Garbage Garden in Midtown Village

Dumpsters and trash cans, often overflowing, line Drury Street in Midtown Village.

Chris Mullins has the only business with a front door that opens out onto the street. McGillin's Olde Ale House is the oldest pub in the city. Mullins is tired of the trash. He has an idea to get things cleaned up in a greener fashion.

“I’d like to establish a spot to allow businesses to combine their waste and deal with their product in a more sanitary way,” said Mullins.

The “Drury Street Garden”—presently in the concept stage—would be a communal waste area in Midtown Village. Area restaurants and businesses would be able to dispose of their garbage, recycling and compost.  

“They (area businesses) expressed interest with the plan, but they want it to be cost neutral,” Mullins said. 
 
A self-described hippie from the 1960s, Mullins, 65, began thinking about an alternative to the unsightly garbage dumpsters on the street.

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McGillin’s has been in the same location since 1860, the oldest pub in the city. It’s known for shepherd’s pie and  “good music, good beer, good food and a good time,” according to staffer George Lefflar.  
 
About a dozen dumpsters are permanently parked along the sidewalk.
 
"The trash companies are not always reliable around here and it creates a lot of trash buildup. It looks terrible," said Tim Heuisler, manager of Time restaurant on Sansom Street, which recycles. 
 
"Philly's a drinking town. There's no shortage of bottles every night in Philly."
 
City of Philadelphia Recycling director Phil Bresee said, “It’s common for businesses to pull together to remove waste, such as what you would see in a shopping center. But, it is not done as much in Center City as in other parts of the city.”
 
Despite having no composting programs, Bresee explained, “The city promotes composting and wants to see a lot more of it happen. It takes a real commitment and effort to make the changes that McGillins did.” 
 
 
According to Bresee, in 2011, Philadelphia generated 2.8 million tons of garbage, with 80 percent or about 2.2 million tons generated by businesses and the commercial sector. The remaining 640,000 tons were generated by residences.
 
Mullins’ original goal of the garbage garden was “to collect trash in a way that reduced the number of dumpsters.” He says it looks bad to customers and it’s bad for business to have cans and dumpsters gracing the sidewalks. The idea has since grown. McGillins’ has added new eco-friendly waste practices, such as no more plastic use.
 
“We will need some grant or financial backing for the capital expense to create the garden.” Mullins said. 
 
The garbage garden location is to be determined but is expected to be in the neighborhood nearby McGillin's. The participating businesses would take their waste to the garden. It would be removed from the garden by the communally hired waste removal contractor and taken to the appropriate transfer station or landfill. Presently, each individual business is responsible for their own waste removal arrangements.
 
“I’m trying to do this (Drury Street Garden) because it’s the right thing to do,” Mullins said.
 
The pub has reduced its own waste by using more recycling-ready products and by composting all food waste. At present, less than 10 percent of their total waste goes into a landfill, 45 percent is recycled and 45 percent is composted. The pub began changing their waste disposal, including composting, in February.
 
Bresee points to area colleges who have adopted composting practices and working to be innovative with trash removal. 
 
Penn composts food waste from dining halls and adjacent restaurants and offices.
 
“This is very important to do and meets our goals to lower our carbon footprint,” said Barbara Lea-Kruger of Penn. “We educated students about what it means to divert things from landfills.”
 
When NBC10 visited Drury Street last week, there were 12 dumpsters, one trash can and two compost cans on the sidewalk, in addition to three dumpsters on a nearby property.  
 
McGillin's wants to not only assemble a garbage garden but help educate surrounding business about how they too can reduce their solid waste.
 
“The hauling is the most expensive because there are fewer competitive companies who offer compost hauling,” said Mullins.
 
Around the corner, Noah Drummer of the I. Goldberg Army & Navy store gets rid of 1,700 pounds of cardboard every two weeks. He drives it to a dropoff location in South Philadelphia. Army & Navy receives a penny per pound or about $17.
 
“If we had a common spot for recycling, it would help us out,” said Drummer.
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