Those who want a Publisac full of flyers will now have to ask for it.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante announced on Monday that as of May 2023, only those who request advertisements or flyers to be delivered to their homes will receive them in their mailboxes.

Those who want Publisac flyers or any other advertisement can request a sticker from the city.

"Cities must take strong action to address the climate crisis, and this by-law will allow us to reduce at the source a significant amount of paper and plastic in circulation in Montreal," said Plante.

In addition, the city will ban the plastic bags the flyers typically come in.

The city says around 800,000 flyers and other advertisements are distributed in Montreal every week, adding up to about 40 million per year.

"The City of Montreal has set an ambitious goal of becoming a zero-waste city by 2030," Plante said.

"To reach this goal, the volume of landfill material must be reduced by 85 per cent, which represents a reduction of 10 kg of waste per person per year," she added.

"With this by-law, we are allowing people who wish to continue to receive advertising to do so, while acting ambitiously for the good of our planet and the population."

The city's plan is in response to a 2020 environmental report and a vote in which 82 per cent of people supported the voluntary system.


However, some condemned the news, including Publisac's owner, TC Transcontinental, and a local union.

TC Transcontinental said it will lead to the end of Publisac, calling the opt-in model unsustainable.

"In the current inflationary context, and at a time when the population is facing an unprecedented rise in prices, the social and economic relevance of the Publisac is greater than ever," said Transcontinental senior vice-president Patrick Brayley in a news release.

"Indeed, the Publisac, in addition to giving consumers access to discounts, distributes local newspapers at an advantageous cost, helps merchants to attract customers and compete against the giants of e-commerce, and supports thousands of direct and indirect jobs."

Transcontinental board chair Isabelle Marcoux said the company has invested to reduce waste and had hoped to find a solution by working with and talking to the city.

"For the past three years, and even up to the last few days, we have sought constructive dialogue with the City in order to collaborate in achieving source reduction, optimizing the recycling system, and creating a circular economy for plastics in Québec,” she said.

"We firmly believe that it is through collaboration and not confrontation, that we can find solutions to the challenges of our time that we all care about.”

Publisac offers an opt-out model on its site. The company said more than 200,000 Quebec households have taken advantage of it. 

The city said it has worked with local newspapers to help them transition with a financial assistance program, details of which would be worked out over the year.

The CSN union, which represents myriad workers involved with the flyers, from journalists to those in the manufacturing industry, said the decision should have been made after consultation and that it will ask the province to intervene.

The move "will have devastating impacts, both on employment and on local information. Certainly, reducing the volume of recycling is important, but it is not the only issue to consider," said the CSN in a written statement.

The union argued that the flyers don't result in extra trees being cut down, because "this paper is made with shavings from the sawing of timber," according to the manufacturing workers' branch of the union.

And on the journalism side, at the Metro newspaper alone "it is estimated that 40 journalists will lose their jobs since the business model will no longer be viable," said Annick Charrette, president of the FNCC branch of the union.


However, Metro Media said it supports the new by-law but that it needs financial help from the city, as many local newspapers are delivered in plastic bags like the Publisac.

"This decision will necessitate a review of the Publisac distribution method when it comes into effect next year, which will undeniably have collateral impacts on the local news industry," said Andrew Mule, Metro Media President and chair of Montreal's Local Newspaper Advisory Committee.

"At Metro Media, we will have to rely on the city's financial support to help us continue the transition of our business model, which has already been underway for over a year," he said.

"The city's recognition of our contribution to the social, community and economic vitality of Montreal's neighbourhoods sends a strong message for the future of news."

The mayor said the city is aware of the importance of local newspapers.

"We wanted to work with the community newspaper industry, which is an essential tool for democracy," said Plante.  

--With files from CTV's Selena Ross