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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Audubon Park man complains to local newspaper about litter, receives sympathy from city commissioner

Posted By on Wed, Aug 7, 2019 at 6:24 PM

  • Photo courtesy Ryan Burtam
At the risk of sounding like hypocrites, we're about to talk about another media outlet not being very eco-friendly because of their distribution. We, too, are a media outlet that distributes a bunch of papers.

The thing is, though, we don't use plastic.

That's the main gripe that Audubon Park resident Ryan Burtram has with Orlando Sentinel. Two years ago, he began by making a few calls to try to stop the deliveries. At the end of July, after receiving no response from the Sentinel – but still receiving plastic-bagged papers he never asked for – he heated things up with an email to Sentinel distribution managers that copied city council members and officials.

"These newspapers show up every few days at the end of our driveways inside plastic bags," Burtram said by phone. "Super damaging, super harmful to the environment. And nobody picks them up. I've never requested them."

The papers that have riled up Burtram are not copies of the actual newspaper for subscribers, but instead weekly print products such as Sentinel Express and El Sentinel that end up in his neighborhood.

When left on the ground, the papers are eventually pushed onto the sidewalk or street. The plastic either degrades and becomes refuse, or it gets washed around in the heavy rains and into storm drains, he said.

Burtram and his son did a cleanup recently and collected 14 discarded papers in the streets within a few blocks of his home, he said.

Tilden Katz, a spokesman for Tribune publishing, offered an apology to the community by phone Thursday evening.

"Our policy is to discontinue delivering papers any time there is a request. In this case, we are going to make sure that we help go out and take care of the papers that were delivered," Katz said. "We’re not going to walk away from this issue. And we apologize to the community for any inconvenience."

Responding to Burtram's Sentinel email, Commissioner Robert Stuart replied back with his own home-security concerns.

"What continues to concern me is the fact that many of these advertising supplements are not picked up by the homeowner and/or renter. So, they stay in the driveway or front yard for days or weeks," the email read.

"Besides being unsightly, I'm concerned that this may be a signal to would-be thieves of an open target. I'm convinced that, with today's technology, there must be a better way than driveway-by-driveway distribution."

Sentinel distribution managers responded back to an email Burtram sent Wednesday after he said he'd "enlist the help of others in the media." Michael Sullivan, the director of distribution and transportation, wrote that they'll review their "distributors' delivery strategy in the Audubon Park area and ensure the product being delivered is to the addresses only scheduled to receive delivery."

Sullivan also said he would send a manager over to pick up unwanted papers.

"If anything, throw your paper around all day long. But don’t put it in plastic unless somebody specifically asks," Burtram said. "The kicker in this is I’ve always been a fan of the Sentinel."

And it's not just the Sentinel. Tons of businesses use paper and plastic, but the question is what responsibility producers have for the waste they create.

Bans on single-use plastic products (like bags and straws) are proposed frequently by Florida lawmakers. Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, filed a measure Friday prohibiting the use of plastic straws and plastic takeout bags across the state.

Now, who can we talk to about these giant plastic-wrapped phone books that keep showing up?

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