First published January 2008, updated October 2010
The average adult in the USA receives a whopping 41 pounds of junk mail a year and approximately 44% of this mail winds up in a landfill without having been opened. Imagine that; over a lifetime over a thousand pounds of what is mostly, well, not to put too fine a point on it – crud.
That’s far more paper than a fully grown pine tree can provide. Now multiply that by a couple of hundred million people and I’m sure you get the picture. On top of that there’s the substantial water footprint in creating the paper and the environmental impact of inks and chemicals, making the paper difficult to recycle. Then there’s the printing process itself and transportation. Even if recycled paper is used, a lot of resources are consumed in the recycling process.
It’s not just the environment
Steven Rosson from SlotGuard recently flagged an important point with me regarding junk mail – it can be a security threat. According to the SlotGuard site, over 27 thousand Americans have their identities stolen from pre-approved credit offers and personalized junk mail.
So what do you do to try and stem the tide of junk email clogging up your mailbox, landfill – and posing a security threat? There’s some creative tips here; but a few organizations have sprung up in recent times in the USA to assist consumers in having their names added to a “no junk mail” list with many companies.
According to Steven Rosson from SlotGuard: “We are very thorough and remove people from the biggest offenders in terms of environmental impact, as well as threats to personal privacy. For example, almost 100% of our customers opt out of pre-approved credit offers and phone books. As you know, phone books are huge and left at doorsteps around the country every year. If 100,000 people used SlotGuard to opt out of their phone books, the impact would be huge. It doesn’t stop there though: we also cover about 80% of standard junk mail, coupons, etc, which really adds up over time. “
SlotGuard costs $9.95 a year.
41pounds.org claim to be able to stop 80-95% of unwanted catalogs and junk mail. Based on the information you provide, they contact dozens of direct marketing companies and catalog companies and tell them to remove your name from their distribution lists. The service isn’t free – it costs $41.00 for 5 years but they state over a third of each new subscriber’s fee is donated to an environmental or community organization of their choice.
Catalog Choice is a sponsored project of the Ecology Center and endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It looks to be a fairly simple process – you register online, then using the Catalog Choice search facilities to locate and decline specific company catalogs. It can take at least ten weeks to process your request. Catalog Choice is a free service.
In other countries, we aren’t so lucky to have these services.
Mail boxes were crammed with over 8 billion pieces of junk mail in 2004 in Australia, and back then the total population was under 20 million. That’s a lot of trees. One thing I’ve found helped was to have a post office box and not to have a letterbox out front. I hardly see any junk.
Australians can request removal from junk mail distribution lists by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Junk mail delivered to a letterbox with a “No Advertising Material” sticker can be reported to the Distribution Standards Board on 1800 676 136. or via www.catalogue.asn.au/distribution. This is an industry body rather than a government organization.
As for countries such as Canada, the UK etc. I’m not sure of what services are available, if any, to block junk mail.
If you’re in the USA, have you used either Slotguard, 41Pounds or Catalog Choice? Is it working for you? Know of other similar services? Share your thoughts below!
If you’re from another country and know of effective ways to stop junk mail, please also share those tips below – I’m sure many readers would be very appreciative of the info!