Many people have been surprised by the paradox of Tokyo having very little litter but also very few trash cans. Finding a receptacle in the city is about to get even harder, though, as the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation has announced that it will be removing all trash cans from its stations, and very soon.
Trash cans were removed from stations on Tokyo Metro stations (Tokyo’s other subway network) in January.
The bureau says that its decision, which affects passengers using the Asakusa, Mita, Oedo, and Shinjuku subway lines, as well as the Nippori-Toneri Liner which connects Nippori and Minumadai-shinsuikoen stations, is a safety measure. “It is not possible for station staff to continually monitor the trash cans,” said the bureau in a statement. “We have resolved to remove all trash cans to strengthen countermeasures against terrorism and the like.”
In 2015, stations on the the Asakusa, Mita, Oedo, and Shinjuku lines (collectively known as the Toei Subway) switched to trash cans with clear plastic exterior sections, so that their contents could be seen, and also repositioned the containers so that they would always be visible by ticket gate employees. With no trash can-related incidents taking place in the time since, it’s unclear why the bureau would suddenly feel the need for enhanced precautions.
What is easier to see, though, is the economic benefit for the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation. In 2021 the bureau says it spent 100 million yen on trash collection/removal. Choosing to eliminate that expense, especially in a country where the majority of the population will take their trash home with them rather than litter, probably wasn’t such a hard decision to make.
On the plus side, the recycle boxes for empty drink containers will remain in place next to the stations’ ubiquitous vending machines. All other trash receptacles, though, are going away on May 9.
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