1. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  2. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  3. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  4. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  5. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  6. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  7. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  8. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  9. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  10. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  11. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  12. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  13. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  14. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  15. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  16. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  17. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  18. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  19. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  20. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  21. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  22. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  23. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  24. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  25. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  26. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  27. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  28. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  29. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  30. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  31. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  32. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  33. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  34. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  35. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  36. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  37. THE NATURE GAP
  38. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  39. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  40. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  41. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  42. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  43. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  44. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  45. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  46. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  47. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  48. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  49. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  50. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  51. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  52. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  53. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  54. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  55. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  56. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  57. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  58. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  59. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  60. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  61. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  62. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  63. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  64. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  65. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  66. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  67. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  68. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  69. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  70. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  71. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  72. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  73. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  74. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  75. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  76. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  77. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  78. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  79. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  80. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  81. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  82. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  83. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  84. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  85. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  86. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  87. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  88. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  89. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  90. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  91. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  92. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  93. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  94. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  95. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  96. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  97. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  98. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  99. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  100. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  101. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  102. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  103. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  104. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  105. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  106. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  107. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  108. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  109. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  110. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  111. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  112. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  113. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  114. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  115. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  116. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  117. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  118. Are You Going to Drink That?
  119. The Origins of ecoWURD
  120. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  121. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  122. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  123. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess
Friday, October 22, 2021
  1. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  2. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  3. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  4. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  5. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  6. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  7. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  8. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  9. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  10. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  11. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  12. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  13. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  14. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  15. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  16. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  17. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  18. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  19. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  20. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  21. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  22. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  23. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  24. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  25. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  26. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  27. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  28. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  29. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  30. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  31. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  32. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  33. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  34. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  35. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  36. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  37. THE NATURE GAP
  38. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  39. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  40. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  41. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  42. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  43. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  44. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  45. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  46. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  47. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  48. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  49. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  50. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  51. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  52. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  53. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  54. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  55. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  56. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  57. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  58. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  59. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  60. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  61. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  62. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  63. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  64. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  65. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  66. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  67. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  68. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  69. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  70. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  71. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  72. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  73. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  74. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  75. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  76. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  77. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  78. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  79. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  80. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  81. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  82. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  83. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  84. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  85. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  86. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  87. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  88. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  89. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  90. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  91. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  92. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  93. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  94. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  95. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  96. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  97. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  98. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  99. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  100. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  101. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  102. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  103. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  104. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  105. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  106. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  107. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  108. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  109. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  110. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  111. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  112. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  113. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  114. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  115. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  116. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  117. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  118. Are You Going to Drink That?
  119. The Origins of ecoWURD
  120. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  121. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  122. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  123. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess

Cigarette smoking numbers have been dwindling nationwide, but cigarette butts never go away.

The habit still produces what is, reportedly, the most pervasive litter problem in the nation – and one of the most worse on the planet.

And there are fewer places absorbing as many of those butts as Philadelphia, where smoking rates still trouble city health officials. Among the 30 largest U.S. cities, Philly ranks second (below Detroit) with the highest smoking rates, according to a 2017 Pew Trusts Philadelphia Research Initiative report. While there are many discussions and initiatives on what the city should do about it, the effort to limit the spread of those carcinogenic-spitting critters is lacking, particularly in low-income neighborhoods that need it the most.  

According to the Keep America Beautiful group, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the nation. In KAB’s 2009 “Litter In America,” the group estimated an “overall littering rate for cigarette butts [of] 65%, and tobacco products comprise 38% of all U.S. roadway litter.”

This isn’t just a problem nationwide. The idea of cigarette butts as a major part of the overall litter footprint is globally accepted. KAB’s Australian counterpart, Keep Australia Beautiful, has kept tabs on cigarette butt litter over the past few decades, discovering that it’s the most persistent form of litter across the continent.

Both organizations find that smokers don’t see tossing butts as inappropriate. In fact, most believe they’re being helpful by dropping butts to the ground and stomping the flame out. And as ecoWURD finds, most smokers cite a lack of proper receptacles for their butts – and claim they would use them if visible to the eye.

BARS AND BUTTS

Philly is a bigtime bar town. A stroll through Fishtown, Northern Liberties, Old City, Fairmount, and University City, among other neighborhoods, features some of the town’s most notable watering holes. Outside of these businesses, folks grabbing a smoke with friends is a common sight – along with smokers mindlessly flicking their butts to the ground as many before them have done for centuries. Reflexive cigarette tossing is compounded by all patrons viewing this non-stop litter exercise as an unwitting license to pile more trash on top of it.

The entry to some of these businesses – referred to as “transition points” by many anti-litter advocates – lack proper ways to discard cigarette butts. Even though many establishments provide receptacles for butts, it’s hard to determine an exact number of spaces who do. As a result, broader efforts by the city have been in motion to eradicate cigarette tips on the ground.

Some organizations have even found ways to recycle what seems like the unrecyclable.

TerraCycle, a Trenton, N.J.-based organization founded by Tom Szaky, a former Princeton University student, aims to capitalize on butt-tossing culture. By way of a Philly.com profile , bars across the city can purchase a $99 flame and weather resistant box for placement at the transition points. Subcontractors then take the waste to a processing center in Trenton, which transfers it to a Midwest plant where the material is broken down to a reusable state. That material builds ashtrays, fence posts, and even park benches.

TerraCycle has only been in operation for six years, but its goal to recycle all manner of waste is ambitious. An attempt made by ecoWURD to get hard numbers on how many receptacles are sold and distributed proved fruitless. “We don’t keep track of how many receptacles have been sold,” said a TerraCycle spokesperson. “We also have confidentiality agreements in place for our current customers.” Make Philadelphia Beautiful, an organization that receives grant money to install those receptacles, didn’t return our calls for comment on their business with Terracycle.

PHILADELPHIA IS A SMOKING CAPITOL

Meanwhile, Philly is still a bit of a smokestack.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed in its 500 Cities report that Philadelphia ranked second among major American cities that smoke the most. More than a quarter of the population reported themselves as smokers, falling behind Detroit, MI at nearly 30 percent and tied with Louisville, KY, yet edging out Memphis, TN at fourth.

Tobacco Free Kids recently examined the effects of the landmark 20-year old $246 billion Master Settlement Agreement between cigarette manufacturers and Attorneys General of 46 states.  It revealed that many states are still underfunding tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and that includes the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania spent just $15.8 million in Fiscal Year 2018 … far short of the CDC’s recommended $140 million, or just a little over 11 percent of the recommended total. Incidentally, that same report discovered that, in the meantime, Big Tobacco spent $415 million in Pennsylvania-targeted marketing funds.

Yet, nearly 13 percent of smokers are high school students, along with an estimated annual health care cost to the state of $6.3 billion.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE BUTTS?

The city has responded to its cigarette butt litter issue by supporting a pair of small measures that highlighted the TerraCycle group: Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB), and the North Broad Renaissance (NBR). Race is a factor in that clean-up effort even if the city doesn’t mention it.  Black neighborhoods are the ones most impacted by litter, as seen via Clean PHL’s Litter Index map. But the litter-free strategies in those locations are limited.


Clean PHL points to “Helping Philly Communities Combat Cigarette Litter with Keep Philadelphia Beautiful” and touts the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet joining forces with KPB. This program would provide microgrants to neighborhood groups that would purchase cigarette butt litter receptacles. Among the grant money recipients Clean PHL named – including Fishtown Neighbors Association, the People’s Emergency Center, Chinatown Community Development Corporation, and Mayfair Community Development Corporation – none were Black. were the groups Clean PHL named as grant money recipients.  

Attempts to find out which neighborhoods put up receptacles was not easily determined. The Clean PHL page also doesn’t fully list where receptacles are getting placed, but asked readers to tweet images during their jaunts in West Philly, Fishtown, Mayfair, and Chinatown to its social media accounts.

The “That’s Your Butt!” campaign from NBR was also profiled on Clean PHL’s page, highlighting how the program routinely conducts surveys along the bustling North Broad corridor. In NBR’s 2017 State of North Broad report, it determined that cigarette litter was a top culprit. NBR also received support from Keep Philadelphia Beautiful to place receptacles along the corridor at a cost just shy of $12,000.

BUTT LITTER AND THE BLACK PUBLIC GOOD

Efforts made by community organizations and the city itself point to a need to raise awareness on how to combat cigarette litter. Yet, based on data and public documents found online, there isn’t much emphasis on Philadelphia’s poor communities of color. Low-income Black Philadelphians, appear frozen out of the large-scale efforts at environmental balance. A 2017 The Rooftop blog riffs on what the author experienced walking through North Philly. He echoes a common refrain from organizers and other sources that these issues affecting Black communities the most are – at best – low-tier priorities.

“Litter represents a much larger issue than laziness or ineptness,” Rooftop notes.It’s also a municipality issue, where trash and its environmental impact pales in comparison with the daily struggles of abject poverty. Does Black Philly see this issue as something it can collectively work to solve? Rooftop’s thoughts are centered, for example, on how the influence of Black churches can factor into reversing the troubled state of Philadelphia’s environment.


The city maintains – via its Streets department and the efforts of Clean PHL, as well as Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet – that all litter (especially cigarette butts) remains a priority worth tackling. Yet, it’s unclear if those efforts extend beyond the bustling bars and businesses and into the less tidy hoods that have fallen into disrepair. If education and elimination is the key, finding a simple pathway to help make all of Philadelphia as litter-free as possible must be a priority, too.