Trash talk: Streets urges patience as sanitation crews catch up

Christmas trees, overflowing recycling bins, stuffed plastic bags, and the remains of holiday cheer are forming unusually large mounds of trash that are gracing many Philly sidewalks this week. Holiday delays, a snowstorm, and cold weather are to blame for this trashy start to the new year.

Any streets that normally have Thursday trash collection are the ones that are currently the biggest mess. Because New Year’s Day was last Wednesday, Thursday pickups were delayed one day. Residents were supposed to put trash out Friday, but due to the snowstorm, those pickups didn’t happen. Unfortunately, many folks didn’t hear early enough that trash pickups were cancelled and they set out their trash and recycling anyway. That left small mountains of trash festering on sidewalks all week, blanketed in snow, encased in ice, thawed, frozen again, and occasionally picked through.

This week the Streets Department pleaded with city residents for patience as they tried to catch up with the backlog and deal with the intense cold. We asked the Streets Department to explain the situation.

“We understand the frustration these situations can cause. Sanitation employees and trucks are a very important part of our snow removal operation and needed to be pressed into service. All available personnel and equipment are used to clear the streets for all its residents,” said Streets Department spokeswoman June Cantor. 

We understand holiday delays and the need to plow the streets, but how exactly did the cold affect sanitation collections?

Cantor explained that cold weather doesn’t restrict the hours or duration that Sanitation employees can work, but the cold snap caused mechanical problems with the Streets Department’s fleet of vehicles used for both plowing and pickup.

For now Streets has asked residents to set out trash and recycling form normal collection and not to be alarmed if there is further delay in pickup.

“At the moment we are about a day behind schedule,” Cantor said. “We will not be writing citations for early setouts or excessive weight and volume for any resident who has scheduled collections this week. By the end of this weekend we will be completely caught up.”

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