Junk Snail Mail, Curbing The Paper Avalanche

I just finished going through mail that’s been stacking up on the table I have at the end of the entry hall and I have to say it was really disturbing.

Everyone seems to be worried about the environment and global warming, but I wonder how much thought they give to the junk they receive in their mailbox. Trees, paper- you see the connection.

The thing with that though is that’s a misconception. According to the US Forest Service, over 4 million trees are planted in the United States every day, and over 1.7 million of these are planted by the paper and wood products industry.  That number doesn’t include naturally regenerated seedlings.  My consideration is towards the amount of junk mail that is deposited in landfills.

The EPA reports that 60% of all junk mail ends up in landfills, and is not recycled. Junk mail produces more than 51 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year – which is equivalent to 9 million passenger cars.

Just how big a problem is junk mail?  The figures below are a few years out of date, but I can only assume they’ve risen the past few years.

  • In 2019, the United States Postal Service mailed 75.7 billion pieces of direct mail. Source: USPS Postal Facts
  • Catalogs mailed through the USPS amounted to 9.4 billion in 2017. Source: DMA 2018 Statistical Fact Book 
  • The amount of junk mail sent via the USPS has increased by over 18 percent between 1990 and 2017. Source: DMA 2018 Statistical Fact Book
  • Junk mail continues to contribute to deforestation to this day. Source: Stand.Earth The USPS has made $3 billion in revenue since 2011 from its online Every Door Direct Mailservice in which demographic data is used to target consumers in select areas. Source: USPS Postal Facts
  • Junk mail is truly unwanted: In 2017, only 2.9 percent of prospective customers (i.e., those who had not yet purchased anything from the direct mailer) responded to direct mail sent via USPS. Source: DMA 2018 Statistical Fact Book

I hope you’re asking,  “How do I change the amount of junk mail I get?”  Here are a few things that can help you get started  to lessening the amount of unwanted snail mail you receive.

1. Opt out of pre-screened insurance and credit card and offers.

If you visit optoutprescreen.com, you can opt out of unsolicited offers for insurance and credit cards.  It’s a free service that has great reviews and is run by the four major consumer reporting companies. You can also call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688).  You can decide to do this for five years or on a permanent basis.  It may ask for certain information to identify you like your birth date or phone number which is fine by me, I draw the line at social security number though. I refuse to list that for anyone online.  Not only does this help with junk mail but also in helping to protect personal information should such mail with pre-printed info fall into the wrong hands.

2. Tell the DMA to take a hike.

This is the largest U.S. data and marketing association and includes not only non-profits, but also many others who market merchandise and services to consumers through mail. You can opt out of entire categories of mailings but this service costs $2.00.  It lasts for ten years though. Be selective in what you choose not to receive.  You may want to keep your weekly coupons arriving and other offers for discounts.  This program is called DMAchoice and has been around since 1971.

3. Ban smaller marketers and “prospect” catalogs.

The DMA is not the only direct marketer group there are also others such as Valpak. This is one you may want to keep though if you’re into coupons and ads from local businesses, but you can also visit the site and find just the ones you want and print those out.  To stop receiving visit this link..

When you receive catalogs etc. and other junk mail from companies you don’t buy from it’s their way of trying to snag you as a customer and they’ve probably gotten your address from a mailing list that’s been sold. If you receive catalogs though from companies you’ve chosen you can choose those at Catalogchoice.org which is a free service and an alternative to DMAchoice.  You can unsubscribe from one catalog at a time there.  You’ll keep just the ones you want and it will remove you from the others known as “prospect” catalogs.

RetailMeNot Everyday which was once RedPlum Publications can also be unsubscribed from the organization name which I have linked.

4. Do it yourself, one mail at a time.

Some companies will let you switch to paperless billing and statements, those that do normally have that information on their websites.  If you receive something with a postage-paid envelope included you can always write a note letting the sender know you don’t want to receive anything further from them and mail it back.

There is also an app (of course) that you can take a pic of mail you don’t want with your smartphone and it supposedly does the unsubscribing for you.  I haven’t tried this but it sounds nifty if it works.  The name of the app is PaperKarma.

5. Yellow Pages

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