Ban Publisacs? City to ask public's opinion as it weighs ecological footprint

While grocery stores can no longer offer free bags to customers, companies such as Publisac, which deliver flyers and local newspapers, continue to use plastic to hold their product.

Weekly flyers are delivered in plastic while single-use bags banned in grocery stores

Charles Montpetit wants flyer delivery in Montreal to be opt-in, instead of opt-out. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC Montreal)

A resident of Montreal's Rosemont neighbourhood is sounding the alarm over the "ecological disaster" of flyers delivered in plastic bags to thousands of the city's households every week.

While grocery stores can no longer offer free bags to customers, companies such as Publisac, which deliver flyers and local newspapers, continue to use plastic to hold their product.

The city's finance and administration committee recommended looking at flyer distributors in its report on the city's 2019 budget released Tuesday.

Executive committee member Jean-Francois Parenteau said the city will consult the public on the issue in the new year.

However, Parenteau said, "we don't want to target specifically Publisac," and that the city will continue to look at other single-use plastics and their impact on the city's recycling facilities.

Transcontinental, which owns Publisac, told CBC News that 87 percent of Quebecers read those flyers, and noted that the bags and their contents are made out of recyclable materials.

However, if paper and plastics are not separated, the amount of material that can actually be recycled is reduced, said Montpetit.

He suggests the flyer companies use paper envelopes instead.

He says that, so far, he isn't impressed by the city's action on this issue. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC Montreal)

Residents can opt out of receiving the flyers by putting a sticker on their mailbox.

However, Montpetit says that, like email newsletters, the system should be opt-in, not opt-out.

In 2014, Canadian regulations came into effect requiring a user to consent to receiving emails from advertisers.

Montpetit says that, for physical flyers, the regulations should be the same.

"When it comes to real paper flyers, suddenly it's the reverse," he said. "A lot of people don't bother to get these stickers."

He proposes that Montrealers instead put a sticker on their mailbox if they want to receive flyers.

He says the current system puts the responsibility on the consumer, giving companies "the right to dump material on the doorstep."

He says he isn't too thrilled by the city's response so far, and that his proposals are backed by green groups including David Suzuki Foundation, Equiterre and Greenpeace.

As climate scientists continue to produce research adding to the consensus that human activity is leading to catastrophic climate change, he says "we have to have bold steps" that go beyond the acts of the individual.

"The policies of doing little changes are not enough anymore to avert a crisis," he said.

With files from Antoni Nerestant

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