how to stop junk mail

How to Put a Stop to Junk Mail in the USA

There are few things that make as little sense in the world as junk mail. Somewhere out there, a tree is chopped down, trucked to a facility, processed into wood pulp, and made into paper. Meanwhile, an entire team of individuals who have devoted their lives to advertising expend hours coming up with a persuasive message and attractive art. This art is printed on the paper made earlier and trucked across miles and miles to be tucked into your mailbox.

You then take this advertisement, still carefully enclosed in its envelope, and dump it directly into the trash or recycling, unopened.

The madness of junk mail only makes sense when you understand the history of the US Postal Service. At some point in the past, the government required that the USPS pay for itself. Their method for doing so? Selling “standard” mail packages in bulk for cheap.

That cheap advertising may mean delivering thousands of credit card offers, leaflets, promotions, and donation requests to mailboxes around the US, but at least the mail is delivered. Right?

Economics aside, if you’re a zero waster or care about the environment at all, the constant onslaught of unwelcome waste is enough to drive you wild. Luckily, there’s a solution for this. With just a few tricks you can reduce (but probably not eliminate) the amount of junk you receive.

Register for Mail Suppression at DMAChoice ($2 fee)

For a $2 fee, you can put yourself on the Association of National Advertisers “Do Not Mail” list. This won’t save you from receiving mail from local grocery stores, political advertisements, and businesses you’ve given your address to, but it should reduce the bulk of those annoying direct mail pieces that clog up your mailbox.

Tackle credit card offers for free

The three major credit-reporting services (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) have an option that allows you to opt-out of pre-screened credit card offers. This is free to do. You can do it online for 5 years, or with a mailed in form for life.

Ward off door-to-door flyers

While less common then they used to be, unwanted advertisements from foot traffic can also lead to unwanted waste. A simple “No Junk Mail” sign for your box can help reduce these unwanted pieces, though it is entirely up to the person passing out leaflets whether they obey your sign or not.

As for whether your mailperson will stop offering you those last remaining advertising hold outs, don’t hold your breath. Your mailperson has no way of knowing what is ‘junk’ and what is your priceless new seed catalog, and thus can’t make that kind of decision.

Handle stubborn advertisements individually

You should see a massive drop off in junk mail after submitting your applications to DMAChoice and opting out of credit card offers. The advertising that comes to you on an individual basis can be refused by marking ‘refuse’ on the mail and putting it back in the mailbox. (This only works if it is unopened.)

You can also take note of the companies mailing you and send them a request to stop directly. While it’s too late for the piece sent to you, you can ask that farther pieces of junk not be wasted on you from now on.

Junk mail is a pain, but with a little elbow grease you can slim down your mailbox, and stop a whole bunch of waste in the process.

2 thoughts on “How to Put a Stop to Junk Mail in the USA

  1. Refused ONLY works for first class mail…as well as RTS, Deceased, Moved, Not at this address, etc

    Examples of presorted first class, forever/first class stamp, metered, priority, special endorsed

    The endorsements consist of one keyword: “Electronic,” “Address,” “Return,” “Change,” or “Forwarding,” followed by the two words “Service Requested.”

    Why? Non-first class mail doesn’t have the proper forward/return postage as does first class. The sender has paid a reduced postage rate that doesn’t include these services. So if you write RTS, Refused, Moved, etc on these mailers they are either thrown away at USPS or placed back in your mailbox for you to dispose of them.

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