Every 2 or 3 days I check my physical mailbox. Most of the time it’s full of unwanted mail: random newspapers I never agreed to subscribe to, lots of direct marketing & coupons, banks that entice me to get their credit cards and so on. Oh yeah, as well as mail from previous residents in my apartment! (Yes, I’ve just moved into a new place and I am blessed with twice more unwanted mail than before).
So every time I have to discard or that unsolicited mail, I think of all the waste we create for nothing. I mean the stats are alarming. I found old data from 2009 that the USA produces around 300.000 tons of junk mail every month! I imagine that in the last 10 years those numbers probably doubled. And although most of that mail can be successfully recycled, in reality, 50% of it ends up in the landfill. According to the Center for Development of Recycling at San Jose State University, an American adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail a year. To produce this much paper requires cutting down somewhere between 80 million and 100 million trees annually. If left standing, these trees would absorb 1.7 million tons of CO2 a year. So basically we are cutting down trees so we can generate junk mail that we gonna send to the landfill to pollute our planet even more :-/
(Infographic: Lauren Wade)
After I realized that I knew it was time to do my part on opting-out of all the unnecessary mail and junk I receive in my mailbox.
So, how do we stop unwanted junk mail?
1. Start with DMAChoice.org to get rid of mail offers & catalogs
The cost is 2$ for 10 years. Register with this nonprofit organization and they will remove your name & address from most catalogs, magazine offers, and other mail offers. After you create your account you can add several addresses and several name aliases. (I registered myself and added my partner as my alias).
2. Try other services to opt-out from coupons offers and catalogs.
Opt-out from Val-pak coupons here. To cancel specific catalogs, use Catalogchoice.org: find that catalog by name and opt-out (you will have to create your account first, it’s free). Opt-out from sweepstakes and other similar things can be done via Publishers Clearing House (Pch.com).
3. PaperKarma – paid app that will opt you out after you submit a photo of unwanted mail
PaperKarma is a mobile app that automatically unsubscribes you from junk mail and unwanted catalogs. Opt-out from direct mailings and marketing distribution lists. Catalog choice is yours: simply snap a photo to take control of your mailbox.
4. Register with OptOutPrescreen.com to stop receiving offers from banks and credit cards
This service is free. You can either opt-out online for 5 years (so you will have to repeat it) or you can opt-out permanently by sending the request by physical mail.
5. Add a “please no junk mail” sticker in your mailbox
You can make your own sticker or order one from Amazon here (affiliate link).
6. Officially “REFUSE” every piece of unwanted mail in your mailbox.
According to the USPS website after you receive a piece of unwanted mail in your mailbox, do not open it and instead write down on the envelope “refused” or “refused, return to sender” and put it back into outgoing mail, return to mailman or drop it off at blue USPS Collection Box.
7. If you receive mail for previous tenants, return it to the mailman with “Not at this address” mark.
In the USA you are not responsible to keep any mail for previous tenants or if it’s a wrong address and the adressee doesn’t live at that address. At the same time you are not allowed to throw away a mail piece that belongs to someone else.
The best way to stop receiving someone’s else mail is to send this mail back. Mark the envelope (do not open it!) with “Not at this address” and put it back into outgoing mail, return to mailman or drop it off at blue USPS Collection Box.
Also, if you live in the apartment building put your name on the mailbox (or inside it) – or a list of names of everyone who lives in this place – and leave a note for the mailman not to deliver mail for people outside of that list. This option worked for me.
And don’t forget when you move to a new address that you can sign up for USPS mail forwarding online. It’s very simple and quick, costs you 1$ or so.