Many people love to hate junk mail – and they have lots of different ways of quantifying their disgust: New York University says 5.6 million tons of junk mail end up in American landfills every year.
Ecocycle.org says we may spend as much as eight months of our life sorting junk mail.
So what do junk mail advocates say? First, they don't call it junk mail. They call it direct mail or marketing mail. The Data and Marketing Association says American businesses sent 149 billion pieces of direct mail and nearly 10 billion catalogues in 2016. And here's why: The DMA says more than 5 percent of people respond to direct mail, compared with less than 1 percent who respond to email pitches. Marketers know we have to sort it, which means we have to look at it. The U.S. Postal Service says even millennials – three quarters of them – find marketing mail valuable.
With numbers like that, the industry's not going to stop it. So if you're not a fan, you'll have to do it yourself. There are two easy ways to opt out of much of the bulk mail you receive. Then, if you're still not satisfied, there are several more steps you can take.
Multiple kinds of junk mail. DMAchoice (dmachoice.thedma.org) should be your first stop because it gives you the opportunity to say no to multiple categories of mail in one place: catalogs, credit offers and magazine offers, as well as charity, bank and retail mailings. Members of the Data & Marketing Association would rather not spend their money sending direct mail to people who don't want to receive it, so they started this service decades ago. The service costs $2 and lasts for 10 years.
Credit card and insurance offers. If you're like many people, credit card offers are one of the biggest categories in your mailbox, which is why this is Step 2. The big credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion – created a mechanism for people to opt out of pre-approved credit card offers and insurance offers. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives these credit bureaus the right to share our credit histories. The Opt Out Prescreen system (optoutprescreen.com) is an attempt to give you a say in the matter. This service is free, though you will have to provide your Social Security number to verify your identity. You can opt out online for five years or print out a form that you mail in to opt out permanently. This service can also be accessed on the DMAchoice website.
Catalogs. Registering with DMAchoice should stop the flow of catalogs and magazine offers, but if you want to be extra thorough, you can also contact Abacus. Catalog and publishing companies share consumer information via Abacus. To let Abacus know that you do not wish to get mailings from its members, send an email to its parent company at firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “remove” in the subject line and your name and address in the body of the email. Be sure to include your name as it appears on the bulk mail you receive. If your name is misspelled, include that. If you have moved in the past six months, state your previous address as well.
Charity solicitations. Ever notice how if you donate money to one charity, soon you start receiving solicitations from others? That's because they sell, rent and swap your contact information with one another. Unfortunately, there is no centralized opt-out system for charity mailings. Instead, the nonprofit organization CharityWatch recommends that when you make a donation, you include a note with it requesting that the charity not rent, sell or trade your name. (You can make this same request of businesses.) You can also ask your chosen charities to solicit you only once a year rather than nonstop and tell them that you will stop giving if they don't honor your wishes.
Contests. Let the two biggest contest promoters know you're not interested, and you should see significantly fewer pieces of mail in your box. Help elderly relatives sign up, too.
• Publishers Clearing Houseprovides an online form: pch.custhelp.com/app/ask_mailing. • Reader's Digest asks that you email your request to email@example.com.
Coupons. Several big companies are responsible for sending out most of the coupons we receive. Here are the opt-out pages for them:
• Money Mailer sends big red, white and blue envelopes. If you don't want them, email your name and address to ListContactManager@moneymailer.com. • RedPlum asks that you fill out a form on its website to put a stop to its mailings: redplum.com/tools/direct-mail-preferences. • Valpak also offers an online opt-out form: valpak.com/coupons/show/mailinglistsuppression.
Data brokers. Data brokers sell people's names, addresses and buying habits to companies who send direct mail. Here are two of the biggest:
• Acxiom offers an online form to opt out: isapps.acxiom.com/optout/optout.aspx. • InfoUsa asks that you email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mail for deceased people. The Data & Marketing Association created the Deceased Do Not Contact List, which its members must honor: ims-dm.com/cgi/ddnc.php.
Mail for past residents. Unfortunately, there is no high-tech solution for this hassle. The Postal Service says to write “not at this address” on the previous residents' envelopes and place them in a blue mailbox or another outgoing-mail receptacle.
Phone books. The biggest form of direct mail of all arrives on our doorsteps with a thud: phone books. Not necessary! Here is the Web page to opt out of receiving Yellow Pages books: yellowpagesoptout.com.
Sexually oriented mail. If you get unwanted sexual advertising mail, the Postal Service has a solution: Fill out Postal Service Form 1500 to let the post office know that you do not wish to receive this mail. It then becomes illegal for companies to send it to you.