Philly Implements New Mattress Policy to Curb Bedbugs

But residents worry about unintended effects.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Kimberly Paynter | NewsWorks.org
    A mattress is wrapped in plastic for pick up in South Philadelphia.

    Philadelphia may have a bit of a bedbug problem. As Newsworks has previously reported, area entomologists say the six-legged creatures have made a comeback in places like Philadelphia in recent years.

    In an effort to keep bedbugs from spreading, this winter Philadelphia changed its policy for how to throw out old mattresses and box springs. The new procedure fully took effect in February.

    Some residents worry the effort to curb growing bedbug concerns, may be making the problem worse.

    Any mattresses left curbside must now be sealed in protective wraps for pickup. The effort is modeled on a New York City policy, with the aim of protecting neighborhoods and trash collectors from direct contact with potentially infested mattresses.

    Vivian Van Story is a North Philadelphia resident who serves on the city's solid waste and recycling council.

    "It's not working. It's not working," Van Story said.

    Van Story worries people are instead dumping mattresses to avoid purchasing the bags, which cost about $10 at big box stores. Or, she says, people just don't know they're supposed to bag the mattresses. They leave them out, and then they're ignored on trash-day.

    "It's all over, if you drive around you will see different mattresses in North Philadelphia that are still curbside," she says.

    Andrew Dalzell, with the South of South Street Neighborhood Association, has seen mixed results.

    "I think there's an adjustment period," Dalzell said.

    Dalzell recalls recently seeing several mattresses and a box spring left out a few doors down from his apartment. "And I came home and they were gone," he said.

    But he says there are plenty to contend with: "I have seen on another block just the other day where there were four, five mattresses just sitting there."

    Dalzell's group plans to sell bags out of its office, so it's easier for neighbors to get them.

    The city's deputy Streets Commissioner Donald Carlton stands by the new policy, but acknowledges it may take a bit of time to take hold.

    "Whenever you have a culture change, culture change doesn't come easy."

    Carlton says non-bagged mattresses trigger calls to his department's enforcement unit, which immediately follows up. He says the crews inspect and dispose of the mattresses while dressed in special protective gear if they suspect the mattress is infested.

    The city started giving out warnings in December and has issued about 150 tickets, for $50, since February.

    A spokesperson with New York City's sanitation department says their policy has not resulted in dumping.