"Do Not Mail" Junk Mail Registry Called For By Green Group

ForestEthics has started a petition to enact a Do Not Mail registry, similar to the one that’s sort of in effect (when marketers choose to abide by it) for telemarketing. Their reasoning: junk mail is enormously wasteful and damaging to the environment. We agree, but we’re in favor of the registry for the simple reason that less junk mail means fewer uninvited distractions, ID theft risks, and trash we’d have to deal with every day.

From ForestEthics’ press release:

ForestEthics is urging Americans to sign a petition at http://www.DoNotMail.org demanding a national registry that will finally offer citizens control over the unsolicited coupons, credit cards, catalogs and advertisements that fill their mailboxes on a daily basis.

The production of the 100 billion pieces of junk mail that Americans annually receive requires more than 100 million trees, while producing as much global warming emissions as 3.7 million cars.

Junk mail distributed in the United States currently accounts for 30% of all the mail delivered in the world, though 44% of it goes to landfills unopened.

Polls consistently show that between 80 and 90% of respondents dislike junk mail and are eager to find a mechanism that will address their frustration and concerns about the problem.

Vermont State Representative Christopher Pearson, who is sponsoring Do Not Mail legislation in Vermont, added, “If our experience in Vermont is any indication, Americans are eager to assert their right to protect their privacy, their right to stop needless waste, and their support for a Do Not Mail Registry.”

The downside—we think a Do Not Mail registry would land a devastating blow against the USPS, which relies on all that crap to make any money. But seriously, we’d pay to support the USPS if it meant cutting junk mail in half.


“Stop getting junk mail” [DoNotMail.org]
“Phone numbers and websites to opt out of junk mail” [DoNotMail.org]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Three Word Chant says:

    The links below from the story are all you need. I wish they had this for businesses too. I run a small business and while I opted out personally, we get double the amount in credit card offers and B2B mail that I end up shredding daily.

    Opt-Out Prescreen will allow you to opt out of receiving credit card and insurance offers. Call 1-888-567-8688 (888-5-OPT-OUT) from your home telephone, or visit their website at [www.optoutprescreen.com.]

    Other direct mailers:

    * Abacus Direct: Email your removal request to optout@abacus-us.com
    * ADVO, Inc.: Call 1-888-241-6760 or complete the form at http://www.advo.com/consumersupport.html
    * Direct Marketing Association: Visit http://www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailing (online registration is free, while it costs $1 by mail)
    * Publishers Clearinghouse: Email your removal request to privacychoices@pchmail.com
    * Val-Pak: Visit [www.coxtarget.com]

  2. Anonymous says:

    My thought on this is that until the do not mail registry contains a huge percent of the population it won’t really impact the total number of pieces mailed.

    Most companies mail out their junk mail based on budgeted quantites. So the net is that they mail the same quantity, just to different people…

    I have the budget to mail 1,000,000 pieces this year.
    I pull a list and find that 20% of my names are on the do not mail list. Do I only send to 800,000? No, I re-select and pull 1,250,000 so that when I take out 20% on the do not mail list, I still have 1,000,000 left to mail.

    At least, that’s the way it works in the real world.

    That said, from an individual perspective I would certainly like to have this option. Back to the business perspective… one national list is a hell of a lot easier to deal with than 50 state laws.

  3. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s about freaken time. It’s good for the mailbox spammers too, since they can reduce wasted spending. Win/win!

  4. InThrees says:

    Currently there are a few opt-out methods you can use to limit the amount of junk mail you recieve. (I believe they were linked in a many-months-ago Consumerist post, actually.) One of them required a credit card, to validate $1 or something, the other two were free. I wasn’t comfortable with the credit card option, so I just registered with the 2 free ones, and the amount of junk mail I recieved [i]plummeted.[/i] It was amazing.

    Anyway, I would like a central one-stop-solves-all place to say “I don’t read junk mail, and I don’t buy anything pitched to me over the phone or through the mail.”

  5. NcSchu says:

    I would LOVE if this was created. Do Not Call works extremely well for me (except against those darn non-profit orgs) and Junk Mail pisses me off beyond belief.

  6. lenagainster says:

    All the junk mail I get goes from the mail slot to the recycle bin. The paper is not a total waste, since it is re-used.

  7. bnb614 says:

    The USPS is a profit center and raises the prices of stamps as often as possible. They can afford to lose the income from no junk mailings since as a gov’t entity, they should be a non-profit (break even) center.

  8. lemur says:

    @Ditch1852: Are you kidding me? The Direct Marketing Association is actively working against laws that would facilitate preventing junk mail from getting into our mailboxes. The DMA is hostile to the idea that their mailings should be prevented from getting to us.

    A great place you did not mention is Catalog Choice:


    It is an one-stop solution to canceling catalogs. Very easy to use. At the moment, not all merchants comply with requests put through Catalog Choice but with a little pressure things a going to change.

  9. Wimpkins says:

    The 40 bucks I spend each year on a PO box is well spent…I go days without getting anything.

  10. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @Ditch1852: I hate the idea of having to “opt-out” of something I never opted into in the first place. “We’re giving you the option to tell us to stop harassing you.”

  11. billbillbillbill says:

    I hate certain junk mail such as unsolicited catalogs and credit card offers (thankfully I can currently opt out of them) but enjoy getting the coupons and such. Not too sure if I want all junk mail banned. I would want a selective one which opens all sorts of issues.

  12. Christovir says:

    It’s about damn time… 100 million trees/year cut down for junk mail is not cool.

    Another good solution I would like to see would be to drastically increase the tax on unsolicited mailings. That way unsolicited mail is still possible (it does have legitimate, if rare, uses), but it will only be affordable to the mailer if people find it worth responding to, rather than, um, junk. 100% of the junk mail tax would go to conservation/reforestation.

  13. snoop-blog says:

    this is silly. besides the do not call list is a joke as well. why don’t we inforce the dnc list better before we go making more promises we can’t keep.

    i mean really, you can’t make a law preventing mailings to addresses and expect to be able to enforce it. i’d like to see how you would go about writing that law. is it don’t mail to the address, or person or both? what about when people move or purposely give wrong address? what about if i do not put a return address, or just put down a bogus one? this will never stick, although it would be nice, but please, save my tax dollars for a better cause. there’s nothing invasive about junkmail, unlike telemarketing calls.

  14. ghettoimp says:

    I’d actually support just raising postage rates for envelopes across the board. Like, by double or triple. In the era of email, https, fax machines, and scanners, there seems to be little reason for it.

  15. highpitch_83 says:

    @CaptainCynic: As a printer we’ve been warning our customers about this movement for months and let me tell you the Post Office is scared to death of this! They’ve gone so far as to circle the country putting on a series of seminars to encourage businesses to bring relevancy to consumers and businesses a like instead of saturating an area. check it out here: [genmseminar.com]

    There’s been massive movement in the print industry to get away from anonymous bulk mail (like what Cap. Cynic mentioned) and instead focus on targeting extremely specific cross sections of a market that are more likely to actually USE your product or service: learn more here: [www.palmerprinting.com]

    Instead of .5% or 1% returns on mailings customers see upwards of 10-14% returns because the “offer” or “communication” is actually relevant to the recipient.

  16. girly says:

    I, too, am surprised this was not seriously addressed long ago by environmentalists.

    Another important thing would be to have recycling bins next to public trash cans–although there might be some difficulties with that

  17. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I think it would be great, but the huge reduction in mail would cause postage to skyrocket to make up for the loss.

    Oh well, I hate the USPS anyway, and only use them to send certified letters when certification is required to prove I sent it.

  18. snoop-blog says:

    don’t get me wrong i’m all about saving the environment, and i feel that is a better argument to get this passed vs. people just don’t want junkmail. i’ve had the worse of all cc companies mailing me constantly (hsbc), but i opted out of their mailing system, they told me it could take 3 months. which i understand because i work around a mail room and if we find pieces laying around, we’ll mail them even if they are months old. sure enough 3 months later, not a single cc offer, so how can i really complain? but it is messed up where in this day and age, you have to pay for a service to make sure no one steals your identity, what a world. i’m sure our great grandfathers are rolling in their graves.

  19. snoop-blog says:

    @highpitch_83: yeah the mail room i work by would rather not send you something if you didn’t want it….. it saves a stamp or at least allows us to mail someone else who may be interested in our services. but i’m in the car biz, so mailers are very important to me.

  20. Nighthawk Foo says:

    Junk mail keeps the cost of stamps low, so I’m torn on this one.

  21. Leiterfluid says:

    I can’t in good conscience support this, and here’s why:

    It doesn’t cost you anything to receive junk mail.

    In the case of telemarketing, you pay for your phone service; you should have a right to refuse calls that you don’t want.

    In the case of spam, you (most likely) pay for internet access, so you shouldn’t have to pay to receive spam.

    You don’t pay anything to receive mail. The cost is solely on the junk mailers. Unless the mail contains personally identifiable material that could be used to compromise your security, like credit card offers, you really don’t have a right to decide who can pay to send crap to you.

  22. EBounding says:

    I don’t care for junk mail any more than the next person, but the use of paper in this way is not killing the environment. Yes, hundreds of trees are cut down to make paper. But they’re also replanted. Trees are a RENEWABLE resource. Do you try to recycle unused corn, or bananas? Of course not. You grow/buy more. Trees are a plant. A crop.

    And paper mills aren’t cutting down magnificent redwoods. They cut down small pines (or other softwoods) and then grow more. In fact, they’re more likely to use scrap wood than mature trees.

  23. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @billbillbillbill: Random coupons or specific coupons? I would imagine that a Do Not Mail list would operate like the DNC list in that it would not apply to people you’ve given permission to contact you.

  24. maztec says:

    I don’t get all the catalogs. I get the stupid bulk-mailers that are regionally distributed by my local post office. If I could get rid of those, oh heaven. On the other hand, that would increase the work for the post office by requiring them to filter by mailbox. Maybe if there was just a little tab you could put up on the box.

    Then again, expect postage prices to go up as a result…

  25. Three Word Chant says:

    @lemur: Don’t disagree with you at all, but the post is neither an endorsement or criticism of the DMA. Of course they want to bury you in enough catalogues to build a fort out of. That being said, they do offer an opt-out service, and it works (and has for me personally).

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Agreed, you shouldn’t have to..but that’s America for you. Most of these are free, at least.

  26. IrisMR says:

    I agree it’s wasteful. Always annoyed me.

    The bit that annoyed me the most though was the spam I received from the GREEN PARTY though.

  27. wikkit says:


    I got a kick out of the DMA opt-out page. When you sign up on their website to opt-out of their mailing, it directs you to a page that lays out a case for why it’s actually environmentally FRIENDLY to get junkmail!!! They argue that it saves in gas on trips you would have taken to the mall! Apparently they’re unaware of internet shopping….

    Needless to say it isn’t very persuasive.

  28. sarabadara says:

    The opt-out for credit card offers works pretty well: )

  29. SacraBos says:

    @lenagainster: Yes, but it would much more efficient if that first use was actually useful. But, at least you’re doing what you can.

  30. AMetamorphosis says:


    I still have to pay to dispose of it …
    and so does everyone else by ever increasing trash collection costs.

  31. forgottenpassword says:

    would this stop local church junk mail? I get so much of that crap that its not even funny! Solicitations from local churches wanting me to “stop by” or join.

    Here is a perfect example…

    Imagine getting postcards like THAT ^^ in the mail every other day!

  32. Leiterfluid says:

    @AMetamorphosis: So, if you didn’t receive junk mail, you wouldn’t pay for trash pickup?

  33. spamtasticus says:

    Here is why this will fail:

    – The Federal Government makes on money from people calling you at 10pm. (do not call legislation passed).

    – The Federal Government makes money off stamps. (do not mail legislation fails)

  34. Christovir says:

    For those saying we don’t pay for it… Just because we don’t pay postage doesn’t mean there is no cost. We pay in externalities of more mental clutter, more pollution, and fewer trees.

    And, yes, although trees are renewable, it is pretty naive to think that junk mailers are using all recycled paper or only harvesting from sustainable forests. There is a massive environmental cost. Don’t kid yourself otherwise.

  35. AlphaTeam says:

    I’d sign. I’m sick of getting like 10 pieces of junk mail a day.

  36. Jasper44 says:

    @ Leiterfluid,

    Your argument doesn’t make any sense.

    You say we pay for our phone so we shouldn’t have to get calls we don’t want.

    You say we pay for our internet so we shouldn’t have to get emails we don’t want.

    Well then how can you not say we pay for our houses so we shouldn’t have to get mail we don’t want?

    Also, you said we don’t have to pay anything to receive the mail so we can’t complain, but when was the last time you paid extra on top of your internet bill to receive a spam email? Never. We also don’t have to pay anything on top of our phone bills to receive spam calls, so I’m not sure how that is any different from spam mail.

  37. wildness says:

    Best solution to get the message across (once enough of us do it): take all of the junk mail you receive – especially, the stuff NOT address to you by name – and write return to sender on it and put it in outgoing mail.

    If enough of us did this, the USPS would be so overwhelmed they would beg congress to fix the problem.

  38. girly says:

    At the very least they should be required to have no personal information on ‘junk mail’ so you can throw it straight to the recycling bin if you like.

  39. highpitch_83 says:

    @EBounding: Not to mention that nearly all paper being used for commercial print is made up of at least 10-30% post-consumer waste (i.e. recycled) and now numerous mills have lines of 100% recycled paper that is nearly identical cost-wise… Next time you have something printed ask for a quote to print on 100% recycled paper!

  40. Clide says:

    FWIW, standard rate and non profit org mail cannot be returned to the sender in most cases. If you refuse it, someone at the PO throws it away for you. Trees are still being wasted. PO workers are caught in the middle. Have you ever noticed how much crap your carrier is lugging on sale paper days? It doesn’t make sense to increase their workload unnecessarily. For best results contact the junk mailer directly. Let them know you don’t want it. Most have phone numbers on their mailings. Then contact your legislators. Tell your friends and neighbors to do the same. There is power in numbers.