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Garbage complaints are piling high

Residents say Boston has neglected trash pickup amid snow woes

Miguel Zapata, a barber at Billy’s Barbershop on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester, said the city has not collected the trash there in two or three weeks.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

A shriveled-up Christmas tree long stripped of its holiday ornaments peeked from the side of a towering snowbank in Dorchester.

Beside it, among a sea of garbage bags with paper plates, pizza boxes, and food cans, gift-wrapping paper — presumably used to cover the presents that sat beneath the tree — lay stuffed in one trash bag.

This cross section of weeks-old refuse on Blue Hill Avenue near Creston Street is a not-uncommon sight these days. Across the city, residents say their trash has not been picked up since a barrage of snowstorms hit the city.

Numerous city services have been crippled by the record-breaking snowfall — 99.9 inches so far this year — and trash collection is one that has Bostonians raising a stink.


“It’s crazy. It’s a mess,” said Miguel Zapata, a barber at Billy’s Barbershop on Blue Hill Avenue. “The city’s got to do something.”

The snowbank with the tossed-out Christmas tree looms directly in front of the shop where Zapata, 32, has worked for five years. He said the city has not collected the trash there in two or three weeks.

One trash bag that protrudes from the base of the snowbank appears to have been put there back when you could still see the concrete under it.

“God knows what’s under the snow at this point,” said 25-year-old Erin Shea, who lives in the North End. “I’m so nervous for when the snow melts. There’s going to be a treasure trove of gross stuff.”

Shea said some of her neighbors on Charter Street had begun to place the trash atop snowbanks and cars to ensure the bins and bags were spotted by sanitation workers. She said the collection on her block has been spotty since the start of the harsh winter, and the trash had not been picked up since the second storm.


Sanitation workers finally made their way to Shea’s block Tuesday, but loose pieces of trash, including a Bud Light box, an orange juice bottle, and an empty bag of Goldfish crackers were left behind in the street.

“People are proud of their neighborhoods, but it’s hard to be,” said Shea. “I wouldn’t want my friends coming over seeing that.”

Bonnie McGilpin, spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh, said recycling and trash collection returned to its regular schedule this week.

“The mayor has asked residents for their cooperation and patience as Boston continues to recover from a historic amount of snow over the past 30 days,” she said. “Public works is asking that residents place their trash in accessible locations, not behind snowbanks, to ensure it is picked up on time.”

But to clean up the mess, the city will also have to take out the trash from its own neglected bins.

The garbage in one municipal can on Prince Street in the North End was spilling over.

“They should at least pick the stuff up out of the street barrels,” said Maria Bova, who lives in the area and was walking pass the trash-filled bin. “We don’t want rats again.”

“It’s disgusting, really,” she said, motioning to an assortment of detritus on the ground near the trash can.

Piles of litter further limit the already-cramped space that pedestrians are forced to navigate on city sidewalks where snow mounds rule.

“There’s garbage everywhere,” said Bova. “It’s terrible. You can’t even walk on the sidewalks in some places.”


McGilpin said residents should call the mayor’s hot line or use the Citizens Connect app if their trash has not been collected.

Residents have lodged 4,589 trash-related requests via the mayor’s hotline since the first blizzard hit the city on Jan. 26, according to data provided by the mayor’s office.

Officials said only 232 of those requests have yet to be addressed.

One of those could be Karen Schwartzman’s. She says she tried in vain to get the city to address the overflow of trash and dog waste at Peters Park, in the South End.

Schwartzman, 61, who lives on Washington Street, said she filed several complaints about the matter, but said the garbage continued to grow for at least a month.

“It is just disgusting. I started [emptying] it myself,” said Schwartzman, who purchased industrial garbage bags.

Schwartzman said she began checking the bins daily while walking her dog. She recently lugged 16 bags of trash to Shawmut Avenue to ensure it would be collected and later placed new garbage bags into the bins.

The Parks Department eventually emptied only two of more than a dozen trash cans in the park, while the others continued to teem with trash and dog waste, she said.

“If I can do it, I don’t understand why the city can’t do it,” Schwartzman said. “It’s not my job. I’m so grossed out by seeing it that I just do it.”


Jan Ransom can be reached at jan.ransom@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Jan_Ransom.