a committee for a public hearing.

If you care about litter & trash in Philadelphia, this is a key time to get involved! City Council’s 17 members will be voting on these 5 bills in the coming months. Please speak up to both your District Council Member and the At-large Council Members. We need all 5 bills to start to get control of our litter – trash problem.