Canada Post is relying on people to carry junk mail home with them from its thousands of new super mailboxes to avoid Hamilton neighbourhoods getting clogged with unwanted mail litter.

Starting on the Mountain, the corporation is installing about 4,000 new community mailboxes around Hamilton over the next five years as it phases out door-to-door delivery. The roughly 117,000 Hamiltonians who get mail delivered to their door will have to go to a central location in their neighbourhood.

'It’s funny that you use the term junk mail because a lot of people see the pizza flyer that comes on Wednesday as junk mail, but when it’s Friday night and they want to order pizza, they’re digging it out and finding it quite useful.' - Susan Margles, Canada Post

But Canada Post won’t provide recycling bins for unwanted ad mail at the new mailboxes. It expects customers to take it home, read it and recycle it there, said Susan Margles, the corporation’s vice-president of government relations and policy.

“It’s funny that you use the term junk mail because a lot of people see the pizza flyer that comes on Wednesday as junk mail,” Margles said. “But when it’s Friday night and they want to order pizza, they’re digging it out and finding it quite useful.”

To eliminate ad mail litter, she said, Canada Post is helping people “understand the value of their mail to reduce the amount of litter around the boxes.”

Ad mail litter is among the subjects that worried city councillors at a general issues committee meeting on Wednesday.

Terry Langley, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 548, showed councillors photos of super mailboxes with mounds of junk mail around them.

Mountain councillors, such as Coun. Terry Whitehead of Ward 8, worry that the ad mail, in addition to more traffic and loss of privacy, will drive down Hamilton property values.

“There is an impact on adjacent households,” Whitehead said during Margles’s presentation.

'Our only hope is for this to be an election issue.' - Coun. Chad Collins

Margles says there’s no evidence that the mailboxes decrease property values for nearby homes. Canada Post has had community mailboxes for decades, she said, and they’re received no complaints of that.

“It’s never been an issue,” she said. “We’ve always had community mailboxes out around homes and it’s never been raised.”

The city has passed three motions against community mailboxes since Canada Post included a phase-out of door-to-door delivery in its operational plan last year.

On Wednesday, they voted to write to the federal government asking to suspend the plan to eliminate door-to-door service. It also voted to incorporate the mailboxes into an existing bylaw that governs the installation of road-side infrastructure.

A staff report estimated that the mailboxes could cost the city nearly $2 million, or $522 per each of the 4,000 mailboxes, to site and maintain. Canada Post gives the city $50 per mailbox and says that’s been enough in the 11 other communities that have been converted so far. The city estimate uses what it costs staff to deal with other road-side utilities.

In Hamilton, 117,000 residents get door-to-door delivery. Another 34,000 have community mailboxes, 43,000 get mail through apartment building lobbies and 3,000 get mail at the end of their driveways in rural environments.

Despite council’s concerns, there’s not much the city can do about it, said Coun. Chad Collins of Ward 5.

Canada Post is a Crown Corporation with a government-appointed board, and Coun. Sam Merulla called it the federal government’s “stroke of the pen” that let the plan happen.

“This, for me, is probably one of the top issues our city is looking at right now,” Collins said.

The only chance of it being repealed is for the current government, or a new government, to change its mind, he said.

“Our only hope is for this to be an election issue.”