I try to spend most of my time on Council addressing constituent service and the big issues facing the city, things like transportation infrastructure and safety, affordable housing, and environmental protection.
But there’s a pet peeve of mine that I’ve turned into a pet project. I call it #MLiveLitter.
MLive produces an advertising circular and events listing that they distribute for free throughout the community. If people want it, I’m fine with that (I have yet to have anyone tell me they want it).
But here’s the problem, since most people don’t want it, the papers end up as litter. Often, the papers pile up in driveways and yards. If they didn’t want the first one (or 2 or 3), that should be a signal not to deliver any more.
There they are left to disintegrate into a pulp, and eventually wash away to pollute our waterways.
Sometimes they are left right in the middle of the road (hint to Mlive, nobody lives in the middle of the road).
I’m not alone in my frustration. A recent poster to NextDoor reported:
I’ve asked them to stop as well, no joy. They keep dumping them. A couple times I’ve caught them throwing them out by my mailbox. The story from the deliverers is they don’t have a list of ‘do not delivers’, their only instruction is to deliver them to every house.
Why is this a problem:
- It’s unsightly. Piles of litter in our streets and neighborhoods degrade the asthetics of our community.
It’s dangerous. While there are piles of #MLiveLitter at some occupied homes, it can also be a cue to potential thieves that a home is unoccupied. I’ve seen the circulars delivered even after someone moves out, cancels their paper delivery, and asks repeatedly for the paper not to be delivered to the vacant house.
- It increases flooding risk: newspapers that are delivered to the street often end up in our storm drains, where they can block the drain and contribute to flooding risk in large rainstorms.
- It’s illegal. Chapter 82 of the Ann Arbor code of ordinances states, “No person shall throw or deposit any handbill or newspaper upon any sidewalk, street, park or other public place except for drop-off distribution points for newspapers to be delivered the same day as distributed.” So, all those pictures of newspapers on the streets and sidewalks? It was illegal to deliver them there (though a very low priority for enforcement).
- It’s bad for the environment. According to the LA County Department of Public Works:
Plastic bags are difficult and costly to recycle and most end up on landfill sites where they take around 300 years to photodegrade. They break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them.
What can be done?
In May of 2015 I met with representatives of the firm that distributes the Mlive advertising circular to request:
- Improved opt-out compliance: A perennial complaint is that households opt-out of the paper, but that request is not honored. To that end, I requested:
- Improved procedures for processing opt-outs
- Allowing people to post a “Please don’t deliver” sign at their property as an opt-out
- Requiring clear-to-understand opt-out instructions visible without opening package
- No Paper Pileup Policy
- Require that when delivery people observe 2 circulars already present, they don’t deliver a 3rd and either put that address on the “do not deliver” list for 1 year or get explicit opt-in permission from the resident to re-deliver the paper.
- 3rd party opt-out:
- As a neighbor, I see which properties never pick up their circulars. I should have the opportunity to report such properties and have them placed on the do not deliver list for one year or until the company gets explicit opt-in permission from the resident to re-deliver the paper. A2FixIt should be a tool to deliver this feedback.
- Require compostable packaging
- bags that the circulars are delivered in should be able to compost in a natural environment. Many compostable materials require the high temperatures of municipal compost systems–temperatures that won’t be reached in storm drain. Therefore, teh bags should comply with backyard compostable standard such as Vinçotte OK Compost HOME.
At that meeting, I was told that the organization would establish policies that would address the major concerns.
These policies have not yet arrived.
At this time, I am reviewing options to amend our City regulations regarding newspaper and handbill distribution. In the meantime, you can:
- Report unwanted deliveries to [email protected]
- Help document the problem. Take a picture of egregious problems and email them to me at [email protected] Also consider posting them to social media and tagging @Mlive and using the hashtag #MliveLitter
- Email [email protected] and ask them to change their delivery policies so they stop delivering advertising circulars to roads and sidewalks and stop delivering them when previous weeks’ copies haven’t been picked up.