Northern Rail Recycling Revisited

I travelled on Northern Rail trains on several occasions this week, and spotted their latest recycling poster about newspapers, with the quote: “It’s rubbish when you leave it” – meaning you should take your newspaper home and recycle it, rather than leaving it on the train for someone else to read.

This reminded me about my previous post about their last poster on this theme, which I disagree with. They claim that leaving newspapers on trains is littering, while I claim that it saves paper because people pick up newspapers on the train to read rather than picking up another copy of the Metro from the pile at the station. If there were no newspapers on the train because everyone had taken them home (as Northern Rail want) then Metro would have to print a load more copies. That’s hardly very green.

When I contacted Northern Rail about this previously they defended the policy saying they wanted the trains kept clean, however they did let me know that they prefer to collect rubbish from trains and stations and segregate it “off site”, ie. separate it out afterwards. That sounds like a pretty messy job, but I’m glad they’re doing it. Apparently the 2009 figures reveal that 354 tonnes of general waste was removed from trains at the West Yorkshire depot of which 265 tonnes was recycled.

But what about stations? Last year they had one paper recycling point on the whole network, pictured. It’s at Manchester Victoria station which I visit regularly – but it’s on a platform inaccessible to the general public as it’s behind a ticket check point. My trains usually arrive at a different platform so I can’t use it.

So the verdict. On train recycling – good but invisible. Station recycling – could do better.

Recycling (or not) with Northern Rail

Earlier this year, I noticed a number of the following posters appearing on Northern Rail trains. I am strongly in favour of recycling, but they seem to have the wrong end of the stick.

Recycling is just as much about reuse as it is about reprocessing materials and making something new. Leaving newspapers on the train (especially copies of Metro) is a perfect example of recycling in action. If everybody took their own copy of the Metro home to recycle, then they’d need to print twice as many.

Of course, at the end of the day, all the day’s newspapers should be recycled. However, I have never seen a recycling point (for newspapers, cans, bottles, or anything for that matter) on board a Northern Rail train, or at a Northern Rail station in West Yorkshire.

To that end, I have written Northern Rail the following letter:

Dear Northern Rail,

I am writing regarding the recycling poster that has appeared recently on your trains around West Yorkshire. It states:

“Please recycle your newspaper. Leaving it behind is littering.”

As a keen supporter of recycling, I am glad to see that you are taking the issue seriously.

The poster encourages people to recycle newspapers that they have been reading on the train, many of which will be the free papers provided in your stations.

Could you let me know what facilities are available for recycling on board your trains and at your stations?

Also, do your cleaners recycle items (eg. newspapers, cans, bottles) found on board trains when cleaning them?

I would challenge your assertion that leaving a newspaper on the train is littering. I almost never pick up a copy of Metro from the piles available at your stations, but regularly pick one up that has been left on the train. If everybody took home their own copy of the Metro, then you’d have to print twice as many, which isn’t very green.

My suggestion for addressing this issue would be that you provide areas in each train carriage, and at each station, where people can leave their newspapers. This chould be a shelf clearly marked “Leave your newspaper here”. It should not be a bin, the idea being that other people could pick up a newspaper from the shelf to read, then replace it when they’ve finished. At the end of the day, your cleaners could clear the shelf straight into a paper recycling bin. This would encourage both reuse and recycling of the newspapers, which is surely better all round.

I look forward to hearing what you think.