Companies continuously contact us through all means, most visibly through direct mail. This mail consists mainly of advertisements, credit offers, and other direct marketing, but also includes monthly paper account statements. Many of us take such mail directly from mailbox to recycle or trash bin, or set aside for shredding.
The annual US Postal Service Household Diary Study published by the US Postal Regulatory Commission (www.prc.gov) reported that in 2018 American households received over 75 billion mail pieces of advertising mail accounting for 62% of all direct mail delivered to homes. That same report included survey results indicating that only 49% of advertising mail was read, 23% was only scanned, and 26% not read at all.
There is some good news from government and industry studies reporting that the lifecycle of paper products accounts for just 1-2.5% of annual municipal solid waste (MSW) and about 1% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Also, the majority of US paper mills have become more energy efficient while the overall volume of advertising mail has declined by about 10% from 2010 to 2018 (as shown below).
Source: USPS “Household Diary Study” reports
Regardless, the remaining volume of junk mail still negatively impacts the environment through carbon emissions in materials production, delivery, collection and recycle/waste processing, as well as potential incremental or accelerated tree depopulation. Beyond environmental concerns, junk mail takes a human toll through clutter, invasion of privacy, and more importantly, the risk of identity theft from mailbox or recycle bin.
But you can take action. Here are some available resources including brief evaluations regarding ease of set up and any related costs. All require some combination of name, email/mailing address or account number. Most options require several weeks to take effect, but a combination of two or more does make an impact. While there are fee-based options offering greater ease, I have not found them to be cost effective.
* Also referenced by the US Government at www.usa.gov/telemarketing
The bottom line is that there is no 100% reliable, quick, or perfect solution. But applying a few of these resources will help significantly reduce junk mail waste at its source while also providing peace of mind.
Paul Kinney is a Hopewell Township resident with a background in software technology. He is also a member of the Hopewell Valley Green Team and an alternate member of the Hopewell Township Environmental Commission. However, this article represents his personal views and do not necessarily imply any endorsement by these organizations.