Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Waste Removal

From M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense to Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, filmmaking  in Philadelphia has become big business. The industry generates millions of dollars in revenue, promotes tourism, and gives work to hundreds of union workers.

What it doesn't do, however, is obey the law.

Philadelphia has mandatory recycling laws for businesses, yet compliance is still the exception rather than the rule for businesses of all types throughout the city. The Philadelphia Commercial Recycling Guidelines require businesses to develop a Recycling Plan, submit it to the city, publicly post the plan on site, and distribute it to all employees. The plan must include:
  • hiring a hauling/recycling company that is licensed by the City of Philadelphia, (like Blue Mountain Recycling, or Waste Management)
  • providing recycling containers, and separating recyclables (high-grade office paper, aluminum, corrugated paper, ferrous and nonferrous metals, etc.) from garbage (food waste and other organics)
  • creating an education program to communicate expectations, changes, impacts, etc. to employees
Given the temporary nature of the film business, developing a recycling plan of this nature on each individual set would be difficult, but developing a template of recycling rules that would govern all filmmaking in this region could fulfill the city's requirements. These rules should reflect the reality that materials will differ depending on the department, and will need to be enforced on the set, on location, in the catering tents, and in the production office.  Maintaining a list of recycling drop-off sites for construction materials and hazardous materials would also help to keep lumber, plastic and other building materials not currently included in the city's regulations from being sent to landfill.

Without these guidelines, employees concerned about the environmental impact of film have had little opportunity to change wasteful day to day practices, besides literally sorting recyclables out of the dumpster and carting them home for residential collection! Construction coordinators have also managed to donate some materials to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, but production managers are not accustomed to including recycling costs in their budgets, so spending man hours researching and redirecting these materials must be done surreptitiously, or off the clock.

Philadelphia would also benefit from having a business like Build It Green! NYC in the area. They are a "non-profit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials", where film productions could donate and shop for recycled building materials. In addition to lumber and sheetrock, designers can also shop for previously used cabinets and appliances in their inventory. 

For more commercial recycling information, call the Philadelphia Recycling Hotline at 215-686-RECYCLE (7329) and check out the Pennsylvania page at Earth911.org for local recycling businesses.

You can also report any non-compliant business by emailing robin.geller@phila.gov.

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