students at block cleanup
Aliya Poblete (far left) is joined by fellow Temple students at the Earth Day Trash Pickup 5K.

This weekend, students from the Temple University College of Engineering joined activist YaFav Trashman — former Streets Department employee Terrill Haigler — on his Earth Day trash pickup 5K event in Kensington. It is one thing to see the impact of trash and litter on neighborhoods through social media posts, but it is another experience entirely to glove up and grab a trash bag.

While it was heartening to see the turnout of Philadelphians eager to pitch in, it also made us wonder: What if we weren't there? If we don't pick up trash, what does that mean for stormwater and our waterways? For parks and other public spaces?

From an engineering perspective, continuing the status quo and not prioritizing cleaner streets and neighborhoods could have a serious and detrimental impact. Poor waste management is a form of environmental injustice.

Read the full op ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer