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Flyers and plastic creating elevated liter around San Diego County

Most of the time, flyers are not making it to private property and are polluting the streets and gutters, which is troublesome, especially during the rainy seasons.

SAN DIEGO — When you check your mailbox, you often see flyers and coupons mixed in with your letters and bills. In some San Diego neighborhoods, those advertisements litter the streets every week, whether they request it or not. 

"So, a lot of them are laying in the street, a lot of them laying in the gutter, sidewalks. When it rains, they wash out into our storm drains, wash out to our bays and beaches, and at some point, we are swimming in this stuff," said Dan, who lives in Bay Park. 

He rolls through his Bay Park neighborhood with a trash picker and bucket. Just cruising through and ready to swipe up, he finds that they are not on private property isn't hard because they are found quite often littering the streets. 

"The main thing is this plastic bag; as you know, plastic film is tough to recycle. You can't put it in your blue bin. You have to collect enough of it and take it to one of your grocery stores, which usually has a bin," explained Mark O'Connor with the Surfrider Foundation chapter in San Diego County

O'Connor is also the lead on the Rise Above Plastics program with the foundation, which works to eliminate plastic waste in our county.

Dan isn't alone in his disdain for the plastic piling up in his neighborhood. People in City Heights are just as annoyed with the unwanted flyers.

"I can't imagine any other situation in which somebody could just throw trash at your house, and that would be okay or authorized in some way," said Shannon Starkey, who lives in City Heights.

Starkey recalls the waste pilling up around the time of the Covid lockdowns. And every Tuesday, fresh flyers slicked in plastic are added to the ones already in the street. 

"This is probably a couple weeks old here, and it sits here, and sometimes these go on. We just cleaned up the neighborhood, and it's just perpetual. As soon as it starts, as soon as we finish picking them up, another week comes by and there's another 17,000 lbs. of trash in the neighborhood," said Jess Colyer, who lives in City Heights.

Jess is fed up! Jess and Dan contacted the advertising company to opt-out, but they said that didn't work.

"I contacted Vericast, and they said, "Oh, you can opt-out," but they are still delivering them even though you opt-out. So, I think it should be mandatory that you can't throw plastic bags into the street. It's littering, and if somebody wants them, they should opt in and mail it to you," said Colyer.

I reached out to the City Attorney's office regarding this issue. I was informed that California Penal Code section 556.1 states, "A business may distribute its advertising flyers in residential neighborhoods by placing them on the driveways, in the yards, or at the front doors of homes without the express consent of the residents.” 

But each person I spoke with echoed the same response. Most of the time, the flyers are not making it to private property and are polluting the streets and gutters, which is troublesome, especially during the rainy season. 

The City Attorney's office advises them to consult attorneys about their legal rights concerning the company or companies involved.

"And not even sure if the businesses know these are getting thrown into the streets," continued Colyer.

I reached out to the Environmental Compliance Manager with Von's and Albertson's, who advertises with Vericast, a couple of times with no answer. I'm also still waiting for a response from Vericast. 

Mark O'Connor with the Surfrider Foundation suggests picking up the flyers, taking them to one of the stores that advertise with Vericast, and asking the manager to stop doing so. I will also continue to reach out on their behalf to work towards a resolution on this issue. In the meantime, Dan suggests cutting down on this plastic waste. 

"If someone is walking around and sees it in the street, they should pick it up. As I said, people walk by it in their driveway. But it would be nice if someone could pick it up from the street. That's going the extra mile, but that would be helpful," he said. 

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