In Depth with Brad Byrd: Unsolicited litter


The Evansville City Council passed an ordinance on unsolicited materials in an effort to crack down on litter.

Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd spoke with City Councilwoman Michelle Mercer and the Attorney for City Council Josh Claybourne about the ordinance.


Brad Byrd: Welcome to in-depth. It’s been a ritual of American life – door to door solicitations with literature like flyers, brochures and even phone books left on your property… Maybe wrapped and left in your door handle. Maybe dropped on your porch. Evansville City Council last week took a step to control all that paper that often ends up as a litter problem. Joining me tonight is City Council Member Michelle Mercer and Attorney for the City Council Joshua Claybourne. And Michelle I know this is an ordinance you took over and championed it. But how bad is the litter problem in this city as caused by just people throwing things on your front yard or front porch?

Michelle Mercer: Well, the reason this ordinance came about is we had citizens asking for it. We had citizens complaining that unsolicited materials were being dropped in their driveway, in their yard, even little old ladies complaining during weather – snow and ice – unsolicited materials were being dropped in their driveway or yard and they couldn’t get out to pick it up.

Brad Byrd: And an unsolicited material is something you haven’t really given to be brought onto your property, but it ends up on there anyway. Josh, let’s just get it right out in the open, there’s been some confusion about our mailboxes and how they can be used. Tell me what can be put into that mailbox and what cannot be.

Josh Claybourne: Sure, those are governed by the United States Postal Service. So, Federal law dictates what you can and can’t put in there. Generally speaking, only that postman has access to that postal box. A lot of times just below that there will be, what we call a newspaper box, but really it’s not just for newspapers – other unsolicited materials, advertisements, campaign flyers or neighborhood flyers or whatever the case may be can be put in that box below.

Brad Byrd: And Michelle you sent us some of these pictures here. That pretty well illustrates where you can place some of these items, but with that being said, in this day and age, with all due respect to newspapers, not as many newspapers – hard copies are being sold – not as many of these newspaper holders are there so, what advice would you give – I know you can put the between a storm door and the door, is that true?

Michelle Mercer: Correct. The correct location per this ordinance – that passed City Council 9 to 0 and goes into effect immediately – The correct location you can leave unsolicited materials would be you can attach it to a front door, you can leave it between the storm door and the big front door, if the storm door is unlocked, you can leave it in a distribution box, which is a newspaper box, just not the U.S. mailbox, but a newspaper or distribution box. Or you can leave it on a front porch.

Brad Byrd: Ok, I think we have a shot, we may have already taken it of a storm door and a front door. But people lock their storm doors. And I know there’s not many milk deliveries anymore – the milk box is out of the equation. With that being said, why all the confusion on where these items can go? And do we have that as much now as we did 20 years ago? I mean, phone books, we used to get four or five of those a year.

Michelle Mercer: I think some of the confusion has been simply because we did some major amendments. And so, the original ordinance was amended when it passed so, that’s part of the confusion. And I think the other part of this confusion is this is something new in the City of Evansville. So, we have to educate the public. So, that’s why we’re here tonight.

Brad Byrd: Ok Josh, what happens if a contractor drops a rolled paper on a porch and it rolls somewhere and you’re getting tired of it – when is that person cited and how do you handle that if he/she is cited?

Josh Claybourne: If it’s unsolicited and not placed in one of the permitted areas we’ve just discussed, the Department of Code Enforcement for the City of Evansville, will first give a warning and that was something Michelle championed as an amendment, and then after that there’s a tiered level of fines that would kick into play.

Brad Byrd: And if you want to take a look at this ordinance, look at the specifics, Michelle what do you do?

Michelle Mercer: You would go to the City of Evansville website, and go to Code Publishing, and then you would type in the words unsolicited materials. Currently, we need about another week to get that on the website. But in about a week it will be on the website.

Brad Byrd: Ok. With that said, with the way this world is changing, I mean Evansville has a litter problem as do most cities in this country, does this represent a significant contributor to that? Because with the internet, it seems like more and more people are soliciting via email or even text.

Michelle Mercer: I don’t know what percent it contributes to the overall litter problem, but I think it’s a factor in the total problem.

Brad Byrd: Well, we’ll keep an eye on the situation, I sincerely appreciate both of you being here tonight.
Evansville City Council member Michelle Mercer and Attorney Josh Claybourne, who is the attorney for City Council. Thank you so much for being here and outlining this ordinance.

Michelle Mercer: Thanks so much for having us, Brad.

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(This story was originally published on July 29, 2019)

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