Get rid of unwanted junk mail (snail mail type)

Stopping Junk Mail Is Easy, and Good for the Environment

Worried about the environment? Wondering what you can do to make a difference? Here’s a simple solution: Eliminate junk mail.

The average American receives 11 pieces of unsolicited junk mail each week, according to the Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting responsible consumerism. Tallied up, that bulk accounts for 100 million trees lost each year. By reducing the amount of junk mail you receive each year, you personally will save two trees and prevent some 92 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the air.

All it takes is a few minutes of your time. Just follow these steps:

    De-list your name

Most senders of unsolicited junk mail get your name and address from one of three sources: Abacus Catalog Alliance (catalogs), Direct Marketing Association (fliers, brochures, etc.), or the credit bureaus (credit card and insurance offers), says Paul Stephens, a policy analyst with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy group. If you do nothing else, take the time to wipe your name from these lists. “That’ll get rid of most of your junk mail,” he says. Here’s how to do so:

Abacus Catalog Alliance: Signing up permanently halts the catalog mailings from association members. Email with your full name and current address.

Direct Marketing Association: Stops direct mail marketing from association companies for five years. There is a $1 fee. Access forms here for online or mail-in submission. This joint venture of the three credit bureaus puts a stop to prescreened credit and insurance solicitations. Sign up to halt these mailings for five years, or stop them permanently. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT, or fill out a form.

Pick up the phone

Unfortunately, not every company sending junk mail your way belongs to one of these big three. Plus, companies with which you have a business relationship — from your credit-card issuer to that Internet retailer you ordered from once — can (and will) continue to send you mail. When you get a stray piece of junk, curb that initial impulse to throw it out, suggests Edgar Dworsky, editor of Consumer World a consumer resource web site. Instead, give the company’s toll-free number a call and ask to be removed from the mailing list. Having the actual letter or catalog on hand may make the process easier, he says. Look for a customer number on the label, which may help the reps access your records more quickly.

Mind your mail forwarding

Here’s a dirty little secret: One of the biggest generators of junk mail is the post office itself. “The post office maintains a mail forwarding database that they actually sell,” says Stephens. So once you move — and fill out the mail-forwarding form at the post office — your new address can wind up back on every junk mail and direct marketer’s list. And asking the post office not to give out your new info won’t work — providing your new address to any company that wants it significantly cuts the cost of rerouting your mail. So here’s what you do: Mark your move as temporary for six months. This way, your information won’t get passed along, says Stephens. Keep in mind this will involve more work for you: You’ll need to contact those companies with whom you do business (magazines, doctors, insurance companies and so on) to let them know individually of your new address.

Spread the word

To more effectively reduce the amount of junk mail you receive, encourage your family to follow your lead, says Nat Wood, assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Joint holders on a credit-card account, for example, will continue to get prescreened credit-card offers until both have opted out of receiving them.

Maintain your privacy

Any time you give out your address — whether you’re filling out a warranty card, entering a sweepstakes or purchasing an item online — you’re signing over your information for direct mailing. Limit the number of companies you disclose your contact information to, says Dworsky, and always look for a box to opt out of allowing the company to share that personal information.

Keep at it

Once you’re off a company or group’s list, you’ll stop receiving mailings within 60 days, says Stephens. But unless your opt-out comes with a specific time frame (Direct Marketing Association, for example, requires you to renew your request every five years) it’s easy to end up back on a list. “There is no ‘legal right’ to opt out of most junk mail,” he says.

snail mail

11 thoughts on “Get rid of unwanted junk mail (snail mail type)”

  1. Do Not Mail Opt-Out Law would be fair to everyone.

    The proposed statewide “Do not mail” is an Opt-Out law. Only those not desiring advertising mail need opt-out. Anyone desiring advertising mail can do nothing – and continue to receive it. Why deny those wishing to avoid advertising mail the power to do so?

    I do not consider handling unwanted advertising placed against my will on my personal property to be a civic obligation!

    The US Supreme Court said in the Rowan case in 1970, ““In today’s [1970] complex society we are inescapably captive audiences for many purposes, but a sufficient measure of individual autonomy must survive to permit every householder to exercise control over unwanted mail. To make the householder the exclusive and final judge of what will cross his threshold undoubtedly has the effect of impeding the flow of ideas, information, and arguments that, ideally, he should receive and consider. Today’s merchandising methods, the plethora of mass mailings subsidized by low postal rates, and the growth of the sale of large mailing lists as an industry in itself have changed the mailman from a carrier of primarily private communications, as he was in a more leisurely day, and have made him an adjunct of the mass mailer who sends unsolicited and often unwanted mail into every home. It places no strain on the doctrine of judicial notice to observe that whether measured by pieces or pounds, Everyman’s mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know. And all too often it is matter he finds offensive.”

    Furthermore, the Supreme Court said, “the mailer’s right to communicate is circumscribed only by an affirmative act of the addressee giving notice that he wishes no further mailings from that mailer.

    To hold less would tend to license a form of trespass and would make hardly more sense than to say that a radio or television viewer may not twist the dial to cut off an offensive or boring communication and thus bar its entering his home. Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit; we see no basis for according the printed word or pictures a different or more preferred status because they are sent by mail.”

    We need a nationwide “Do Not Mail” law to create a one-stop, convenient place for homeowners to give senders the aforementioned affirmative notice that we do not want certain kinds of mail sent to our homes.

    Ramsey A Fahel
    Arvada, CO

  2. US Postal Service won’t let you refuse mail.

    If the US Postal Service would abide by its own rule, each homeowner could easily stop junk mail from getting into their mailbox by putting a written notice on their mailbox expressing their preference.

    The US Postal Services practices are supposed to be according to the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM). The DMM contains provision 508.1.1.2 that says, “Refusal at Delivery: The addressee may refuse to accept a mailpiece when it is offered for delivery.” I interpret this rule to mean that if a homeowner wants to refuse an unwanted mailpiece (i.e. junk mail), the homeowner can do so when the mailpiece is offered for delivery. More to the point – refuse it before it is put into the mailbox!

    In practical application, since the postal carrier comes to homes at different times each day, the homeowner cannot be waiting at the mailbox to dialogue with the mail carrier about each mailpiece. The only realistic way to interpret 508.1.1.2 therefore is that the homeowner should post a notice on the mailbox telling the postal carrier about the homeowner’s preference. The notice to the postal service must be specific and unambiguous. For instance, a homeowner should certainly be able to write, “No mail that is not addressed to the Jones” because that does not require the postal carrier to make a subjective judgment. On the other hand, it would not be acceptable to write “no junk mail” because the definition of “junk mail” is subjective and the mail carrier cannot decide.

    Unfortunately, the US Postal Service has written to me that they will NOT honor a notice refusing mail, not matter how specifically it is worded, because the postal carrier does not have time to sort through the mail at my mailbox to pick out the pieces that are not addressed to me. Therefore, the US Postal Service is passing their sorting and disposing task onto me by putting all the mail they want into my mailbox, even though this seemingly violates 508.1.1.2.

    Since the U.S. Postal Service will not abide by 508.1.1.2, homeowners need to stop unwanted mail at the source (i.e. by blocking the sender from sending it). We need a nationwide “Do Not Mail” law to create a one-stop, convenient place for homeowners to give senders notice that we do not want certain kinds of mail sent to our homes.


    Ramsey A Fahel

  3. This is some great green advice. If I can add my two cents: Log in to your online credit card accounts and bank accounts and cancel all paper statements. Everything is online that you need. It will save you a lot of envelopes in your mail box.

    By the way, I really like the new theme. Haven’t been by in a while.

  4. Natron:

    Yea, I could probably net enough cash over the years to send the little one to college.


    Thanks for the info, and thanks for noticing the theme change.


    I bit of work, but it will payoff.

  5. Simply due to the sheer amount of flipping credit card offer we get on a daily basis, I am going to buy a locked mailbox when I move at the end of the month. We have a locked box here and I feel just a smidge safer knowing that at least nobody can drive up to my box and pluck out one of those apps.

  6. A locked box should keep would be thieves out of your mail, but getting to the root of the problem and keeping them out of your mailbox altogether should be a priority.

  7. There’s a new free online service that lets you cancel unwanted catalogs. lets you select the catalogs you don’t want to receive and within 10 weeks, your mailbox will be empty of unwanted catalogs. This service is sponsored by The Ecology Center and endorsed by NRDC. To learn more, visit NRDC’s site

Leave a Reply