Aren't some tube travellers rubbish at getting rid of their rubbish? They'll leave newspapers, cans, newspapers, crisp packets, sandwich wrappers and newspapers all over a train, given half a chance. Especially newspapers. A significant proportion of tube train litter is people leaving their newspapers behind for someone else to read, which usually starts off as a well-meaning attempt at recycling and ends up with eight pages of property supplement scrunched across the floor. How intriguing to see Metro newspapers heading a campaign to get people to throw their Metros away quicker, reducing readership. But yes, litter, bad thing.
And about time too. For far too long there's been a ridiculous absence of litter bins on the tube, ostensibly because evil terrorists might hide bombs inside them and kill people. But TfL have had a solution to this particular problem for years - the clear plastic binbag. Wouldn't it be conducive to a tidier underground if there were a few more clear plastic binbags hanging around the tube network. Yes, absolutely, and now there are.
No, stop it. That's meaningless press-release-speak. If I travel from Bow Road to work on the tube, I won't encounter a single binbag on my journey. Bow Road, I'll have you know, is a totally binbagless station. There's no plastic binbag dangling on the westbound platform, none on the eastbound platform, none on the stairs and none in the ticket hall. There is a Metro newspaper holder just inside the front door where evening commuters chuck their leftover Evening Standards, but that isn't a proper bin. Even if you step outside the station, where there's a huge empty area set back from the pavement, there's still no litter-chucking facility. There is a bin round the corner, courtesy of Tower Hamlets Council, but it's not in any way conveniently placed for emerging passengers. For all practical purposes, Bow Road is a "take your litter home with you" station.
Here's something I didn't previously know, from later in the article. "All rubbish placed in any of our stations bins is sorted and we recycle everything that we can." There was me holding back from chucking my newspaper in a TfL plastic binbag because I thought it was only for rubbish, but it turns out they're really recycling binbags after all. Excellent.
Right, so we're including litter bins within walking distance, are we? How far is walking distance? Presumably the bin twenty seconds out of Bow Road station counts, even if people can't be bothered to walk to it. How about the bin by the bus stop? What about the bins on Roman Road, ten minutes walk away? I'm sorry but "walking distance", unless quantified, is a totally meaningless statistic.
Hurrah, 166 more bins, and they've gone in "over the last few months". But hang on, how much of a triumph is this? There are 270-odd stations on the tube network, so this equates to less than one extra binbag per station. I don't know how expensive a plastic bag on a plastic hoop is, but I'm guessing installing 166 hasn't exactly broken the bank. What we appear to have here is an over-excitable press release attempting to make good progress sound like incredible success.
800 litter bins equates to about three per station, or about one dangly binbag per platform. It's not a uniform distrubution either - some have more, some have less, as the binbaglessness of my local station testifies. Alas there still aren't anywhere near enough bins to convince travellers they'll definitely find one on their way out of a station. Yes, sure, there are now more waste disposal opportunities than before, but the tipping point's not yet been reached.
Oh Boris, they're plastic bags on plastic hoops, they don't sparkle. But they are cheap. If you could possibly lay your hands on several hundred more, and space them out more equally, then the tube might finally have a litter policy worth celebrating.