When Litter Becomes Useful

by SAMANTHA QUEEN · April 3, 2008

metro adSometimes, New York can feel like such a big city. Other times (most times) it feels more like a small town. Either way, it is indisputable that the people that live and work in New York comprise a large community. Although the anonymity of our great city-town can be alienating, I find that I can often look to our community for (at the very least) the shallow comfort of similarly-situated souls. I like exchanging commiserating glances with strangers during rush hour on the overcrowded Lexington Avenue line. I like becoming shopping buddies with fellow cost-conscious bargain hunters at sample sales. I love the street fairs and green markets and free concerts and dog parks and promenades.

Another thing I like: when people abandon newspapers on the subways and buses for others to read.

I just think that it’s a very considerate, not to mention efficient, act. Sure, there may be some crumpled paper for the city to deal with at the end of the day, but I can’t believe that the MTA doesn’t have bigger problems. Given all of that, I was appalled to see a MTA ad on the subway this morning urging people to throw out their newspapers instead of leaving them on the subway. The ad reads, “It doesn’t matter what paper you read, its language or viewpoints. Please put it in a trash can; that’s good news for everyone.” No! No!

That’s actually BAD news for everyone. Especially people like me, who don’t have time to read a real paper every day, who therefore don’t subscribe to a print news service, who as a result have no paper to read when they actually feel like reading one on their morning commute, and who are thus grateful to the person who left theirs behind. Sure, I suppose there’s Metro and …the other one. Regardless, isn’t there a better way to deal with litter other than eliminating community-building practices? What about a sign that reads, “Please notify MTA official when you spill you Sunkist all over the floor.”? Or, “No really, don’t eat on the train. And when you decide to do it anyway, realize that under your seat is not the same as “under the rug” or, for that matter, “the trash can.”?

Or maybe, like in D.C. use a Metrocard system that eats expired cards, which are then collected for recycling. Surely that will result in less litter than leaving people to search out the station for an inevitably solitary, difficult-to-locate trash can, which will ultimately result in a Metrocard-sheathed floor/platform/or track. I just don’t get it.