Canada Post responsible for litter at mailboxes, but mess remains

Crown corporation to maintain sites on an “as-is-needed basis” following termination of Carney’s contract

While the piles of litter at Whistler community mailboxes don’t seem to be getting any smaller, it appears that the party responsible for cleaning it up might finally have been identified.

Following an article published in The Question three weeks ago about trash piling up at the neighbourhood mailboxes, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers reached out with a key piece of information: Canada Post is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the mailbox sites, despite their cancellation of a decades-long contract with Carney’s Waste Systems to upkeep the sites’ recycling bins and litter earlier this year.

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This responsibility is even ingrained in several contracts and commitments, including Canada Post’s agreement with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In this document, Canada Post states that it shall “at its expense, satisfactorily maintain such community mailboxes, including concrete slabs and access pads, landscaping and community mailbox sites and including, without limitation, general upkeep and litter control on a regular basis.”

For years, this was undertaken by Carney’s, a local waste removal service, as a sub-contract under Canada Post’s national contract with SNC-Lavalin. But when that contract was terminated at the end of 2016, the recycling boxes by the community mailboxes were removed, and the unwanted mail items, flyers and everyday litter have been left on the ground.

Moving forward, the intention — according to a letter posted at the mailboxes by Canada Post —was for mail recipients to take their unwanted mail home and dispose of it in their own recycling boxes.

But, as evident by the growing piles of paper and trash, some local residents haven’t been doing that. While Alta Vista resident Peggy English has stepped in to clean it up herself on several occasions and others have placed makeshift recycling bins by the boxes, Canada Post said it will fulfill its duty to keep the sites clean — but with a few conditions.  

“As is provided across the country, the maintenance of community mailbox sites in Whistler is done on an as-needed basis. This also includes picking up litter, but not emptying waste containers placed by residents. Residents should contact us at 1-844-454-3009 if they have concerns with their community mailbox site,” wrote Canada Post media relations representative Phil Legault in an email.

However, Legault maintains that the best way to keep the mailboxes clean is for residents to get in the habit of bringing their unwanted mail home.

“We’re following up with local operations and looking to send a letter to residents in those neighbourhoods,” he wrote. “The letter would remind residents to collect all their mail from their community mailbox and bring it home. Municipal recycling programs are the most effective way to dispose of unwanted material, and in this instance the residents’ recycling bin for paper products.”

While English said it’s good to know Canada Post has a responsibility to maintain the site and plans to keep their phone number on hand for future reference, she hopes her fellow residents can get used to the new system and take responsibility for helping keep their town clean — without having to contract another waste removal service to do it for them.

“Maybe we’re getting too spoiled, too lazy and maybe too rich,” she said. “We think everyone else should do our jobs instead of doing it ourselves.

“Do I continue cleaning it up? No, I’ve been a mother for four kids, I don’t need to do that for the subdivision,” she added with a laugh. “It’s sort of shocking I think. We live in such a spectacular place; you can’t just take a minute and take your junk home with you?”

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