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Philly residents have been watching mountains of discarded waste grow in slow motion.

Two weeks of backed-up recycling on the curb in Fishtown, residents report. Three weeks behind in parts of South Philly. Ditto in the Northeast and parts of West Philly. On top of that, one- to three-day delays for regular trash pickup have become common.

The situation is only made worse by this summer’s torrential storms, which leave soggy cardboard and plastic bottles strewn up and down the block.

“At this point the neighborhood is a mess because everyone’s recycling is piled up and soaking wet,” said Fairmount resident Paul Kimball.

Sanitation workers have been feuding with the city over lack of safety in working conditions since the start of the pandemic, and absences due to sickness have disrupted the schedule. Mayor Jim Kenney has also blamed higher-than-usual residential trash levels produced by people staying home. Streets Department data shows tonnage has nearly doubled in some neighborhoods.

The good news? You now have more options to deal with it yourself.

To alleviate the buildup, sanitation collection centers across the city are now open seven days a week, where anyone can drop off materials instead of letting them pile up fruitlesslessly on the curb. Officials are also trying to show residents ways to reduce their weekly accrual.

William Farlow, who lives in Northern Liberties, said taking his and his neighbor’s trash to the local dropoff spot was easy.

“It took less than half an hour, and the entire process was quick and painless,” Farlow told Billy Penn. “Considering what sanitation workers have had to deal with prior to the pandemic, much less now, it’s the least a halfway decent citizen can do to help out.”

Keisha McCarty-Skelton, a spokesperson for the Streets Department, said residents can expect some delays while doing their own trash dropoff. FYI: Saturdays and Mondays tend to be the busiest.

“Residents may experience a slight wait time,” McCarty-Skeltonsaid. “But there are personnel on site to direct residents, capture any excess materials and move residents and vehicles in and out quickly.”

Tips: Hold off on renovations…and keep waste in the freezer?

Taking matters into his own hands, Germantown resident Matthew George raised $4k on GoFundMe to set up bright orange trash cans all over his neighborhood, Grid reports.

Meanwhile, the Streets Department published a flier with tips to help residents cut down on the weekly waste buildup per household — and give a break to sanitation workers.

Some are more useful than others.

Helpful: Maybe hold off on home renovation projects for the time being, which produce a ton of debris that you’d usually leave on the curb for pickup.

Small things to help sanitation workers:  Cover your containers with lids, and turn handles toward the street. Keep your bags at under 40 pounds, and limit your set-out to eight pounds.

Garbage disposals are your friend. Composting can also cut your household waste down by a third, officials say. Or…freeze food waste until your collection day? To eliminate smell? Sure, why not.

Some residents, like Kara Hetz in Fishtown, say the onus falls on the Kenney administration to fix its sanitation management that is now months into dysfunction.

“Although the pandemic is an unprecedented situation, when city services are disrupted to this degree it doesn’t bode well for the mayor,” Hetz said. “The ability to address a difficult situation and still keep things going is a sign of someone in control.”

If you can’t tamp down on your production while waiting for a municipal solution, perhaps heed advice from Farlow of NoLibs: “I say get in your car or find a neighbor with one, roll the windows down and take away your own trash for once.”

Where you can take your trash

The centers below are open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Port Richmond

  • 3901 Delaware Ave
  • 215-685-1358

West Philadelphia

  • 5100 Grays Ave.
  • 215-685-2600

Strawberry Mansion

  • 2601 W. Glenwood Ave.
  • 215-685-3955

Southwest Philadelphia

  • 3033 S. 63rd St., near Passyunk Ave.
  • 215-685-4290

Northwest Philadelphia

  • 300 block Domino Lane, near Umbria St.
  • 215-685-2502

Northeast Philadelphia

  • State Rd. & Ashburner St.
  • 215-685-8072

Max Marin (he/him) was Billy Penn's investigative reporter from 2018 to 2021. A graduate of Temple University, he has produced award-winning journalism on local politics, criminal justice, immigration...