Stinky attitudes

There's levels to all this anger over Philly's trash problem. But there's also the scoffed-at solution

Philadelphia Sanitation worker
With a reduction in staffing due to COVID-19, inclement weather and an increase in consumption, do we really have a leg to stand on when it comes to complaining about the Streets Department and its slow response rate? Our editor has some thoughts. | Image provided

I could feel my blood starting to boil.

It wasn’t from the 90-degree plus temperatures we’ve had the past few days – well perhaps it might have had a little to do with it. But it was listening to my neighbors up the block complain – and complain some more – about the slow response time for trash pickup. 

“I mean this is just disgusting, what are we paying to live in Philly for?” she whined. “How is it OK that garbage is allowed to sit out here in the heat for four days straight?”

Ugh, her voice wreaked of elitism. It took everything I had to not open my front door and not so kindly remind her that the new construction home she bought last year, the one that most certainly coincided with a 10-year tax abatement all but removing her and her husband from paying taxes that would actually truly benefit city coffers, you know like padding the deficit in the tens of millions annually, that would go to city schools or that would actually benefit the Streets Department. 

All for what, so you can have a roof deck? STFU. 

It’s not been all love for the city’s sanitation workers due to a slow response to hauling the city’s waste. But our editor opines that there are people who are only looking at this from their own perspective. | Image provided

Look, I’m guilty too. Our family upgraded to living the quasi-new construction life too. The difference is we know that by doing so, we don’t get the right to bitch and complain about a lot.

In her defense, it was the first time I’ve opened the blinds in my living room to look outside and see trash still sitting on the sidewalk on a Tuesday that I placed out for pickup the previous Thursday. Compound that with searing temperatures and boiling trash juices, the block smelled less than optimal. I too was worried about the critters that would creep up and take advantage. 

But I didn’t question the point of living in Philadelphia. I didn’t admonish the entire Streets Department because my guys were a few days late. I didn’t take to Facebook forums to complain about the pile-up. 

Which reminds me, I need to get off some of these forums, it’s great for column fodder but the NIMBYism and the constant old Philly vs. new Philly conversations are starting to really get out of pocket. At any rate, if you fall under the umbrella group of pissed off residents angry at the slow rate of trash pickup, I’m here this week with some insight and – a solution. 

“Instead of complaining about the number of days you have to wait for trucks to come through and grab your garbage, you could dump it yourself. Log onto philadelphiastreets.com, find a Sanitation Convenience Center near you. These jawns are open seven days a week, all you have to do is show up with a proof of address and POOF, problem solved.”

First, insight. According to Streets, there are over 100 sanitation workers that have tested positive for COVID-19, thus reducing the number of workers on the street each day. That’s 100 fewer people to grab garbage, dump it and head back out to grab more. COVID-19 means quarantine, which means assuming these workers contract and beat it relatively easy and don’t become a serious case, that’s still 14 days, two full weeks, they’re off the streets. Second, before the 90-degree-plus days that put Philadelphia into its first heat health emergency, we had multiple days of steady downpours that flooded the city and delayed just about everything – including garbage pickup. 

Now, the solution. Instead of complaining about the number of days you have to wait for trucks to come through and grab your garbage, you could dump it yourself. Yes, that’s a thing in Philadelphia and if you log onto philadelphiastreets.com you can find a Sanitation Convenience Center near you. These jawns are open seven days a week, all you have to do is show up with a proof of address and POOF, problem solved.

And for those who read that and thought to dump your own trash to be an audacious notion, just know so is your right to bitch and complain given this option. Also, here’s a thought, show these workers some love. The other day, I watched my next-door-neighbor do the complete opposite of my one up the block, instead of coming out the house to complain at the workers ask about the delay, she came out with armfuls of Gatorade and gave them to all three guys on the truck and thanked them for working their collective asses off. 

“I was driving home the other night and it was really late, and I saw your trucks picking up at night,” I heard her say to the pair of workers visibly cracking appreciative smiles under their masks. “I know you guys are catching shit, but I also know y’all are grinding. I just want you to know that we at [her address] appreciate y’all.”

Now, that’s the Philly I prefer.  

  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the former editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. As a routine contributor, journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.