To stop the distribution of unsolicited flyers
Why is it a problem?
In the midst of an environmental crisis, the delivery of unsolicited flyers, such as Publisacs, is irresponsible and wasteful. We’re talking about thousands of tonnes of advertising materials.
When unsolicited, and therefore not used, they end up adding to the mountains of waste in our landfills, which are fast approaching full capacity.
When flyers are recycled, it’s better, but a lot of energy goes into sorting and recycling a product that hasn’t even been used. Worse still, when the flyers are not removed from the Publisac bags, the bags impede the recycling process. Even when they are separated, there are very few local facilities where these bags can be recycled.
The solution is simple: flyers can be delivered only to those who request them, rather than be systematically delivered to everyone. It would reduce flyer waste at the source. For those who want them, they can simply opt-in to receive them.
Change is happening
In 2019, Mirabel became the first city in Quebec to adopt the opt-in formula, a system whereby people sign up to have flyers delivered to their home. This decision was opposed by TC Transcontinental, the company that prints and distributes Publisacs. The case made its way to the Quebec Superior Court, which ruled in favour of Mirabel.
In April 2022, Montreal followed suit, announcing that it too would adopt the opt-in system. This decision was in response to public demand, initiated several years ago by a citizen, Charles Montpetit, with whom Équiterre has been working on this dossier.
The time has come for all Quebec municipalities to join the movement! If Mirabel and Montreal can do it, the rest of the province can as well.
“ With the support of our fellow citizens, we convinced Montreal to eliminate tonnes of waste from flyers. This precedent can be applied across the province. You can make it happen in your region too – it only takes a few minutes to email your mayor. ”
You can call on your mayor to implement an opt-in system for flyers, and avoid tonnes of waste in your municipality.
You’ve already put your “no junk mail” sticker on your mailbox? That’s great! But you can take your action even further and help to create broader societal change.
Do like Charles Montpetit and write to your elected representatives. It’s easy. Just send this pre-written email to your mayor, calling on him or her to ensure that in your city, flyers are sent only to people who have opted to receive them, not to everyone.
We encourage you to personalize the message, especially the salutation. Unsolicited emails are a true waste of resources, that can easily be avoided if your city regulates them. It’s time to take action!
Why are unsolicited flyers problematic?
At the beginning of the year, the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE) underscored the vital role that reduction at source plays in combating the waste crisis.
A good start is to reduce the output of goods that we don’t even use and the automatic home delivery of flyers, such as Publisacs, is a concrete example.
Unsolicited and, thus, unused, these flyers end up in the garbage or the recycling bin.
Forcing people to receive a product that they didn’t ask for is a waste of resources.
What are the environmental impacts of flyers?
All too often, Publisacs end up in the garbage. They create mountains of waste in our landfill sites, which are rapidly approaching full capacity.
Recycling them is better, but sorting and recycling a product that has not even been used is a waste of energy. Worse still, when the Publisac bags have not been separated from the flyers, they impede the recycling process. And even when they are separated, there are very few local facilities where they can be recycled.
TC Transcontinental claims that “9 out of 10 Quebecers read the Publisac flyers,” so why do we need an opt-in?
The firm hired by TC Transcontinental to measure the popularity of the Publisac admitted in 2019 that only people “who use the product” were surveyed.
A Segma survey commissioned by the City of Montreal showed that 82% of residents and businesses want the Publisac delivered only to those who ask to receive it.
Why an opt-in instead of an opt-out?
Why distribute a product to every household when only a portion of the population uses it? It makes no sense!
Regarding the City of Mirabel’s by-law, Superior Court Judge Jean-Yves Lalonde found it to be “a public-interest by-law justified by the desire to reduce the management of residual materials and promote the cleanliness of the territory. These are major environmental issues that do not require a large degree of prior expertise before concluding that they are favourable to the well-being of citizens.”
Can we really put an end to mass distribution of flyers in our city?
The flyer opt-in measure in Montreal is proof that community involvement can have a concrete impact. Mirabel has also been successful. There’s no reason to think that other cities, municipalities and regions in Quebec can’t follow their lead.
How to ensure that such a regulation will be respected by the companies distributing the flyers?
The regulation must include penalties that are high enough to deter non-compliance. The penalties must cover the cost of recurring inspections. For example, Montreal is planning to fine a business $4,000 for each repeat offence.
What about the impact on Publisac employees?
Indeed, this is a significant negative impact. The changes that we need to make in our modes of production and consumption will impact employment, and this must be factored in when planning the transition. These workers must receive assistance in finding alternate employment. The current labour shortage bodes well for job prospects.
Flyers often promote local businesses. How would this affect them?
Supporting local businesses is always a good thing! But there are other, more environmentally friendly ways to promote a business than systematically distributing flyers. The people who wish to receive them will be able to request them.
Flyers have a smaller environmental footprint than Amazon, in addition to supporting local commerce. Why not act instead against Amazon?
One does not preclude the other. Équiterre is working on various fronts to combat the waste crisis and to encourage reduction at the source. The flyer distribution opt-in is the type of measure that can be implemented at the municipal level and can generate a tangible impact in our communities.
Comment continuer de recevoir des hebdomadaires régionaux avec l'opt-in?
L'adhésion volontaire pour les circulaires ne s'applique pas aux hebdos régionaux, qui ne sont pas assujettis à la réglementation de l'opt-in.
Les municipalités qui décideront d'aller de l'avant devront travailler à mettre en place des solutions pour la distribution si cela s'avère nécessaire, mais nous constatons qu'il y a une belle collaboration de la part de ces médias à ce jour, et les solutions existent!
Par exemple, la ville de Montréal a mis sur pied un groupe de travail pour trouver des solutions à ce sujet, comme certains hebdos étaient initialement distribués avec les publisacs, et les réprésentant(e)s qui ont participé au dévoilement du règlement soulignent que des solutions existent : la distribution peut être faite à part.