Let’s say, hypothetically, that you’re drinking an ice-cold Coca-Cola on an MTA bus for breakfast (just go with it) on your way to (again, hypothetically) the Marcy-Broadway J/M/Z. You bound up the stairs — you hear an oncoming train — while taking the last sips of your Daily Breakfast Soda. You get to the top of the stairs, look around for a trash can in which to toss your empty. There isn’t one. What do you do?!
You put it in your bag, first making sure it’s completely empty, get on the train, and go about your day. You’ll probably remember around lunch to throw it away or recycle it.
The MTA has announced that its pilot program to remove trash cans from 39 stations — 29 along the J/M/Z line — resulted in a 66 percent reduction in trash collected at the first ten stations to take part, and a 36 percent reduction in trash at those J/M/Z stations.
The experiment seemed to dare people to litter, but it turns out most of them didn’t — after a while: “[Litter] increased initially, but rebounded and improved later during the pilot and is currently on par with stations that have trash cans.”
After starting small, the trash can removal plan took off in July 2014 when it expanded along the J/M/Z line, but not every member of the MTA’s board was convinced the counterintuitive idea was going to work: “The general public is clearly of the view, as am I, that this isn’t a wise idea,” said MTA board member Charles Moerdler in May of this year, as reported by amNew York.
The pilot program’s going to continue for another six months to a year. “We’ll continue the pilot and monitor and collect additional data at stations,” said MTA president Carmen Bianco in Thursday’s announcement.
MTA communications director Kevin Ortiz tells the Voice the J/M/Z line was “randomly” chosen for the largest expansion of the pilot program, which began in October 2011 with just two stations. In September 2012, eight more stations saw trash cans removed, before the MTA went big and removed trash cans at those 29 J/M/Z stations last summer.
The MTA reports that it collects about 40 tons of trash from its stations’ 3,500 receptacles each day. About half of it is recycled.
Here’s a map of those trash-can-free subway stations: