National Movement Seeks to Decrease Waste by Controlling Unwanted Mail

Junk mail. Not only is it annoying, its effects are harmful to the environment. Each year, 10 billion pounds of solid waste is created by direct mail advertising—that’s 80,000,000 trees and 33,000,000,000 pounds of CO2, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Starting today, houses in communities across the country are going to be home to much less junk mail.

Catalog Choice a leader in mail efficiency has doubled its number of municipal partners, signifying a growing trend in communities across the nation who are trying to achieve zero-waste goals by stopping waste at the source. From San Jose to Santa Fe, residents in partner communities can opt-out of unwanted mail with the mail preference program. This reduces:

  1. paper and thus trees cut down, water usage, electricity used
  2. waste that cities have to collect and dispose of
  3. associated costs, that total upwards of $1 billion annually

Each year, direct mail advertising creates 10 billion pounds of waste, costing upwards of $1 billion for collection and disposal—and municipalities are responsible for footing the bill.

San Jose, Calif.; Boulder County, Colo.; Cambridge, Mass.; Brookline, Mass.; King County, Wash. and Santa Fe, NM have joined communities around the country to tackle unsolicited mail, and the costs associated with it, by enlisting the mail preference services of Catalog Choice—a Berkeley-based non-profit and the leader in mail efficiency. In March, similar programs were launched in Chicago, Ill.; Seattle, Wash.; Tompkins County (Ithaca), N.Y.; Marion County (Salem), Ore.; Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.; and Berkeley, Calif. This program comes in the wake of laws passed in Seattle and San Francisco limiting the distribution of phone books.

The mail preference program, designed by Catalog Choice, allows residents to control who can send them unsolicited mail. To support the programs, Catalog Choice provides each locale with a custom website hosted on catalogchoice.org, as well as a detailed report on local participation by zip code, solid waste diversion and environmental benefits. Cities and counties that partner with Catalog Choice stop three times more unsolicited mail at the source than other communities in the U.S. Additionally, with the annual collection and landfill cost of these mailings and phone books estimated at up to $10 per household, the cost savings for communities will be significant.

“With 62% of advertising mail and phone books not being recycled, these municipalities are leading the national movement to stop waste at the source,” said Chuck Teller, Executive Director, Catalog Choice. “Not only does this program serve as an austerity measure, helping communities alleviate the costs and sheer waste associated with unwanted mail, it’s also a benefit to the direct mail industry. By listening to the consumer, companies can be more efficient in their outreach and cut waste on all ends.”

“The junk mail monster has finally met its match in Catalog Choice. Eco-Cycle is excited to bring this one-of-a-kind service to Boulder County because it really gets to the heart of Zero Waste—it’s not just about recycling your junk mail at the end of the day, it’s about stopping the waste before it starts,” said Eric Lombardi, Executive Director, Eco-Cycle Inc. “Catalog Choice has really spent the time and money necessary to create the only service available that allows you to have personal choice to receive the mail you want, while finally stopping all the other junk you don’t.”

“Waste prevention, in addition to recycling and reuse, is an important part of King County’s efforts to reach Zero Waste of Resources by 2030,” said King County’s EcoConsumer Tom Watson. “By providing and promoting this convenient opt-out service, King County is helping residents stop a huge amount of paper waste at its source.”

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