The oldest Irish pub in Philadelphia looks to become the greenest in America

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Maurice Sampson, president of Niche Recycling, lead a three-day waste audit last week at McGillins Olde Ale House. | Photo via McGillinsChristopher Mullins Jr. has a vision for his little block of Drury Street and his pub McGillin’s Olde Ale House, which has been in his family since 1958. It includes thriving restaurants, a hotel and a bustling commercial destination for Philadelphia residents and visitors alike. What doesn’t it include? Dumpsters – up to 22 of them at one time – crowding the sidewalk, stinking up the block and forcing pedestrians to walk in the middle of the street like a bizarre throwback to Philadelphia’s colonial era. 

Instead, Mullins wants to create a “zero waste zone.” The parking lot adjacent to McGillin’s (currently owned by Goldman Properties) would become “Drury Street Garden,” a centralized waste collection area for the entire neighborhood. There would be a dumpster for trash, another for recycling and a BiobiN for composting kitchen waste. Neighbors would be paying the same price to use these facilities that they currently pay to trash haulers.

To make this vision a reality, Mullins has enlisted the help of Maurice Sampson, president of Niche Recycling, a Philadelphia-based waste management consulting company. The new waste plan for McGillin’s will involve recycling, composting and replacing non-biodegradable restaurant trash (i.e. straws and basket liners) with compostable and biodegradable options. Sampson kicked off the project last Wednesday with a three-day waste audit at the pub. After just two days on the job, Sampson felt confident that McGillin’s could easily reach a 90 percent waste diversion rate simply through recycling and composting.

Although the waste audit was a success, funding is still needed to implement the larger neighborhood project, which will cost $175,000. Mullins and Sampson have been meeting with surrounding businesses, building owners, politicians and economic development organizations and are hopeful they’ll offer their support to the project.

For Mullins, the audit and zero waste zone are just the first steps in implementing sustainable practices on Drury Street and he wants to carry the efforts even further. “You challenge yourself as you’re doing it,” says Mullins. “What else can we do?”

SAMANTHA WITTCHEN is principal and co-founder of iSpring (ispringassociates.com), a sustainability firm in Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley.