Primary Source Report-JM

The Risks of Filthadelphia: How “Cash for Trash” Programs Affect the Lower Class

Student Name: Juli Matlack

Project Site: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Source 1: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Title: “Recycling Bill Passed by Council”

Date: June 12, 1987

Page: 1A, 12A

              This newspaper article discusses the passing of Philadelphia’s first mandated recycling law. Philadelphia was the first major US city to pass a mandating law like this. The article describes the opinions of those who both agree and disagree with the recycling plan, including critiques about logistics and costs. This article helps me to describe the community’s views towards mandating recycling while also suggesting that Philadelphia’s inefficiency was caused by a rushed law with logistical flaws.

Source 2: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Title: “Recycling Off to a Slow Start”

Date: February 10, 1988

Page: 1B, 2B

              This is a newspaper article that was published the year after Philadelphia passed its mandated recycling law. It describes the “slow start” for the program and outlines problems that are affecting the efficiency, which includes lack of program promotion, suitable recycling trucks, and community participation. I will use this article to explain Philly’s efficiency problems and show how the city will end up depending on recycling collectors participating in cash-for-trash programs to meet their program participation goal.

Source 3: The New York Times

Title: “Philadelphia Recycling: ‘It’s a Living’”

Date: August 9, 1987

Page: 39

              This is a newspaper article that describes how recycling collectors make money by collecting recyclable material and sell it to a local recycling center. Participants in the voluntary buy-back programs are referred to as recycling collectors, scrap haulers, scavengers, and more similar nicknames. Recycling collectors are acknowledged in this article as the “first line of defense” for Philadelphia’s stringent new recycling laws. This article also explains the history of the nickname “Filthadelphia”. I’ll be using this article as a source to describe the city official’s reliance on lower-class buy-back programs. Without such programs and collectors, Philadelphia’s need to control recycling costs would be damaged. I’ll also reference this article when describing the majority of citizens’ lack of participation in mandated recycling programs.

Source 4: The New York Times

Title: “Ed Woolard Walks DuPont’s Tightrope”

Date: October 14, 1990

Page: F1

              This source is another newspaper article. Ed Woolard is DuPont Company’s chief executive and took responsibility for the recyclable materials the company discards. In this article, Woolard is quoted to say that corporations are more capable of solving environmental problems than government or environmental groups, placing more responsibility on companies. This source caught my eye because to me it suggests that Philadelphia’s recycling law and programs depend not only on legislation or scrap haulers, but it also depends on companies taking responsibility for their own material. I think that the reliance here helps to portray the lack of self-sufficiency that Philly’s program has. Also, companies with political or economic power may avoid taking responsibility for their pollution or waste through connections they have, which may create possibilities for corruption throughout the city.

Source 5: Waste360

Title: “Recycling on the Streets of Philadelphia”

Date: August 1994


              This is a magazine article that describes the challenges Philadelphia faced after implementing the recycling law. These challenges include participation and budget problems. It is mentioned here that higher-class neighborhoods were the main contributors to curbside recycling pickup. There was little participation in lower-class neighborhoods, which Philadelphia recognized and resolved by developing a cash incentive for the neighborhood that improved participation rates the most. This displays what I believe is a type of extortion of the lower-class citizens by defining how Philadelphia legislation was failing to enforce recycling and turned to cash incentives to encourage lower-class communities, knowing that few people could pass on the offer.

Source 6: BioCycle

Title: “Big City Recycling Moves Forward”

Date: July 1993

Page: 30-34

              This is a magazine article about Philadelphia becoming more efficient with curbside recycling pickup. There is a section in this magazine about drop off programs for impoverished neighborhoods. This is when a neighborhood collects their recyclable materials and drops it off at a designated corner of the neighborhood for city recycling employees to pick up. Neighborhoods are paid for their contribution and put the revenue back into the community. This source is helpful for showing how different types of buy-back programs are lucrative for impoverished neighborhoods. It also helps to define problems that would occur if curbside pickup was implemented in these communities, which would remove their opportunity of income. Curbside pickup was implemented and efficient in wealthier communities where recycling participation rates were higher, and this may be because these neighborhoods were the minority and did not take long to drive through or collect materials from.

Source 7: BioCycle

Title: “New Approach to Lower Program Costs”

Date: July 1992

Page: 35

            This is a magazine article about how cities planned to make new recycling programs more affordable without raising taxes or taking money from other government-funded programs, like schools. It describes how Philadelphia cut costs by making recycling pickup biweekly instead of weekly. I’ll use this source to further elaborate on Philadelphia’s rush to implement a program with little or inefficient logistical pre-planning.


class, business, toxics, pollution, recycling