Garbage Cans

Garbage cans are a wonderful invention. They have existed since time immemorial. They make it easier for people to dispose of trash, and thus, they contribute to cleanliness and health.

In 2011, for reasons unknown, the M.T.A. removed all garbage cans from the N and R station at Eighth St. and Broadway. It did so from a second station, as well: Main St. in Queens. The M.T.A. apparently trusted subway riders to keep their litter until they reached a station with trash cans, or until they got out of the subway.

Mysteriously, the plan worked for a while. It is hard to imagine why it should have been effective, but on Jan. 27, 2014, the M.TA. announced that it would expand the program. Joe Leader, senior vice president of the M.T.A.’s Department of Subways, said, “The results have been for the most part very positive and we have seen some behavioral changes by riders.”

Subway riders are responsible and try to be clean and helpful. Most of them held on to their litter. It was an inconvenience. It is so very much easier to dump your garbage into a convenient trash can. Nevertheless, many people put up with the inconvenience.

Consequently, the M.T.A. increased the inconvenience. They removed trash bins from 29 additional stations, mainly on the J and M lines. It was too much for subway riders. Littering increased. It increased even where there were convenient garbage cans. Once people get into the habit of dropping their garbage on the platform, they do so even if there is a convenient alternative.

When I get off the N or R train at the Eighth St. station, I often see litter or even uneaten food on the benches. This is more common on the Downtown side in the evening. There are also lots of loose scraps of paper on the floor after one passes the turnstiles but before one starts climbing up the steps. Riders who have been carrying their trash with them just give up when they see no relief when they finally arrive at their destination.

The M.T.A. should be happy to make life easier for its riders. It should take advantage of the wonderful, historic invention that our remote ancestors gave us. Please, M.T.A., bring back the trash bins.

This letter appeared in The Villager on August 20, 2015