‘Incredibly frustrating,’ solutions to stop Ajax mailbox litter remain elusive

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Published March 7, 2022 at 10:54 am

Between the high costs of signage or garbage bins, and the “hypocrisy” of Canada Post, solutions to stop Ajax residents from littering their mail at community mailboxes continue to elude Ajax Council, who made their frustrations known in last week’s Council meeting.

Litter at Canada Post’s super community mailboxes has long been an issue in Ajax as some residents leave junk mail and flyers on the roadside instead of recycling it at home.

This led Council to request staff look into potential solutions after installing recycling bins was deemed too expensive. Staff came back with a delegation in the February 28 Council meeting describing three possible solutions, as presented by Interim Supervisor of Corporate Communications Devon Jarvis.

Firstly, Jarvis proposed placing stickers which would read, “Don’t Litter. Dispose of mail at home,” on the side of the mailboxes. This idea was rejected out of hand by Canada Post, which stressed company policy against placing decals on mailboxes.

Mayor Shaun Collier slammed this position minutes later. After previously electing not to speak Collier “reconsidered. I’m going to make a couple comments on this because I can’t not. I’m just blown away that we’re even having to have this discussion. Again.”

“That we even need to talk about what to do to get people to stop littering around these mailboxes blows my mind.” he continued, “Canada Post, I’m sorry, those mailboxes are covered in ‘walk your dog’ and ‘home daycare’ flyers for all kinds of things and they don’t clean that off.”

“Then they have the audacity to say ‘No. We won’t allow you to put a sticker on our mailbox’ to help solve a problem they’re contributing to and profiting from? That’s just total hypocrisy.”

The second proposed option would see Canada Post send out a flyer to Ajax residents advising them against littering. This was Canada Post’s preferred option “after many conversations” per Jarvis, but was also sharply criticized by council as only adding to the potential litter.

“I think it’s ironic” Councillor Sterling Lee said laughing, “that Canada Post wants us to mail out to residents like a notice that they will mostly likely end up throwing…”

“Sorry. This is an incredibly frustrating process,” Lee continued, “and I apologize for my lack of decorum, but $13,500. We’re not that far off from the initial $22,000 that was proposed that would for sure have addressed the issue,” by installing blue bins collected by the Region of Durham.

Councillor Ashmeed Khan suggested sending the notice out anyway, noting it was a free service from Canada Post. “If it’s not going to cost us anything, give it a shot and let’s see what happens,” he said, voicing an opinion shared by Councillor Marilyn Crawford.

“I would be really interested if we could track how many of those free envelopes get dropped on the ground.” Collier said, “Anything that come to my how that says ‘to the homeowner’ or ‘to the resident’ goes right in the blue bin.”

Thirdly and finally, the Jarvis pitched 100 permanent metal signs next to the community mailboxes. This is by far the priciest option, with an estimated cost of $13,500 plus tax to for materials, labour and equipment.

The aluminum signs would also take the longest as they’d require utilities to be located underground prior to installation, a two month long process due to COVID-19 related pressures.

Beginning his comments with a frustrated scoff, Councillor Sterling Lee asked, “Isn’t there a cheaper sign option? What about an h-frame? Wouldn’t that be something that would not be $13,500 before taxes?”

However, due to the diverse types of ground the mailboxes rest on and weather-wear on the prospective signs they need to be stronger and sturdier than Lee’s suggestion would allow, Jarvis said.

“I don’t think any of the options are overly appetizing,” said Lee.

“I wanted to be quiet on this. I really did, but I’m so frustrated and disgusted that this is even a thing that we need to deal with” said Collier.

Lee offered a compromise of rewriting the signs as a general anti-littering message to be used across town instead of only at the mailboxes. Councillor Rob Tyler-Morin seconded Lee’s motion citing reports from other communities of signs efficacy.

Collier insisted he could not support spending so much on signage saying, “They just don’t work. I can’t in good conscience  not spend $22,000 for something I know is going to work, which is a blue bin picking up the litter… rather than $15,255 for signage to tell people something that people should know damn well not to do.”

Ultimately, Council defeated Lee’s motion to add $15,000 to the 2022 operating budget to pay for the signage by a single vote.

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