I think that one of the most amazing aspects about Monument Lab is the agency it gives Philadelphians to shape the identity and future of their city. Known for its litter problem, Philadelphia has taken on the nickname of “Filthadelphia.” I’ve known some passionate Philadelphians who take pride in this moniker, as it captures the “grit” of their city. However, it is admittedly a less-than-glamorous title, and more and more Philadelphians have been pushing to clean up the streets and rebrand the city.
There have been many proposals submitted over the course of Monument Lab that have addressed the trash problem in Philadelphia. Folks have proposed many different ways of cleaning up our neighborhood streets, and raising awareness of the problem.
Some of these proposals are very straightforward in their goal to reduce littering. They call for more trash cans on city blocks, in hopes that they would discourage people from throwing trash in the street. Jerry Cavill and S. Cohen recognize the prevalence of the littering problem in Philadelphia, and point to the reputation that the city has developed. Mohammed draws from their personal experience of noticing a shortage of public trash cans around their own neighborhood. Each of these respondents are from different areas in Philadelphia - spanning from Upper Darby, to Fairmount, to North Philadelphia, showing the extent of the “Filthadelphia” problem.
Mark’s proposal for more trash cans around the city takes a Philadelphia-cultural twist. They propose trash cans shaped like cartons of Arctic Splash - a signature piece of litter in the Fishtown neighborhood (http://www.fishtownjuice.com/). While Mark is not the first person to try this approach (http://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/07/25/fishtown-juice-arctic-splash-cartons-litterbug-scourge-works-art/) , perhaps this pointed and creative nod to a piece of “Filthadelphia” culture will encourage more people to think about their actions.
These last 3 proposals are a little less subtle about the problem that they aim to address. Yannick and Angela Mele both propose pieces of art that are created from the trash that Philadelphians produce. This puts the problem in plain sight, and could not only speak to the litter problem in the city, but also encourage people to be more cognizant about the waste that they produce, and suggest efforts toward a more sustainable Philadelphia. While Catlyn’s proposal does not display the actual garbage that is produced in the city, it does illustrate the reality of the litter problem, and its effect on the city’s environment.
In the past few years, Mural Arts has been active in the conversation of facilitating a cleaner Philadelphia. Their projects like Trash Academy (https://www.muralarts.org/artworks/trash-academy/) and Litter Critter bins (http://www.philadelphiastreets.com/sanitation/the-bigbelly-program/litter-critter-big-bellies) have encouraged communities to start talking about waste and sustainability, as well as act on collective social responsibilities relating to trash. Maybe these proposals will be a start to another project that will leave the “Filthadelphia” title in the past.
Header image: Trash receptacle made from recycled materials at 7th and Jackson Streets in South Philadelphia. Photo by Steve Weinik. Mural Arts Philadelphia.