by Amy Edelman
For the past two years, in collaboration with various community groups, GReen in Chestnut Hill (aka GRinCH) has been working to bring pedestrian recycling to Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill.

Chestnut Hill has proven to be a community that values recycling. We are the neighborhood that launched Recycle Bank in Philadelphia. Our “recycling diversion rate” – the amount of total refuse that was diverted to recycling – for the period July 1, 2010, to March 31, 2011, was 27.4 percent, as compared to the citywide average for this period of about 18 percent.

GRinCH began by investigating the possibility of having pedestrian recycling cans, identical in style to the current trashcans, placed on the Hill. But there were two major obstacles: new cans are extremely expensive and, more importantly, the City of Philadelphia in the past two years has moved to the “BigBelly” solar-powered trash compactors and recycling units citywide. The city will only service this type of recycling unit.

Then, about a year ago, the Chestnut Hill Business Association received a call from the City’s Recycling Department offering Chestnut Hill 15 free BigBelly units (funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the U.S. Department of Energy).

The CHBA contacted GRinCH and suggested that we take it to the Business Improvement District. We met with the BID and then last fall met with representatives of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, BID, CHBA, and the city’s Streets Department. Seth Shapiro, president of the BID, suggested that we place a BigBelly unit in front of the Night Kitchen Bakery for the community to see and use.

These are the benefits of using BigBelly recycling units for single-stream recycling of items that presently go into our trash containers on the sidewalk:

They would enable pedestrians on Germantown Avenue to recycle on the go, just as we recycle at our homes.

• They conserve natural resources.

• They are sturdy and practically maintenance free.

• They save the city taxpayer dollars.

They support the city’s commitment to increase recycling tonnage, which is demonstrated by Chestnut Hill’s strong commitment to recycling at our homes.

• They help create a greener, cleaner Chestnut Hill.

These are the benefits of using BigBelly solar trash compactors:

• They have five times more capacity than regular bins and, therefore, save the city taxpayer dollars by requiring fewer trash collections, lowering truck fuel costs and conserving landfill space.

• They reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Fewer stinky, gas-guzzling trash trucks on the road = less burning of fossil fuels = less pollution.)

• They are sealed to keep trash and odor in and pests out, unlike the trash bins currently used in Chestnut Hill. Litter is reduced, thereby improving the cleanliness and appearance of our business district.

Another important factor is the cost savings generated by use of the BigBellies. In the current economy, the city is actively seeking ways to reduce operating costs and balance its budget. More than 850 units have been deployed citywide, all funded by grants. Use of the BigBellies saves Philadelphia taxpayers more than $1 million a year.

At the CHCA Board meeting held on February 3, Vice President of Operations Bob Rossman made the following motion: “The Development Review Committee will make recommendations about the location and appearance of 15 BigBelly trash and recycling receptacles in Chestnut Hill (on Germantown Avenue from the 7700 to 8700 blocks). One of the receptacles will be installed temporarily in front of the Night Kitchen Bakery so that community members can see how they look and function.” This motion passed unanimously.”

After the DRC decided to refer the matter directly to the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee, GRinCH attended the April and May LUPZ meetings, at which we answered hours of questions.

On May 5, the LUPZ took two votes. The first, which passed overwhelmingly, was to support bringing the 15 BigBelly units to Chestnut Hill. The second vote was whether to place them on the upper Hill or the lower Hill. We recommended the lower Hill as it would be more efficient for the garbage trucks to continue from Germantown and Mt. Airy, which already have the BigBellies, to lower Chestnut Hill.

Finally, GRinCH wanted to make sure that the community felt the same way we do about the BigBellies, so we asked our neighbors and businesses in 19118 to sign a petition in support. We were surprised and thrilled to collect more than 350 resident signatures and obtain the support of many Chestnut Hill businesses, including: 3000 BC Spa, Artisans on the Avenue, Bredenbeck’s Bakery, Caleb Meyer Studio, Chestnut Grill, Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop, Chestnut Hill Farmers Market, Chestnut Hill Hotel, Community Audio, Compton Insurance, Delphine Gallery, Drake’s Gourmet Foods and Catering, El Quetzal, Fabrics on the Hill, Gravers Lane Gallery, The Herbiary, Janine Salon de Coiffure, Kilian Hardware Co., Laurel Hill Gardens, Life on the Hill, Mango, McNally’s Tavern, Metropolitan Bakery, Night Kitchen Bakery, Roller’s Express-O, Roller’s Restaurant at the Flying Fish, Staples in Chestnut Hill, Tavern on the Hill, Top of the Hill Market and Café, Valley Green Bank, and Weavers Way Co-op.

In addition we have received a letter of support from the principal and Home and School Association of the John S. Jenks Elementary School. More people in the 19118 ZIP code sign the petitions every day.

In 2010 Chestnut Hill was named as one of only 12 “Distinctive Destinations” in the country by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. An important part of the application process was to demonstrate how Chestnut Hill is a “green community” and the steps we are taking to be environmentally conscious. Let Chestnut Hill join Society Hill, Rittenhouse Square, Northern Liberties, Manayunk, Roxborough, Germantown, Mt. Airy, and other neighborhoods with the BigBelly units in an effort to make Philadelphia one of America’s greenest cities!

Amy Edelman is president of GReen in Chestnut Hill (GRinCH)