Hung on millions of doorknobs every week in Quebec, PubliSacs—plastic bags filled with flyers, coupons and weekly newspapers—are in danger of disappearing.
Toward the end of 2018, a petition against PubliSacs on environmental grounds garnered thousands of signatures. Signees suggested that the plastic bags should be recyclable and that the dozens of flyers they contain were no longer needed because the participating stores’ discounts can be viewed online.
By introducing a regulation in mid-August, Mirabel became the first municipality in Quebec to ban bagged advertisements. And last fall, Montreal, which banned other single-use plastic bags in 2018, held a public consultation to determine whether PubliSacs should be banned. Many recommended that consumers should have to opt in to receive them instead of getting them automatically.
Complicating the issue is the fact that PubliSacs are the main vehicle for the distribution of dozens of free weekly papers in the province. The owner of PubliSac, Transcontinental, has launched a massive advertising campaign to make its case. Among other arguments, it points out that distributing newspapers by mail would be much more costly and time-consuming, and that thousands of jobs directly or indirectly related to the door-to-door distribution of PubliSacs would be lost.
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Hebdos Québec, the non-profit independent press organization whose members use PubliSacs to reach hundreds of thousands of Quebeckers every week, has claimed that banning PubliSacs represents an infringement of freedom of expression and threatens the survival of the regional press.
This didn’t stop the elected members of the Montreal task force from unanimously recommending, at the end of last year, that Montreal switch to an opt-in model. The debate will certainly continue in 2020.