The Journal Gazette
Monday, July 30, 2018 1:00 am

Philadelphia turning illegal signs into art

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia has been trying for decades to tackle its litter problem and shed itself of the nickname Filthadelphia.

In June, the city and citizen groups tackled one small piece of the big litter puzzle: the posting of illegal signs. Citizens went out and collected more than 8,500 signs around the city in the action billed as the Bandit Signs Brigade. In the fall, the signs will be transformed by local artists and designers into something useful.

“These signs often end up as litter, and a littered community is bad for residents and bad for business,” said Nic Esposito, director of the City's Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet.

The city paid groups 50 cents per sign, which ranged from music flyers to predatory offers to buy houses and cars, plastered to utility poles and traffic signs across the city.

Mayor Jim Kenney created the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet two years ago take on the problem, and this year the group unveiled 31 short- and long-term recommendations on what Philadelphia describes as “a bold goal of becoming 90 percent zero waste and litter-free by 2035.”

By the end of the two weeks, over 1,000 signs seeking to buy junk cars were collected. The penalty for posting such signs is $300 per sign for the first offense and up to $2,000 per sign for the second offense.

The city is working with Trash Academy – a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia, which describes itself as the nation's largest public art program – to transform the signs into something useful. It is be part of a series of Trash Academy art projects that highlight the need to eliminate single use plastics from the waste stream.

The group is still trying to determine what could be created out of the signs and is working with a design shop that engages with communities on public art. It will reach out to the public to help create the works during Mural Arts week in October.

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