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SEPTA puts a green message on plastic

A SEPTA token in a broken plastic wrap labeled "go green go [SEPTA logo]"
Brittany Hahn

SEPTA’s plastic token-containing packages all read the message, “go green go [SEPTA logo],” and have commuters evaluating why there’s such an eco-friendly message on a not-so-eco-friendly packaging system.

For those unfamiliar with SEPTA, it's Philadelphia's public transportation system. One token serves as one ride per passenger; Token packages currently hold two or more tokens.

SEPTA rider for 66 years, Denise Brown, believes the eco-friendly message is merely about taking SEPTA vehicles versus other means of transportation.

“Taking the train uses less energy than driving a car, especially if you’re just driving yourself… I don’t think the plastic wrapping is the thing SEPTA is talking about that’s environment-friendly here,” said Brown.

Visit Philly lists the use of SEPTA as the second tip on going green Philadelphia-style. In fact, SEPTA’s annual reports show a constant decline in gases emitted per mile traveled from 2009 to date.

SEPTA Rider Elmer Vogt deems the message as reading more than slightly sarcastic, “I think it’s incredibly ironic because plastic is not known to be a green element. I know that taking the bus is better for the environment than other ways to get around the city… I just don’t think much thought was put into this one, and it makes me laugh.”

Vogt suggested the use of recycled papers to hold the coins instead, and then began belting out Alanis Morissette’s hit, “Ironic” while fellow commuters applauded.

According to SEPTA Watch reviewer, Matthew Mitchell, the tokens are pre-packaged in clear plastic so commuters can make sure they’re receiving the proper amount of tokens for what they paid. This prevents any sort of “he said, she said” conflict. For example, if a commuter paid for three tokens and only two are in the package, that commuter can show a SEPTA employee before opening the bag and get a replacement. Once the bag is open, a replacement cannot be issued.

What do you think is more important: Changing the token packaging to be more eco-friendly, or managing commuter conflict? Comment your thoughts below.