An environmental advisory committee pitched legislation to the Southampton Village Board Thursday aimed at reducing waste and litter while also making life easier for business owners and public works employees.
The committee, Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment, is asking the Village Board to ban publishers from dumping stacks of unwanted magazines outside storefronts — magazines that often go right into the trash.
Village Mayor Mark Epley said during Thursday's board meeting that unsolicited magazines have been a thorn in his side for some time. He said that when he spots distributors dumping magazines on village sidewalks, he goes so far as to jump out of a vehicle while his wife is driving to chase the deliverymen down the street.
Epley said the village writes to publishers every year with a warning: “If you are dropping magazines on the village streets, you are littering. If we catch you, it’s a $250 fine.”
In a letter to Susan Duber of the SAVE Committee, Southampton Village Public Works Superintendent Gary Goleski wrote Thursday that the problem has grown in the last decade as new magazines enter the market. He said that when the mayor's office interceded in 2006 and contacted publishers, the problem lessened for awhile, but it has now "crept back up."
"Last summer, my frustration grew as a highway worker tore his rotator cuff by lifting a magazine-loaded trash can," Goleski wrote. "He he still not returned to work ..."
SAVE co-chair Roger Blaugh told the Village Board that what tends to happen is that magazine stacks get dropped off in front of businesses before they open, it rains, and the businesses stick the heavy, water-logged magazines in the public sidewalk trash cans.
"It is an increased labor burden that takes away from other needed jobs," Goleski wrote of cleaning up unwanted magazines. "Environmentally, it is sad to see the waste generated and to think of how many trees are cut down only to be thrown away."
Blaugh said the publishers and distributors of year-round magazine act responsibly, but seasonal magazines are the problem. "In the summer, we are really inundated with them,” he said. By his count, there are around 18 additional publications distributed in the summer.
While year-round distributors let businesses say, "10 of these, none of those" or "no magazines at all," many seasonal publications don't ask businesses if they want the magazines and don't offer an opt-out, Blaugh said.
Deliverymen sometimes load up shopping carts from local businesses with magazines, then leave the carts around the village when they finish distributing, he said. “A couple of kids walk them down the street and drop them off by every door. When they run out of them, they leave the cart.”
He added, "The store owners are not there, they’re not open, there is no place to receive them."
SAVE is asking the Village Board to adopt legislation that gives every delivery point the ability to opt out and control quantity. Businesses would also be responsible for disposing of the magazines they accept — rather than dumping them in sidewalk trashcans — or the distributors must take back extra magazines when they make their next dropoff.
Epley said he is also concerned about magazines being dropped at homes where the residents don't want them.
Though the proposal is in the early stages, Epley and Trustees Nancy McGann and Bill Hattrick said they are in favor.
Blaugh said that, based on his research, a law can regulate the time, manner and method of publication delivery without infringing on constitutional rights of the press.
He touted the idea, telling the board, “It helps the environment, it helps the merchants, it helps Gary and his men stay healthy."