Trash Talk

“Two years ago, officials battling litter and rats in New York City subway stations started a little experiment: Take away trash bins…. MTA officials plan to extend the program to 29 more subway stations along the J and M lines later this year.”
— The Wall Street Journal

Dear Subway Riders,

Welcome to the subway, working hard to serve customers like you. Remember the trash cans?  You may notice we’ve removed them from stations throughout the system.  A recent study found that every trash can creates four trash cans’ worth of garbage each and every day.  By removing the cans, we’re proving our commitment not only to reducing trash in our subway stations but reducing by 100% the cost of paying people to collect it and throw it in the river or onto a trash boat that will sail endlessly around the world.

In order to make sure this program is effective, we have taken further steps.  Did you know that each time the subway stops, the odds of additional trash increase, as people without trash exit the subway system and new people, with trash, come in?  You may wonder, if there are no trash cans, what’s the worry?  But every system should have a failsafe.  That’s why we’re also reducing the number of stops the trains will be making, with an ultimate goal of making zero stops by 2021.  Zero stops and zero trash cans means a zero times zero chance of subway trash.  And zero times zero is less than nothing.

Removing the trash cans and eliminating subway stops are just the first two steps in our comprehensive subway beautificationment project.  Have you noticed the benches in our stations?  Too many people have.  Our study found that the odds of people sitting down were dramatically increased with every bench, seat, or horizontal ledge available.  Sitting down increases lingering, and lingering, of course, leads to trash.  That’s why we’ve removed most of our benches, leaving only the ones that were installed in honor of the fine citizens who donated money to improve our subway stations. Nobody has ever done that, so you do the math.  Our goal is to remove all horizontal surfaces of any kind by 2032.

Some critics have argued that removing benches will not prevent people from sitting, and may instead lead them to sit on the station floor.  This would be ridiculous, of course, and that’s why we’re committed to removing all subway station floors by 2046.  We are currently studying the costs and consequences of this plan and will soon be launching a pilot program in one randomly chosen station. You’ll know which one when you get there and there is no floor.

Until there are no floors left on which to throw your garbage, you may wonder what will be replacing the trash cans.  In some stations, the answer is nothing.  We request that you hold onto your trash, eat it, or see if one of your fellow passengers might want to eat it. Alternatively you should throw it on the tracks, where it might catch fire.  Fire reduces the number of people using the subway, which lowers overall costs.  In addition, the more fires, the less costly our possible future heating bills.  Controlling the possible future costs of heating our stations even though they are entirely unheated now, and will soon have no floors and not even exist at all, is an important long-term goal.

In a few stations, due to an unexpected error when initially installing our trash cans, their removal has left gaping holes that lead to the center of the Earth.  Please be careful when navigating the platforms in these stations (while they exist) because if you fall into a hole or, for that matter, onto the tracks (until they are eliminated too, by 2053), we no longer have any staff assigned to help rescue you, thanks to our recent cost-cutting measure of throwing our maintenance personnel in the trash cans that no longer exist.

Do note that at the end of your journey to the Earth’s molten core, there is a trash can, a bench, and one working unisex restroom, which is one more restroom of any kind than we have here in the subway system.  Feel free to use it, unless a rat got there first.

Also note that in some stations where the trash cans have been removed, you will see a large dumpster where we will be temporarily storing the cans, the benches, the floors, our maintenance personnel, and our trains. If you could get to them, which you won’t be able to, it would be illegal to use these dumpsters for your personal trash.

Finally, this will be my last letter as director of communications for the subway system.  I am being removed, as a cost-cutting measure, and will not be replaced. Thank you.

Please recycle this notice.  But not here.

Jeremy Blachman’s humor pieces can be found at  He may no longer be allowed to ride the subway.