Fairmount Park: Philadelphia Organic Recycling Center Offers Citizens Free Compost, Wood Chips, and Gardening Materials

Tucked away down a hill just off West Ford Road in Fairmount Park sits the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center. Many people may not know about this hidden treasure, but mounds of compost, wood chips, firewood, gravel, and other gardening materials sit, waiting for Philadelphians to come and use them in their own gardens.

According to Parks and Recreation policy, city residents are entitled to up to 30 gallons of free organic materials from the site. All someone needs is an ID with a Philadelphia address, a shovel, and something to carry mulch or compost in.

This wood chipper is used to ground up different sized bundles into smaller materials.

Trucks and cars pull in and out of the site and park next to the huge piles of materials available to the public. People armed with shovels and buckets take what they need and go.

“We make compost and things that folks can use to enrich their gardens,” said Mako, the site’s landscape project technician. “[People can] do some landscaping and improve the parks department and the recreation department as well.”

The large piles of mulch and compost available for the public to pick up and use for free.

Getting materials is a bit different for businesses, as they need to fill out a few different forms. Businesses also must pay for pickup or disposal of organic material, usually between $30 and $50 per ton, depending on the type of material.

City employees process all the compost at the site. A large chipper, which employees lovingly refer to as “The Beast,” grinds tree trunks into wood chips. Employees run bags of yard waste through machines that separate leaves, sticks, and dirt from other trash in order to get the raw material to make compost.

“The Beast” is a large wood chipper used for making wood chips at the site.

Recycling center staff also support volunteer groups in a variety of ways, often providing free compost and mulch to help beautify public lands, Mako said.

“We’ll provide for them and drop it off on site for them to spread out,” Mako said. “Volunteer groups love to help manicure parks and recreation anywhere. Basically, if they need any kind of mulch or compost, we’ll drop it off for them.”

Most of the material comes from yard waste from properties all over the city. Homeowners can drop off bags of yard waste at any of Philadelphia Streets’ sanitation convenience centers, with special days and sites specifically for bagged leaves. City trucks will also pick up leaves and other material curbside during special collection days each fall.

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