Junk Mail


Is unwanted mail a problem in the United States? Let’s do the math.

  • Shipped: 5.2 million tons
  • Recycled: 0.98 million tons (19%)
  • Garbage: 4.2 million tons

With 31 pounds of paper and plastic going into the garbage for every woman, man and child in America, that adds up to a pretty sizeable “junked mail” problem! From: Recycling and Disposal in the United States Facts and Figures for 1998, U.S. EPA, April 2000

Mail Preference Service

Households can significantly reduce their advertising mail by registering with the Direct Marketing Association’s free Mail Preference Service. It’s easy to do, and you’ll be reaching some of the biggest direct marketers in the country with a single letter. Send a postcard with your name and address to: Mail Preference Service PO Box 643 Carmel, NY 10512-0643 The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is a trade association of businesses who advertise their products and services directly to consumers by mail, telephone, magazine, Internet, radio or television. DMA doesn’t do mailings – but its members do. The DMA also has services for unwanted phone and email solicitations. Learn more about them on their web site: www.the-dma.org/consumers/privacy.html or by calling the DMA.

Credit offers

A Leaning Tower of Visa. Nearly 3 billion credit card solicitations are sent to consumers every year! The nation’s major consumer credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, Innovis and Trans Union – established a toll-free number to get off lists for credit card solicitations. The recording will ask for your social security number, full name, address and telephone number. The service allows you to opt out for two years or permanently. No matter what you pick, you can “opt back in” at any time by calling this same number. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). Disposal tip: Make sure to rip up the application form before you discard it. This helps prevent “identity theft” and protects your credit and your privacy.

Individual Mailers

Not all companies use these national systems to purge their mailing lists. If you are getting mail from persistent mailers, you can contact the company directly and ask to be placed in their “do-not-mail file.” Look at the mail piece to see if there’s a number to call, or write them a note (you can use their business reply envelope), send them an E-mail, or use their Web site. Be patient. It may take some time (up to six months!) to get your name and address out of their mailing cycle. Sample language: “Please remove my name from your marketing database. In addition, please do not pass along my name to others through mail list sales or trades. Thank-you for your cooperation.”

Mail list brokers

These firms provide national lists for non-financial data:

  • Experian 1-800-228-4571 x4633: Wait through a long message about other options before leaving your name, address and phone number for opting out of Experian’s compiled databases.
  • Polk Company 1-800-464-7655: Ask for the “Polk Opt-out Line”

National mailers

These national advertisers compile and maintain large databases of customers nationwide, often for mailing coupons or local, weekly circulars. These materials are generally printed well in advance of mailing, so expect a delay of 6-8 weeks for this opt-out to take effect.

  • Mailbox Values, ShopWi$e (ADVO, Inc.) Phone: 952-929-1441 Minnesotans can use option 3 to leave their full mailing address (don’t forget the apartment number), city and zip code. Mail: Include your mailing label or coupon envelope, marked “Delete”.
  • ADVO, Inc. One Univac Lane Windsor, CT 06095
  • Val-Pak (Cox Target Media) Send an e-mail to valerie@valpak.com with REMOVE FROM MAILING in the subject line. Include your address, city, state, and zip/postal code exactly as it appears on the Val-Pak blue envelope or mailing label. Or call 1-800-661-0959 At the prompt, enter your zip code to connect to the Minnesota sales office. Press “0” to leave a voicemail asking to remove your name from their mailing list; include your full address (don’t forget your apartment number), city and zip code.

Mail: Include your mailing label or coupon envelope, marked “Delete”. Address Information: Val-Pak Direct Marketing Systems, 8605 Largo Lakes Drive, Largo, FL 33773

Local services and utilities

Ask your local utilities and service providers – phone, gas, electric, water, cable, newspaper, banking and insurance – about their privacy policies. Find out more about what information they will and will not share about you. Most companies will restrict what they share about their customers, but typically they will only do so if specifically told to. Also, you can set up automatic withdrawl with your utility compaines. This is where they will take out money for your bill automatically and you will not receive any paper mail at all!

Sending Mail

Although we often use internet for correspondence these days, there are still a number of us who do “snail mail” and send out letter and packages through the U.S. Postal Service and other shipping companies. It is important that we think about what kind of stationery, envelopes and packing materials we use, to lessen our impact on mail waste.

When sending out letters, there are some things you can do to reduce waste while making your mail more fun to create and more interesting to receive!

Re-use old envelopes. Donation envelopes are usually the best because they haven’t been sealed yet. For re-using old envelopes, be sure to put a strip of tape over the top slit of the envelope. You can also make your own envelopes. I like using images from National Geographic magazine. (See DIY: Paper Projects: Envelopes) When using new envelopes, put a small piece of tape on the flap instead of sealing it, so others can reuse the envelope more easily. You can also get a recycle stamp and put it on all your envelopes to encourage receivers of your mail to reuse envelopes as well.

Make your own stationery. You can use old pages out of a book, backs of flyers. You can also make your own stationery by using the backsides of paper and putting stamps or stickers on it. If you’re buying stationery, be sure it is 100% post-consumer recycled or tree-free.

It’s a good idea to save a few various-sized boxes to have them on hand for sending packages. If you send a lot of packages, you can always stop by larger businesses (Kinko’s, food stores, etc) and ask them for any used boxes you could take off their hands. This is also a good idea for moving. Just retape them, cover up any old addresses and UPC codes, and be sure to clearly label To: and From:.

Need packing material? Try using the following items instead of styrofoam. Be sure to save styrofoam packing peanuts, you can drop them off any any mailing center such as Mailboxes, Etc. They will gladly take and reuse them. Here are some alternative ideas for packing material:

* Popcorn (birds can eat it)
* Biodegradable starch packing peanuts
* Used packing peanuts from previous gifts
* Crumpled ads from the newspaper

See Also: Arts: Paper Projects: Envelopes Arts: Green Office

Junk Mail

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