Trash bins on subway platforms

What’s wrong with this photo?

I took the above photo on Spadina’s subway platform back in early December with the hope of making a post about it soon after. Sadly, it got lost in my ever expanding to-do list. But since the photo was taken, I’ve seen more and more of the bins appearing on other station platforms.

So, here is what’s wrong with this photo: after the attacks on the World Trade Centre back in 2001, the TTC decided to evaluate the safety of Toronto’s subway system. One of the recommendations was to remove the old, bulky cement-and-tile garbage bins. Why? Someone could put a bomb in a bin. Safety trumps cleanliness in the TTC’s eyes so the bins were removed. In many stations you can still see circular markings where those bins stood (the above photo hasĀ  a marking under the left bin).

Sadly, these old bins were sent to the scrap heap or dumped in Tommy Thompson Park (see photo below). Clear plastic bag bins were installed on the upper level of stations. This was a good from one perspective: riders had recycling options for their trash for the first time. The bad side: it meant subway trains and platforms contained much more litter, especially with the explosion of transit newspapers like Metro and 24 Hours.

The other sad part of the bin removal program was that these big trash containers, in some cases, were quite attractive and complemented the tile and colour design of stations. Instead of throwing them away, the TTC could’ve made them available to the public, BIAs or other businesses. I can easily see the bins being used in backyards or outside a store as plant or flower containers.

I suspect the TTC realized that their initial policy was over-the-top, and the return of the bins to the platform is a small, but positive, step to dealing with the mess that TTC riders make on a daily basis.

photo by Sam Javanrouh


  1. I think the sad part is that the new bins don’t have a separation for compost.

  2. the article suggests that the ttc was “over the top” to remove garbage bins from subway platforms. to play devil’s advocate, i think it wasn’t a strange decision. by way of example, london and tokyo have both have no bins on platforms (and unfortunately have also lived through lethal terrorist attacks on their subways). come to think of it, try finding a public garbage can ANYWHERE in tokyo…

  3. The really unfortunate thing is that they seem to continuously use bags that are too small. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in a station and seen them spilling out all over the place.

    Of course, it doesn’t help when people just keep adding to the pile on the floor.

  4. A bomb can still be put in the new bins and hidden in a package. In fact the old bins were better as they were so heavy that most blasts would have been directed upwards and away from riders. In terms of shrapnel the new bins would seem to be better for creating carnage. All the old bins needed was a lid that reduced the size of what you threw out.I always thought those old bins were really ugly but its a shame they could not have been given away. I never thought I would find anything redeeming about them.

  5. The TTC dumped the containers in a park?

    Hope the TTC pays for illegal dumping!

    The media should be notified and shame the TTC and Miller!!!

  6. Sean: its within the city’s property that is located within the park. Its the future site of a tree nursery.

    Don’t know why it would shame Miller or any politician: its the TTC that did it and it wasn’t coming from any orders made by the Commissioners’.

  7. Interesting picture yet ironic at the same time. It’s says “We recycle” on the bin and look at the place where the bins ended up. Something to really think about.

  8. I note too that the new bags don’t promote separation of trash from recyclables. At least paper waste used to be disposed in special blue bins designed for newspapers (narrow slots at the top made it hard to put general trash in). I see waste mixed.

    However, you see these types of open-view bags in London, UK railway and Underground stations, where of course, bombs in rubbish bins was a very real threat thanks to IRA bombings in the 1970s and 1980s. If this was the solution in a country where they did have bombs in public transport facilities, it makes some sense that the TTC has gone this route.

    I was glad to see the bags at platform level, at least that has put an end to much of the littering.

  9. The NYC subway, which is patrolled by actual cops with machine guns who like to search your bags, oddly never removed their old metal bins. Maybe they realized that, as noted above, heavy-duty garbage cans are pretty good at containing explosions.

    The overlapping PATH subway, which runs from Manhattan to New Jersey, is run by the Port Authority, whose HQ was in the WTC – they lost many employees on 9/11 – and the same agency also owns many of the terrorist-hotlist bridges and tunnels around New York. Their stations are unmanned (other than their own machine-gun toting cops who occasionally drop by) and they never returned any kind of trash bins to their stations after 9/11. It is odd to go between connecting PATH and MTA stations and have two completely different security environments.

    In the end, we live in a free society and if someone wants to bomb a subway they are going to bomb a subway. This is all cover-your-ass/psychological window dressing.

  10. Is Spacing mostly for ex-pat Torontonians to flex their knowledge of the world beyond Toronto? London, New York, Tokyo…no matter the post, the comments are always rife with observations about other places. Tellingly, the other places tend to be metropoles even bigger than Toronto, which leads me to ask: if Toronto was bigger, would more people stay? My impression is that ambitious Torontonians wish Toronto would hurry up and become the true big city they seek, instead of an overgrown town, surrounded by Angeleno-like sprawl, forever failing to reach its “potential”. From the comments above, you can almost detect frustration that Toronto isn’t worthy of actually bombing, an honour bestowed only on cities that matter like London, New York, Tokyo…

    I write this from New York, by the way.

  11. Ugly! Ugly!
    Now we can clearly see all the trash.
    Is this any way to ‘beautify Toronto’?

  12. Re: dumping grounds.

    The Leslie Spit in Toronto is a construction material dump 5 days a week. The whole spit is make up of landfill. It’s a park on weekends and if you want to sneak in, after hours.

    I imagine the concrete garbage cans were dumped here in the same way other concrete and construction waste is dumped and will make for a future fish reef as the spit continues to grow.

  13. A few of the old-style bins were installed in the park area around the entrance to the Greenwood Subway Yard at the end of Oakvale Ave. I’m not sure if they’re still there, but it was neat to see a few survive. Most of those old red-brown tile bins went back to the early 80s, when they replaced sheet metal-type garbage cans. In the 70s some stations on the Yonge line had the old metal rubbish bins actually attached to the station walls.

  14. The picture of the bins out at a park is a sad sight. The TTC “should” be ashamed.

    Maybe they should have sold them or something. I’m sure(some) people would have bought into them. A way of recycling right?

  15. a strong explosive will destroy the entire bin (the old ones). Pieces of it will fly in various directions, causing injuries.

  16. I agree with Sean that this should be publicized through the media. Though technically it is not illegal. It is simply stupid and irresponsible.

    The TTC is a municipal body wherein the Commissioners are appointed by City Council and are governed by City by-laws. The TTC is also partially financed by taxpayers (municipal + provincial). As such, the TTC is or should be subject to the same policies as the Corporation of the City of Toronto. In this case…recycling…and all the other green standards that the City is trying to implement.

    Per Mathew’s comment, they should have simply offered the bins to the BIA’s at least as an interim solution. But then herein lie different issues with respect to garbage pick-up and labour agreements….which can influence how trash bins are designed and operated.

    It is absurd that the TTC can still be allowed to operate independently from the City.

    uSkyscraper is correct in identifying the TTC’s garbe bin approach as window dressing. It is fear mongering coupled with potential litigation that drives decisions. Fear of transit authorities being sued not providing adequate protection. And that “adequacy” is all relative.

    In addition, a bomb can take the form of any object. And most people would not know a bomb if they saw it except from what they see on TV. An APM (anti-personal mine) can be as small as a tuna can, actually looks like a tuna can (sans advertising), and explosive enough to dismember a person. Next time you see what may look like a cat food can…think twice! Does this mean we have to redesign all of our daily products/merchandise?

    Anglo-Canada basically looks to the US (and sometimes the UK) for direction. Most of our policies are direct replicas or appropriations from the USA. In continental EU, fully enclosed litter and recycling bins are still the norm at airports, train stations and other transit facilities.

  17. The tile bins are beautiful and glad to hear they are being re-installed, albeit slowly.

    A positive of the clear plastic bags is that folks can see how much and what types of trash they generate…

  18. I make good use of the clear plastic bins. Since I usually travel the subway mid-morning, all the Metro papers are gone from upstairs. The plastic bags make it easy to spot them and easy to pull one out!

    As for the old tile bins, I bet a lot of TTC fans would be very happy to have been given the chance to buy one for their home or apartment!

  19. Those are very attractive. A lot of thought went into the desgn.

  20. A likely factor in the absence of the bins from track level is that the TTC stopped operating garbage trains. It’s harder to throw a bag of garbage up a flight of stairs at the end of the day.

    I was glad to see the garbage bags back at platform level. There was never any excuse for littering the platform and tracks — you must have carried that paper, cup, or chip bag down there, and you sure can carry it back up — but the convenience of being able to throw things out a little bit sooner is nice.

  21. I know where you could find four of the old containers.

    If you take them maybe the TTC could fulfill their role of taking care
    of the Greenwood Yards park space in providing disposal of organic
    dog waste.

    Oops did I let the cat out of the bag.

  22. A benefit of the old bins was their ability, through the design of the domed lid, to suppress fires. One needn’t look further than the smoke stains above Montreal’s Metro garbage cans to see the value in this.

  23. I just hope the same fate doesn’t befall those great slab benches on platforms as well. I hope we get fair warning if the TTC decides to ditch those…

  24. Those tile garbage bins were installed in the TTC around 1970 and some were in the way, narrowing up corridors between the subway and outdoors.

    There was one installed at Union in the corridor leading to the right/West as you climbed out to the front of Union Station.

    The tacky hot dog carts on the surface do nothing for that area, either.

    When first installed, commuters were dashing around the corner and running into the new tiled container, myself included.

    Could have caused a major pile up of folks if the Subway had to be evacuated quickly for some reason.

    I was glad to see THAT one go! as the ‘flow’ was once again unimpeded.

    It might be easier to clean the platforms with the new versions? as they could never get in behind the tile versions.

    Where the tile versions once were is still very evident by the round stain on the floor with the single mounting bolt ground off in the centre.

    Others seemed to be in the way at escalators.

    TTC should have given more thought as to what happened to the old containers.

    Too bad they got rid of the garbage train, but, it may well have not been practible to operate it if there was major track work in effect during the hours the subway was closed?

    I was in Toronto RIDING on the TTC to Union when the signal cables fell on to the tracks at Eglington in the fall and our train was held Southbound at Davisville for quite some time.

    Coming back to Eglington required a ’round the Horn trip to Eglington West Subway, then the Eglington West bus, 34? to Eglington and then onward on the Mt. Pleasant 103.

    The next day all was repaired and easily made it to Union for the Montreal train.

    Was also in Toronto when the train derailed at Kennedy about a year ago and closed that portion of the line for almost 3 days, and just after, the LRT was closed by snow.

    No one seems to like the TTC, unless it is NOT running. Ditto GO.

    The 401 and the Gardner are terrible creations, the latter uglifies Toronto as much as the high rises beyond it.

    In the good old days the St Clair streetcar looped thru St Clair station, terminating at Mt Pleasant and Eglington.

    I see the St Clair car route is being upgraded and busses substituted.

Comments are closed.