The True Cost of Junk Mail
Updated: Jul 2
A study conducted by the Center for a New American Dream found that between 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail while the creation and shipment of junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars. Around 28 billion gallons of water are used to produce and recycle junk mail annually according to the Ocean Futures Society. The costs to keep up with this unsustainable practice can total $320 million of local taxes for junk mail disposal, while the overall cost of transportation globally is $550 million a year.
On a personal level other than the mailbox being overwhelmed by junk mail, an individual wastes about 70 hours a year dealing with junk mail. The amount of junk mail received by a sole person can total to 41 pounds annually and about 50% of junk mail arrives at the landfill unopened according to the EPA. Not only is this an environmental issue, but it is a privacy and security issue as most of this mail is sent by credit card companies. The unopened junk mail sent to landfills may contain personal information which could make it easier to commit identity theft or fraud.
The unsustainable nature of junk mail is not going unnoticed as there have been several legislative efforts to reduce junk mail. However, this has been met with opposition from corporations who more commonly associate junk mail as advertising mail or standard mail. To further complicate the issue, a report from the Washington Post states that the United States Postal Service collects a substantial amount of revenue from bulk mailers and the reduction of junk mail could threaten their budget.
Even if legislative efforts have been slow to reduce junk mail, there are ways to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. It is an individual’s right not to receive unsolicited junk mail, therefore anyone may request that their name be removed from any mailing list which can be addressed individually or with some assistance. Several online organizations have committed to junk mail reduction and will reach out to the companies sending you junk mail on your behalf. Here is a list of websites that aim to reduce junk mail:
Dex is an organization supported through Yellow Pages that will opt you out from receiving unwanted catalogs in the mail (free)
Call 1-888-567-8688 (that's 888-5OPT-OUT) or visit http://www.optoutprescreen.com to eliminate junk mail from credit card companies (free)
Catalog Choice will contact individual companies to send opt-out requests for free, or for about $20 or more which will remove your name from data brokers who sell your contact information to marketers.
Direct Marketing Association (DMA) allows you to remove your name from national mailing lists at https://www.dmachoice.org/
41pounds.org is a non-profit that will reach out to mailers on your behalf
Charity Watch also has an option to send you only one donation request per year
Dealing with junk mail can be tedious, but the amount of time and energy that will be saved in the future comes with plentiful rewards personally and to the global environment. As we approach a stronger need for a more sustainable future, junk mail cannot be left out of the conversation. It may be safe to assume that most people would be thrilled to see it go!
Engle, Donna. “Legal Matters: How Do You Stop Junk Mail?” Baltimoresun.com/Maryland/Carroll,Carroll County Times, 29 June 2019, www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll/opinion/ph-cc-legal-matters-03271620160326-story.html.
Hartman, Eviana. “How to Junk Junk Mail and Other Paper Clutter.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Jan. 2008, www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2008/01/17/AR2008011701793.html
Harvard Law School Green Living Representatives. “4 Tips for Reducing Your Junk Mail.” Sustainability at Harvard, 26 Nov. 2013, green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/how/4-tips-reducing-your- junk-mail
Kim, Juhea. “Let's Ban Junk Mail Already.” Sierra Club, 6 Aug. 2019, www.sierraclub.org/sierra/let- s-ban-junk-mail-already.
Landman, Anne. “The Pro-Junk Mail Lobby: Fighting to Sustain the Unsustainable?” PR Watch, 19 Oct. 2013, www.prwatch.org/news/2008/04/7192/pro-junk-mail-lobby-fighting-sustain-unsustainable.
Layton, Lyndsey. “Efforts to Block Junk Mail Slowed.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 Mar. 2008, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/18/AR2008031802893.html? hpid=moreheadlines.
“Stop Your Junk Mail and Save the Environment.” Stop Your Junk Mail and Save the Environment | Ocean Futures Society, 2021, www.oceanfutures.org/news/press-releases/stop-your-junk-mail-and- save-environment.
Younes, Lina. “Put an End to Junk Mail” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 26 February 2009, blog.epa.gov/2009/02/26/put-an-end-to-junk-mail/