Publisac: setting the facts straight

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October 11, 2019

Once again, in his letter published in Le Devoir on October 7, the instigator of the Antipublisac movement distorts reality, takes deceptive shortcuts, and misleads the public.

Reduction at source: the opt-out option works

Just like approximately 200,000 Québec households, Mr. Montpetit puts up a red pictogram indicating he does not want to receive the Publisac. This is how, according to our database, we reduce at source by adjusting the quantity of flyers to be printed and bags to be produced. Although we were receiving few complaints about this, we nevertheless follow up rigorously, even more so since 2018. How can it be claimed that the opt-out chosen by 200,000 households, a choice that is easily exercisable, does not meet the objective of reduction at source?

Opt-in is not viable

For over 40 years, the Publisac has been a useful service for the community, and we are proud of it. Contrary to Mr. Montpetit, we understand the challenges involved in managing it. He states that he is not calling for the end of the Publisac. Aside from the irony of such a statement from the person leading the “Antipublisac” movement, he claims that moving to an opt-in would have no operational impact. According to him, we would simply have to distribute to the doors putting up the blue pictogram rather than avoid distributing to the red ones.

In reality, there is an entire mechanism in motion to respect the opt-out: adjusting quantities for over 4,000 routes with different content, customer service employees, supervisors, maintaining and updating a database, following up on requests, printing and mailing pictograms, and so on.

Mr. Montpetit is asking us to apply this whole logistical process to 3 million households, that is, 15 times more than the current number. Such a system would add incremental costs and complexity to such an extent that it would mean the end of the Publisac. The opt-in does not exist anywhere in North America or in Europe, according to a WSP study commissioned by the City of Montréal. Regardless of Mr. Montpetit’s views, TC Transcontinental would put an end to the Publisac if an opt-in were to be imposed. By stating the contrary, he is acting irresponsibly and misleading the population.

The vast majority of citizens, that is, 87% of those who receive the Publisac consult it (CROP 2018 and Segma Recherche 2019, commissioned by the City of Montréal) to generate savings and read their weekly newspaper. It’s a true Québec tradition every week. Having a minority impose its crusade on the majority would be absurd. Why impose a change on the majority when the current system is useful, responsible and legitimate, and easily allows all those who don’t want to receive it to have their right respected?

The Publisac is not destroying the planet

Environmental critics focus on reduction at source, paper and plastic. The opt-out effectively responds to the need to reduce at source, and the disappearance of the Publisac would have no impact on cutting down trees, since trees are first harvested for lumber. Sawmill residues are recovered in order to manufacture newsprint which is used for printing the Publisac flyers. The recovery rate for newspapers and newsprint inserts and flyers in Québec is 86% and the paper does not end up in a landfill.

As for plastic, the Publisac bags represent only 0.5% of all plastic containers and packages put on the market by companies in Québec. Furthermore, the plastic bag remains the best solution for protecting the flyers from bad weather, for handling them, and to prevent them from scattering in order to keep public spaces clean.

We are taking steps with the government, municipalities, sorting facilities and other companies to collaborate so that a greater proportion of plastic is recycled. Our new bag made from 100% recycled plastic, still recyclable, already serves as an example. It enables us to reduce at source and to make a significant step towards reusing plastic and establishing a circular economy for plastic in Québec.

In conclusion, we are reducing at source. We took quick action to reduce our environmental footprint and we have other initiatives underway. We respect the will of the citizens. We engage in dialogue and innovate to progress further, preferring to be collaborative as opposed to confrontational. Don’t we have more important battles to fight in Québec than seeking the disappearance of the Publisac, a precious tool for generating savings, the thousands of jobs and most regional independent newspapers that depend on it?

François Olivier
President and Chief Executive Officer, TC Transcontinental