Removing Trash Cans From Subway Stations Makes Them… Cleaner?

Photo: Ralph Hockens/Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: Ralph Hockens/Flickr Creative Commons

Subway stations can be some of the filthiest, cluttered, most sweltering, and trash-strewn places in the city, but an MTA initiative that called for the removal of trash cans from several stations has seen litter build-up subside remarkably. It’s like an oxymoron in action.

What initially started as an experiment, the absence of trash cans has proven that reverse psychology works well when secretly thrown at New Yorkers. “This pilot appears counterintuitive but when we placed notices at the pilot stations indicating that the cans had been removed and asked the customers for their cooperation, it looks like they listened,” New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco said in a news release.

Apparently, this experiment had been in the works for a while, as MTA employees had been removing trash cans under a series of different “phases,” that were first rolled out nearly four years ago.

The initial phase of the pilot began in two stations in October, 2011. Phase 2 added eight stations in September, 2012 and Phase 3 added 29 along the JMZ lines in July, 2014. Baseline conditions were established at each station, and station cleanliness and trash collection was monitored regularly.

Lo and behold, the trash began to disappear over that time–or rather–the absence of garbage receptacles made people feel guilty enough to hold onto their plastic bottles and styrofoam containers and gum wrappers, etc.

MTA notes the positive results in the same news release.

The results show a 66% reduction in the number of bags collected at Phase 1 and Phase 2 stations, and a 36% reduction in the number of bags collected at Phase 3 stations.

The trash can removal program was certainly a solid experiment, especially when noting that 40 tons of trash is picked up and processed throughout NYC subway stations on a daily basis.

This is isn’t the only creative method aimed at tackling issues of garbage build up seen recently in New York. Big Belly trash cans, which are the solar powered product of the Massachusetts eco-waste management company Big Belly, have already cropped up all over NYC. Some of them, weirdly enough, could very soon be hosting wifi connectivity.

Follow Sam Blum on Twitter @Blumnessmonster 


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