We call it junk mail, the US Postal Service calls it third class bulk mail, and advertisers call it direct mail. Whatever its name, we all get lots of unsolicited materials. These unwanted deliveries include advertisements, credit card applications, donation solicitations, catalogs, phone directories and numerous other pieces of mail that are sent to thousands of potential customers at once. The US Postal Service delivers more than 80 billion pieces of direct mail each year. That’s 4 million tons of paper that is ultimately discarded, annually. There are several ways to try to stop or reduce the flow of unwanted mail.
Avoid putting your name on mailing lists. When you enter contests or sweepstakes, subscribe to magazines, and fill out warranty cards, your name and address often are added to mailing lists that are given or sold to other organizations.
Contact companies directly to ask them to cancel duplicates or remove your name from a mailing list. Simply call or write to customer service and ask to be removed. Remember though, the next time you order something from the company, your name goes right back on the list, so tell companies not to rent or sell your address: write “Please do not share my information with other lists” next to your name.
Tell banks and credits card companies not to send you credit card checks by mail. If you know you are never going to use or need such checks, then call your bank and credit card companies and ask them to stop sending these to you. These checks can be forged and you could get stuck with the bill so if you don’t want them, make sure you don’t get them.
Stop Delivery of your Yellow Pages. If you use the internet to find services you need, then you may no longer need to receive your yellow pages. Use the Yellow Pages industry Consumer Choice program to opt out of receiving all, or some of the Yellow Pages products.
Stop receiving unwanted advertisements on your doorstep. The Lawn Litter Law, passed by New York State and enforced by New York City, allows property owners to post a sign to let advertisers know not to leave any unsolicited circulars and solicitations.
Try shopping online. Most catalog companies also have their product line available on their website. You may get more e-mail, but you probably won’t get more catalogs.
Share catalogs with a friend or neighbor if you really want to see the latest products that you can order. There’s no need for everyone to get the catalog, especially if you just look and rarely order.
All New Yorkers are required to recycle white and mixed paper, including envelopes and catalogs.
Sort mail directly into a paper recycling bin. Also place a recycling bin near your desk or wherever you do the most paperwork, to make recycling easy and convenient.
Shredded paper can be recycled. You may prefer to shred (or tear up) personal documents containing data that might be used to gain access to your current accounts or open a false account in your name. Opting out of credit card offers also prevents personal information from landing in your mailbox. Though be aware that the vast majority of identity theft occurs through sophisticated computer hacking, rather than papers stolen from your wastebasket.