Junk Mail

Junk mail…argh…bane of my existence! We work so hard to move toward zero waste in our house and then we go to the mailbox, and WHAMO! there’s a bolus of junk!

New York University Law School posted some statistics they gathered on junk mail in the United States:

  • 5.6 million tons of catalogs and direct mailings end up in US landfills every year
  • 44% of junk mail is tossed unopened!
  • Only 22% of junk mail is recycled
  • The average US household receives 848 pieces of junk mail a year!
  • Junk mail destroys 150 million trees per yearthe equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months!
I think that’s just disgusting! And of those statistics, I believe that the recycling rate of junk mail is actually lower than that, due to the China National Sword policy, which has left much of the US without a source to send paper to for recycling. Learn more about the impacts of the China National Sword policy in your state by going to the WasteDive webpage on What Chinese Import Policies Mean for All 50 States.
We’ve been working hard to eliminate junk mail at our house. It takes work. I probably spend 30 minutes a week dealing with junk mail right now. I’m hoping that decreases as time goes on and I make an impact on our mailing address.

What I Do to Decrease Junk Mail

Free Services
  1. Catalog Choice sends opt-out requests to catalog and other merchants on your behalf
  2. OptOutPrescreen.Com Service by the major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, and Innovus) to be removed from lists used to send credit and insurance offers
  3. National Do Not Mail List from DirectMail.com, a national direct mailing company
  4. National Yellow Pages Consumer Choice & Opt-Out Site will stop delivery of phone books (yellow and white pages) for your area
  5. Sign up for electronic billing from services you use
  6. Contact businesses directly. I call and/or email businesses that send us junk mail to be removed from their mailing list. Unfortunately, a lot of times they have purchased a mailing list from places like DirectMail.com, so it won’t remove you from the master list, but it should prevent you from getting mail from this individual business again. Here’s the saved email message I use:

Subject: Removal from Mailing List


We recently received an unsolicited mailing from you. We are a zero waste household and are working to eliminate unnecessary paper waste. Would you please remove us from your mailing list:

 Name on mailing

Address on mailing

Thank you

Check the junk mail to get the email address or phone number for opting out. Many don’t have contact information on them, so I do a web search for the information. Most companies have a Privacy Policy section at the bottom of the web page where you can find contact information:

Privacy Policy Link on the UnTuckIt Website

I have been pleased to see many catalogs now coming with opt-out web addresses printed on them. This makes me happy, because I don’t have to search websites and privacy policies for opt-out procedures:

OptOut Web Address from Lumens Catalog

OptOut Web Address from Smith and Noble Catalog

Services for a Fee

  1. Paper Karma a smartphone app that allows you to submit photos to remove yourself from mailing lists for a subscription fee of $1.99 a month
  2. DMA Choice charges $2 fee for a 10 year period of opting out of junk mail lists.
The frustrating thing is that most catalogs and bulk mailings are printed months in advance. Before I retired from the fire service, one of the major businesses in my fire management area was a major printing company that printed phone books and catalogs, and they had warehouses with printed mailings strapped on pallets ready to go out in the mailit was shocking! You will probably get a few more catalogs or mailings over the next couple of months due to pre-printed material prior to your opt-out request.
Check with your county for services in your local area for opting out of junk mail. King County, Washington has a site devoted to reducing junk mail.
I’ve been working on this for the past several months and believe it is making an impact.
There are a lot of folks that have great creative ways to use the junk mail they receive to make crafty items. Check out YouTube to find some awesome junk mail projects!
We tear out the clear plastic window of the envelopes and put them in the garbage and then shred the paper envelope and contents to use in our compost. Unfortunately, glossy or shiny paper, which most catalogs are comprised of, are not good for your compost, so those need to be put in the recycling bin or used for crafts.

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