This is an expanded and updated version of my 2019 post Unwanted Mail or Junk Mail.
How this mission began
I started working on this topic as I usually do. What is a hot topic of discussion in my neighborhood online group(s) or among my neighbors? Neighbors kept posting asking why we didn’t have recycling bins at the neighborhood cluster boxes and insisting that the POA (property owners association) [our HOA (homeowners association)] install them. A few points to share on this:
- Recycling deals with the problem, it’s not a solution. Yes, we can be grateful we are able to recycle junk mail into new products instead of trashing it where it will get compacted into the landfill (it does not break down/degrade), but we’re still dealing with the after and not before.
- Installing recycling bins are costly. Bins need to be purchased (then there’s the whole bidding/purchasing process on that – former contract administrator here so it’s not quick and easy), bags purchased, staff hired to install and maintain those bins, staff hired or diverted to empty the bins, funding put aside to purchase single use bags, maintenance of bins, as well funds to cover possible graffiti/vandalism/destruction, and at the end of it all the junk mail is still being recycled, just by someone else and not the individual.
- We need to stop or reduce the junk mail from the start. Then we won’t have as much that needs recycled.
- Yes, annoyingly enough like with recycling this burden is on the individual but I think of it like this. We’re either recycling junk mail the rest of our lives, or we spend a bit of time once or twice a year, or every few years (depends on the type of mail and method), to stop it forever or a long time (1-5 years for example). Spending a bit of time now to stop junk mail will save you a ton of time long term when you think about it.
- Reducing junk mail also reduces possible litter from gusts of winds or armfuls of mail getting dropped and scattered.
Track the mail you do want
Sign up for notifications from the mail carriers your purchases normally come from. These are free and may include:
- USPS: Informed Delivery® by USPS®
- UPS: UPS My Choice®
- FedEx: FedEx Delivery Manager®
- DHL: DHL Express Mobile app
- Amazon: Shipment Updates via Text or Track Your Package
I’ll share two pieces of advise from my mail carrier Jimmy:
1) Get your mail every day. It’s a deterrent for the criminals if they see the mailboxes are always empty. It will discourage thieves from breaking in at night when there is less activity.
2) Sign up for Informed Delivery. This is a free service from USPS. I asked Jimmy if it adds extra work for him/USPS employees and he said it doesn’t. He highly encouraged people to sign up for it.
Several weeks ago my neighborhood cluster mailbox as well others in my neighborhood had the package lockers broken into. The thief/thieves broke the locks themselves (didn’t steal keys or break off the keys) and as you may or may not know, work orders for repairs can take awhile. There are also porch thieves and the seasonal thefts around the winter holidays. The more diligent we are ourselves and the more we do our part to discourage negative behavior, more thefts should be deterred.
How marketing mail, or “junk mail,” works and is a necessary evil: Why junk mail is important
Check out my interview with KVUE (there’s text, photos and videos) to learn how junk mail works, what happens and who it does help and/or benefit.
How to stop receiving unwanted mail
Red Plum is the most widely received coupon circular. To remove a mailing address, folks should visit http://www.valassis.com/about-us/contact-us, and select “Remove Mailing Address” in the middle of the page. It can take up to 6 weeks, so be patient.
ValPak is another coupon mailer. To opt out, visit https://www.valpak.com/coupons/show/mailinglistsuppression
To stop receiving pre-screened credit card applications and insurance junk mail,
call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com.
Your SSN is not required. I successfully printed out the permanent removal to mail in without submitting my SSN.
Catalog Choice is a nonprofit whose main goal is to rid the world of paper junk mail. Their service is free, and will contact companies on your behalf and ask them to take your name off their mailing lists. Visit https://www.catalogchoice.org/ to sign up. Catalog Choice may not be able to cover all the catalogs you receive, but do check first. You may have to go old school and call the company directly, just a heads up and this may take 6-8 weeks.
To opt out of receiving the White Pages, Yellow Pages, and other phone books, visit https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com/ (I’m not sure if anyone still gets these but I’m going to leave this here.)
Many utility services, banks, HOAs, and anyone else you receive bills or mail from, have electronic options so check into signing up for those to reduce paper mail.
The above information was originally provided by Austin’s Captain Can from Austin Resource Recovery to the Zero Waste Block Leaders’ Facebook Group.Zero Waste Block Leaders’ Facebook Group, February 1, 2018
An additional website recommended to me as another source of removals is Eco-Cycle.org’s How to Stop Junk Mail in 6 Easy Steps. It’s too much to copy here but check it out!
All the removal services take several weeks or even a few months to work through the system and scheduled deliveries. Give some of them a half a year even but keep at it. I promise you it gets better. You’ll get to the point where you’re like, when did I get the mail last? It’s great.
Also keep in mind that sometimes the mail carrier is very busy or has instructions to follow and you may still end up with a few pieces of junk mail. Please practice grace when this happens. Be content in knowing that you are doing your part to 1) overall reduce your time dealing with the junk mail, 2) reduce resource use (not all mail is recycled content) and 3) that we cannot control all things.
Delivering mail seems like it would be a hot and hard job. I live in Texas and I know for a fact I can melt after a few minutes in high summer, let alone a postal worker who is out in sometimes 100+ all day.
For many of us we get our mail delivered to our house or nearby to a neighborhood cluster box of mailboxes. We do not have to drive, bus, bike, scooter or walk a long distance to pick up mail. There are people in our country that must travel to get and send mail. They travel to PO Boxes and mail places to pick up and handle their mail.
Show gratitude to postal workers July 1 on National Postal Workers Day. It happens each year on the same day. I leave a card addressed to “My Postal Worker” in my mailbox; I’ll write Jimmy now that I know his name. Say I appreciate you to any postal worker you see if you go to a post office July 1. I know neighbors who leave out baskets of electrolytes and snack bars for delivery drivers. During the early months of COVID kids would post thanks signs in their windows and on the mailboxes. Consider introducing yourself to your regular postal worker. They’ll recognize your name since they come by 5-6 days a week! I think it’s important to remind ourselves that mail may be a thankless job and those who deliver it may not get much acknowledgement or conversation in their work so let’s do our part to see and hear them. Do what you feel comfortable doing, even if it’s just becoming more aware of who helps you out every single day.
Enjoy your freedom in dealing with less mail. That’s one less thing to have to deal with, one little more green step on your journey.
Featured image courtesy of Barb Pfaff