Too much junk mail?


Direct mail—catalogs, flyers, credit card offers, memberships to clubs and organizations of all kinds—makes for a lot of paper and plastic waste in the typical household. Here is what you can do to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.

Catalog Choice lets your choose which catalogs you wish to receive in your mailbox, or contact the catalog’s customer service and ask them to remove your name from their mailing list.

For a fee, the Direct Marketing Association offers consumers and households a way to ask mail order companies to remove their names from mail lists. Be sure to provide all the various spellings and address versions that you want removed from mail lists. Your name will remain on the do-not-mail list for ten years, but you can renew at any time. to reduce the amount of credit card offers you get.

Retailmenot Everyday may be bundling mailers with your postal mail. You can opt out.

ValPak — just fill out form and ask to be removed from list.

For everything else, send a postcard. Tell them you want your name removed from their list. Include any customer identification number found on the shipping label.

Why stop junk mail?

  • Hassle: You spend 30 hours each year just handling junk mail (five minutes per day).
  • Energy: One day’s supply of junk mail contains the energy to heat 250,000 homes.
  • Resources: 100 million trees are needed to produce one year’s worth of junk mail.
  • Waste: 5.8 million tons.

Keep it from coming back.

  • Mailers sell and rent names. Whenever you supply your name and address (warranty card, subscriptions, contests, etc.) ask to be placed on a do-not-mail list.
  • By limiting the circulation of your personal information, you’re also securing your identity. You can often politely decline to give out sensitive information.

Reduce paper billing waste

Use online bill pay for services you receive — sign up and switch to paperless statements. But be mindful and ensure you do not miss important payment alerts, often sent by email or text. And be watchful for any service you set up for "autopay." That could potentially go on (and on), even if you don't intend to use the service anymore!

Recycle what you have.

  • Recyclers and manufacturers in Minnesota and the Midwest consume a lot of waste paper.
  • Shredded mail can be recycled. If you shred personal documents to protect yourself from theft, put the material in a paper bag and place it with your other recyclables.

Handling unwanted mail at work

Unwanted mail at work can account for a lot of waste. It fills up recycling bins, and needs to be delivered, sorted, and routed.

Reducing unwanted mail at your company or office is more complicated. The Mail Preference Service will not help businesses or organizations.

Though there are no groups to help organizations and their employees reduce their waste from unwanted mail, there are some waste reduction actions that can be taken in the workplace:

  • Ask for cooperation. Business-to-business mail is intended to generate income and solicit new business. When you get catalogs, advertising flyers, or offers from companies that you will not do business with, ask them to remove you from their list.
  • Control your exposure. Data for mail lists is collected from many sources — purchases, conference registrations, websites, business cards. Make it clear that you want to control this sharing of your information. Include a statement about preventing waste and protecting privacy on items like purchase orders, registrations for classes and conferences, and subscriptions.
  • Practice good mail list etiquette. If your organization maintains databases or mail lists, be protective of your clients. Be very selective about how you use data, and offer your clients the option to request their information not be shared with others.  
  • Keep your mail lists up-to-date. You waste money and time mailing materials to addresses that are no longer valid.

A classic direct mail waste reduction success story

Two departments in the Itasca County Courthouse decreased their junk mail by 90%, from about 100 pieces to 10 pieces per week. They did this by sending pre-printed postcards asking that their names be taken off mailing lists. Anyone in the participating departments receiving junk or duplicate mail deposited it in a collection box.

Periodically, a staff person took each piece of mail and enclosed a postcard in the sender's pre-addressed mailer. If this was not supplied, the staff person cut off the portions containing addresses of the sender and the recipient and pasted them to a postcard that read: "To whom it may concern: In an effort to reduce our disposable waste products, we are requesting that you remove our name from your mailing list. Thank you."