Litter on a Train

I have commuted by train from Chippenham over the past several years and, as a result, I have put together my own guide to train etiquette – the general stuff that I’m sure most regular train travellers inwardly grumble about as well:

  • Stand behind the yellow line and let people off the train before trying to rush on board yourself.
  • Is it a peak train with a lot of people trying to find a seat? Your bag or jacket doesn’t need one – make space!
  • Portable devices allowing you to listen to music or play movies are great. However, not everyone wants to hear the latest hit single, Game of Thrones, or your phone calls. Be aware of sound leakage, especially from earbuds.

Yet my obsession with litter has seen me start to take notice of the problem on board trains and at stations. For example, rubbish left behind on trays or seats is common. The result is that the seat is effectively out of action until someone (most likely train staff) removes the litter – people do not want to sit where there’s trash.

However, getting rid of litter on trains can be equally problematic: bins on trains are not fit for their current purpose. Have a sandwich carton, bottle of water, and a coffee cup? That’s one bin full. Nor are there any recycling facilities, despite the train companies themselves selling a wide variety of recyclable beverage containers.

Why does this bother me? It perpetuates the idea that “someone else” will clean up. As people already expect their rubbish to be cleared away at cinemas, festivals, and football stadiums, does this lack of personal responsibility bleed into other parts of life? Is this attitude potentially one of the culprits behind the increase in litter in the UK?

Litter on a train doesn’t have quite the same ring as snakes on a plane, but it’s potentially an easier problem to solve. Tacking it onto an announcement, perhaps: “Please ensure you have all of your belongings and place all rubbish in the bins provided.” Or go the trolley service route like Cross Country trains: rubbish is collected during the journey, keeping the train tidy and ensuring passengers have a modicum of responsibility in handing over their rubbish. Regardless,  public transport shouldn’t mean lack of public responsibility.


“Did you want to sit here?” A colleague actually mentioned litter on trains to First Great Western … and was told it wasn’t a problem. Yet all of these photos are just one end of a carriage during a single journey.


Phantom commuters?


Football pitch mentality?


Itty bitty bins.


Slightly bigger bin … but no recycling facilities.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *