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Put an End to Junk Mail

2009 February 26

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Recently, when I came home from work, I found my mailbox full of envelopes, magazines, brochures, ads, you name it—mostly unsolicited mail. What really bugs me is that all too often the important items (bills, letters, subscriptions) risk being lost in the pile of bulk mail. When you come to think about it, most of the time, the mail we receive is unsolicited and we clearly can live without. So that got me to thinking, how much paper is used to produce that unsolicited mail? How many trees have to die to produce this mail? What are some of the other environmental impacts? Water used in paper processing? Carbon dioxide released into the air to transport these unwanted items? How much actually ends in our landfills?

The statistics are quite alarming. More than 4 million tons of junk mail are produced yearly. Over 50 percent of this unsolicited mail ends up in landfills annually. While the quantity of paper waste seems overwhelming, there are things we can do to put a stop to these unwanted deliveries. For example, there are various websites where you can register in order not to receive unsolicited advertising mail and to prevent advertisers from sharing your name and address with similar companies.

Furthermore, there are other steps we can take to reduce paper usage and economic costs of bulk mailings. How about using technology? You can use the Internet to check out company ads electronically. You can bookmark your favorite Web sites instead of printing them. Use scrap paper for drafts or note paper. And if efforts to reduce waste at the source fail, let’s recycle! Please visit our website for some useful tips.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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21 Responses leave one →
  1. Marcus permalink
    February 26, 2009

    Nice post. I found the registration cuts junk mail for several months but you have to repeat it about once a year.

    I get the impression all the reporting and communications the federal agencies will need to do regarding the Recovery Act (stimulus bill) might eat up a lot of paper as well. Might I suggest the existing EPAStat framework may be a good way to comply with the reporting requirements without reinventing too many wheels and printing out a lot more paper? Some Recovery Act status meetings broadcast on IPTV might, at a minimum, be a good idea. Perhaps it could be a model for how other agencies track progress.

  2. Linda permalink
    February 26, 2009

    I found a unique way to “encourage” a particular credit card company to cease and desist their frequent offers of an “additional card for a loved one” … I wrote them a very polite letter, informing them that my husband and I both had cards already and that the dog wasn’t allowed out alone and the cat couldn’t be trusted to handle credit wisely. It must’ve done the trick because the offers (which had been arriving every other month) ceased.

  3. joan permalink
    February 26, 2009

    Thanks Lina for the info. After months of “meaning to do it”, this morning I followed your link and got on the “take me off your list” list. I’m hoping it will save paper, and keep personal info out of my garbage and recycling.
    Marcus, I’ll keep track and see if I need to refresh the request. They promise it’s good for 5 years but we’ll see.

  4. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 26, 2009

    Good idea! How are you doing?

  5. Brenda-EPA permalink
    February 26, 2009

    Excelent! Even though I registered with Direct Marketing Association years ago to cut on unsolicited mail, there is the ocassional piece on my mail. I try to recycle the paper for writing notes, but after a while feel tempted to throw it on the trash.

  6. justin permalink
    February 27, 2009

    I asked the people at the post office what could be done to stop the huge influx of junk flyers and ads I get at my po box and regular mailbox.They said nothing!It’s just not right.None of it gets read and its just chopping down trees and creating more waste.It’s(or should be)criminal.I’m grateful for the Direct Marketing Association I’m going to check that out.

  7. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 27, 2009

    You know, I’ve always wondered–what would happen if the Post Office actually INCREASED the rates for bulk mail? Maybe that would put it to an end and then they wouldn’t have to increase it for consumers one or two cents at a time. They problably could get additional revenue after all.
    Just a thought.

  8. Tracy permalink
    March 4, 2009

    Some links as food for thought:

    Credit card offers, ads form sculpture for recycling center in San Francisco:

    Home Art Projects:

  9. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 5, 2009

    Nice links, Tracy

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. voguishchic permalink
    May 4, 2009

    Nice post.

  11. permalink
    May 14, 2009

    You may be able to contact your post office or the company that sends the mailers to ask them to take you off of the mailing lists. Many times businesses will pay another company to handle their mailers and many times the bulk mailing means more money for them , so they wont screen their lists.

  12. Lina-EPA permalink*
    June 3, 2009

    Good suggestions. Thanks.

  13. Alina permalink
    July 12, 2009

    Interesting. Thank you.

  14. David permalink
    November 13, 2009

    Thanks for the post. This issue deserves serious attention.

    Regarding your last line: “And if efforts to reduce waste at the source fail, let’s recycle!” I must admit that I find it unsatisfactory that we have to resort to recycling if we “fail.” There needs to be major consideration of a national do-not-mail registry, similar to the do-not-call registry, which has saved countless family dinners from interruptions by vendors.

    A national do-not-mail registry, enforceable by penalties and fees for violations, is needed in order to successfully lighten our mailboxes and save the 100+ million trees that get cut every year. The pollution from making the catalogs and from the solid waste produced can be significantly reduced as well.

    I hope those of you in EPA can use your Congressional liaisons and contacts to lobby more for this. Thanks.

  15. Jim permalink
    November 18, 2009

    Without bulk mail, there is not a post office. Without the post office there is no daily mail. Your only option would be to pay Fed-Ex or UPS $20 to deliver a letter. No more birthday cards, bills, notices. You couldn’t even mail a bill payment in. Bulk mail is a pain, but it is necessary to the survival of this country.

  16. SamG62 permalink
    April 10, 2010

    Lina this is a great article about junk mail, I find my mailbox full of the stuff every week. Thank you for the link to the websites to stop this unsolicited advertising mail.


  17. Jeff Risk permalink
    April 13, 2010

    I am impressed that you could tell the difference. Nice Investigation work.

  18. sam permalink
    July 28, 2010

    Hi Nice Thanks for this info

  19. susana permalink
    November 2, 2010

    thanks for sharing and yes junk emails do become a hassle some time and it really is a lengthy job to delete them as well.

  20. Quikboy permalink
    November 4, 2011

    Is there any way we could get the FTC to start making a National Do Not Mail Registry similar to the National Do Not Call Registry?

    It would be nice if the EPA and FTC could work together on this one so less waste in what seems like a very ineffective method of marketing will be produced.

  21. Lye permalink
    October 26, 2013

    Individual cancellations isn’t good enough, we need to change it to an opt-in system or else we’re never going to make a dent in this waste.

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