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Roxbury residents say free Star-Ledger papers won’t stop littering their lawns

ROXBURY — Every time Emil Ruesch thinks he’s finally put an end to unwanted newspapers on his lawn or driveway, he’s back in the same predicament a week or two later.

Ryan McVay, Getty Images
Ryan McVay, Getty Images

The Roxbury resident has been battling for years to stop free Star-Ledger publications from littering his property on a sometimes weekly basis. He’d talk to customer service, he said, and be assured he’d no longer be bothered by the plastic-wrapped newspaper. He’d wake up one day, see more “garbage” delivered to his home, and start the cycle all over.

“I liken it to littering, absolutely,” Ruesch told New Jersey 101.5. “What’s the difference between that and a wrapper from a hamburger? Just because it’s a company?”

Ruesch recently took the matter to township officials and appeared before the Township Council to see what options he had, if any.

It turns out Ruesch has plenty of frustrated company right in his own neighborhood. And the issue isn’t a new one in the Garden State.

Roxbury Township Attorney Anthony Bucco, who also serves as a state assemblyman, said his law firm has dealt with similar complaints from other towns they represent. One case out of Butler resulted in a township ordinance that gives residents an easy way to opt out of unwanted papers or circulars.

“It is an issue that has to be addressed, and it’s something that I think we should be able to regulate, but within the letter of the law,” Bucco said, noting the press has its own set of rights. “Provided that there’s an indication somewhere on the publication that would allow a resident to call and cancel the delivery, that should satisfy everybody’s concerns.”

Ruesch, though, says he would not be satisfied if such an ordinance were the final product of his fight. He’s looking to stop distribution of the publications completely.

“I want the onus on the publication, not on me,” he said. “It shouldn’t be my responsibility. I’m the victim.”

Ruesch told the Council one of the unwanted papers destroyed his snowblower a few winters back, causing him to shovel through a couple feet of snow. And when someone’s away on a trip, he said, a pile of uncollected papers serves as an invitation to burglars.

While an ordinance could be drafted on the local end, Bucco said he’s considering legislation on the state level as well.

Jacob Rosenstein, executive assistant for Roxbury, said he’s called Star-Ledger’s customer service line up to a dozen times, requesting that certain addresses no longer receive free papers after receiving resident complaints. The deliveries would not stop.

“All these people are receiving unwanted newspapers because the Star-Ledger thinks they might like it,” he said.

Rosenstein said he’s recently been told by a high-ranking employee that distribution to folks on Main Street would cease completely.

“I really hope I don’t get a call saying the newspapers came,” he said.

According to George Dyevoich with Penn Jersey Advance Central Services, a division of the Ledger’s parent company, the paper was recently made aware of the frustration in Roxbury and requests to stop distribution have been honored.

“The residents are notified in advance of the delivery and we provide several easy methods for the household to let us know if they are not interested in receiving the paper,” Dyevoich said. “We have proven processes in place to promptly honor anyone’s request to not receive delivery of the paper, including on-site verification staff to ensure quality and compliance of any do-not-deliver requests.”

Rosenstein said Reush and company did not receive a paper on Thursday — the day on which the deliveries typically occur.

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