December 17, 2007

Free dailies: The scourge of the world's subways

When I first encountered the Metro in Europe a few years ago, it seemed like a great idea. Here was a news source that you could digest quickly, on the subway... and it was free! Now, though, the Metro has metastasized into a global empire -- and a global rubbish heap. In London, where three free dailies battle for readership, the Guardian reports that commuters toss out 9.5 tons of newspapers every day, including nearly a million copies of the Metro. In Toronto, where Fade to Green is spending the week, the once pristine subways are now littered with discarded papers.

According to the Metro's website, the paper's worldwide daily circulation is some 7.5 million copies across 88 cities in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. That's an impressive figure -- but only a fraction of the 40 million papers handed out around the globe each day, according to London environmental group Project Freesheet. The group is lobbying to ban street hawkers and increase recycling, and collecting images like the one above. So what's next? TV screens on the subways? Now that they're installed in NYC cabs, I wouldn't be surprised...

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