Tidbit Tuesday | EcoCamp Streets Litter Index

On Tuesdays, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

Clean streets are one of the key factors that promote walkability. How clean are our streets? This week, we looked at Streets Litter Index from EcoCamp data recently released by the  Philadelphia Streets Department. West and North Philadelphia have among the highest street litter indices in the city, as do other highly populous areas, as seen by the similarities between the Street Litter Index map and population maps below.

Over the past 5 years Philadelphia’s streets have generally become cleaner, as shown by a comparison of litter indices collected in the autumns of 2008 and 2013.  Read more about the Street Department’s UnLitter Us Campaign here.


To get a better idea of where litter ends up, what types of litter are most common, and who pays for cleanup, we took a look at the 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study. As illustrated by the charts below, transitional areas, such as train stations, accumulate the most litter, since they often require that people discard items such as cigarettes and food prior to entry. The most prevalent form of litter is cigarette butts. Nationally, the cost of cleanup mainly falls on businesses, who contribute 79.5% of the funds required to remove litter.

Trash Talk-01

More Streets Department EcoCamp data can be found here.


2 Responses to Tidbit Tuesday | EcoCamp Streets Litter Index

  1. I think this is a positive, well-intentioned introductory analysis on a very important topic. There are a few areas where I’d like to offer (hopefully) constructive criticism to keep in mind for future Tidbit Tuesdays:

    1. It is irresponsible to take a very specific fact, there was less litter in September 2013 than November 2008 and then extrapolate a broad generalization such as “over the past 5 years Philadelphia streets have become significantly cleaner.” For example, a number of circumstances unique to September 2013 could have contributed to low scores when in fact the other 11 months of 2013, and the other 4 intermediary years, are worse than November 2008. The data does not show this. Your statement is most likely true, better supporting evidence would involve using the 6 month cycles to demonstrate a persistent decline.

    2. Sometimes simple really is better. Extruding the maps looks cool, but inhibits your ability to present results clearly.

    3. Try to be clear when comparing different geographic scales. For example, the litter index is based on police districts while the population data is based on census tracts.

    4. Writing a paragraph about the exact information one would gather by looking at the infographic (which I imagine you included because it clearly communicates these findings) is a bit redundant. A potentially better use of the space would be to try to establish a relationship between these national findings and Philadelphia. For example, is there more litter in West and North Philadelphia because businesses in these areas take less of an active role in cleaning it up compared to areas such as center city, which has the CCD?

  2. motuphila215 says:

    Thank you for your feedback. We will take your comments into account.

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