Opt Out: How To Save The Environment And Your Mailbox From Junk Mail

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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May 25, 2011

Everyday it's there waiting, from offers and fliers to coupons and catalogs. It's mail from thousands of different senders, but most know it by one name -- junk. And Kansans say it constantly fills their mailboxes.

We asked Wichita residents how much junk mail they get each week.

"Every week? Can i just say a ton?" said Cherie Camp.

"Oh gosh, probably 15 letters a day," said Rebecca Isaacs.

It all adds up to around 100 billion pieces of junk mail to American households each year. If you lined up all those envelopes end to end, they could circle the earth around 540 times.

So what happens to all that mail?

"I put it in the recycling pile," said Dulcinea Rakestraw.

"I have friends who will mail it back to the sender with nasty notes in it, but honestly I just trash or recycle it," said Isaacs.

Statistics show in the U.S., about 6.5 million tons of junk mail to in the trash each year. So for Wichita, that would be about 8,000 tons. That 8,000 tons could fill up around 615 local trash trucks.

"I think about how many trees are getting wasted everyday, just to come to my house to get thrown away," said Rakestraw.

The amount of trees is staggering. According to DoNotMail.org, it takes more than 100 million trees to produce the junk mail that goes out in America each year. To get that many trees, you would have to wipe out the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months.

"I have thought about that a lot but I don't really know what to do about it, because they just keep sending it to you regardless of what you do," said Isaacs.

But environmentalists say even though most people don't know about it, there is something you can do. The Direct Marketing Association takes requests to unsubscribe. You can visit their website by clicking here.

CatalogChoice.org is website made specifically to stop stacks of ads from getting to your mailbox. Visit that website by clicking here.

"We realized that [if] we could connect the consumers with those companies and let consumers tell those companies if they did or did not want their mail, we could save a lot of waste," said Chuck Teller, President of CatalogChoice.org.

The opt out service can also save a lot of money for companies sending out mail that never gets read, and for the communities who have to deal with the trash.

"It is so much more efficient for everybody... the consumer, the company, and the local community to stop waste at the source," said Teller.

It also stops the hassle, for households who would rather not get what they consider junk in the mail.

"It makes me angry, like it would anybody," said Isaacs.

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