US households throw out around 40 pounds of unwanted catalogues and other sales and marketing junk mail a year, including from retailers and charities we never heard of.
That’s millions of wasted trees, plus the energy wasted to produce the paper, chemicals for the ink, and U.S. Postal Service time and fuel costs to deliver junk mail, just so you can recycle it.
Although federal laws require that ad mail addressed to you give you the option to opt out of receiving any more offers, that’s often easier said than done.
Here’s how to reduce or eliminate junk mail entirely, whether they are catalogues, coupons or credit card offers, that you don’t want to receive.
I always phone the toll-free number on the offending sender’s junk mail. Without saying I consider them junk mail, I say as pleasantly as possible that I can order something from their wonderful website, or make a charitable donation from their wonderful website, and let’s save paper and the cost of sending the mail.
I’m usually told it will take a couple of “cycles” to stop the junk mail, until the company’s mail system catches up with your choice.
If you’d rather opt out online, look for an “opt out” link on the sender’s website. The downside is the junkiest of junk mail senders may not have a website.
A bigger downside is if a mailer’s website asks for your email address for confirmation, because you’ll start getting junk email instead of junk snail mail, which you then have to opt out of, just as you did the unwanted paper junkmail.
- exoxplorer tip: use a phony email address for the opt out confirmation, such as [email protected] I’ve actually used that one a couple of times and share it with you happily.
Unfortunately, opting out by email only works for yourself. When a neighbor died recently, I telephoned more than a dozen of the companies sending her catalogs to have her name removed from their lists. It would have been far too confusing to do it by email.
Return to sender
Simply, don’t do that. Do not put the unwanted catalog or value-pack coupons back in the mailbox market with “return to sender.”
Know that the USPS just tosses these in the recycling bin. They are not returned to sender. So all you are doing is making your mailman or mailwoman carry your garbage to the USPS recycling bin.
- ecoxplorer tip: You are in luck if your unwanted junk mail sender includes prepaid envelope. My personal trick is to use that prepaid envelope to stuff all the unwanted junk they sent me back to them, with a note to take me off their list. Since the sender mailer has to pay postage to get its own junk back, it’s a very effective way to opt out of future mailings.
A simpler way, but not necessarily faster, is to put your name and address on the “do not mail” list of the Direct Marketing Association, which represents most, but not all, junk mailers.
You can opt out of everything forever, or until you choose to opt back in. Or, you can opt out of a specific brand or category.
Registering online for the DMA Mail Preference Service costs $5; registering by mail is free. Either way, as with calling or emailing senders individually, you’ll still get a couple of mailings until the company’s computers cycle you out.
Additional resources to opt out of junk mail
Valassis (Red Plum) – Fill out the form online, or call 1-888-546-7605 to get fewer discount-club ads and trial samples in your mailbox.
Catalog Choice – As the name implies, this group represents catalog senders. This type of mail should stop showing up soon after your removal request is processed.
Credit bureaus – To cut out credit-card and other financial offers, contact the three major bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and request that they no longer release your information. This should stop pre-approved credit card offers.
Opt-Out Prescreen – This gets you out of credit-card and insurance offers. You can choose a five-year opt-out online or permanent opt-out, which requires you mail a form that the service provides. Call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPT-OUT) or go to the Opt-Out Prescreen site.
Publishers Clearing House – Send removal requests to [email protected]
Val-Pak – Stop receiving those blue envelopes full of local restaurant menus, home improvement offers and such.
Your name and address is a valuable commodity to be rented or sold without your knowledge or permission, and not just between junk mailers.
If you donate to a charity or buy an annual family membership at a nearby museum, that charity or museum might sell your name and address as part of its fundraising efforts. So it’s likely you’ll receive direct ad mail as many as two to three months after plastering your name on every imaginable “do not mail” list, according to the DMA.
Plus, the rules for opting out of unwanted charity mailings are different than for “regular” advertising, and even more difficult to get off their lists.
This article was published originally in 2016 and is updated and republished periodically.
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