'It's just gross': Residents frustrated with constantly overflowing trash bins in Philly neighborhoods

People who live and work near a "Big Belly" trash unit in Fishtown are sharing the same level of concern and disgust after seeing it regularly overflow with garbage.

"There was actually a huge bag of trash next to it, and then just garbage overflowing everywhere all out into the sidewalk to the point where I had to step over it," said Kelley Sweeney. "Doesn’t look nice, it doesn’t smell nice. It was hard to navigate. I was actually walking my dog and it was hard for him. People in strollers, people in wheelchairs."

"I filed a complaint with 311 because the trash is always overflowing out here. The maintenance guys have to come and clean it up. It’s all over the ground, everybody’s trash from the weekend, and it’s been going on like, it’ll sit there for like a week-and-a-half, two weeks and it’s really an eyesore for a business," said Ann Farrell, who works at Lutheran Settlement House.

On Monday, the Philadelphia Streets Department removed the Big Belly on Frankford Avenue next to the Lutheran Settlement House for repairs.

"The Big Belly at this location was removed for repairs.  It will be returned. The basket was not only being misused by illegal dumping but it was also physically damaged," said Keisha McCarty-Skelton, Communications Director for the Streets Department. "Unfortunately, in some neighborhoods the litter baskets become magnets for illegal dumping. In many neighborhoods people take advantage of these baskets because they know that they are serviced throughout the week."

Meg Finley of the Lutheran Settlement House said she sees all kinds of garbage sticking out and beside the BigBelly. 

"Oh you know like stinky beer, rotting food and dog poop. It’s just gross. It’s an active area. We need more trash bins, but they also need to be picked up on a regular basis because once every two weeks or so is not cutting it for the level of activity around here," said Finley.

Over in Old City, a Big Belly on Third and New streets was overwhelmed with trash up until Tuesday afternoon. It has since been cleaned.

"Typical Philly trash can with just no room for anything and overflowing. You see all the dog poop scattered around it and it’s frustrating because you see the dog poop bags and clearly people are trying to pick it up and trying to do the right thing," said Evan Harra, who walks his dog in the neighborhood regularly.

The Streets Department works with block captains and other community groups on where to place the trash cans, according to McCarty-Skelton, while taking into account proximity to other trash bins, pedestrian foot traffic and potential for abuse. 

"Litter is a quality-of-life issue where all businesses and residents are responsible and accountable.  The Big Belly Program is a partnership between the community and the city. The city provides the baskets and makes regular collections to empty them. We need neighbors help to keep areas clean and not misuse the litter baskets," said McCarty-Skelton.

At least some in the neighborhood are glad to see that the Big Belly and the overflowing trash are gone from Frankford Avenue near Master Street.

"I definitely think it was the right decision. I said put it somewhere else, move it over somewhere else, because we don’t need it here," said Farrell.

"If you see an overflowing trash can, take your trash with you, don’t just pile it up on the sidewalk," said Sweeney "It’s definitely an overarching symptom around personal responsibility that is lacking in this neighborhood and city in general."