February 16, 2012

Fighting the Junk Mail Monster - Part 1 of 2

Part 1 of 2 on stopping the flow of junk mail to your residence.  Part 1 addresses reactive measures to stop the junk mail you currently receive and Part 2 will cover proactive measures to prevent future junk mail deliveries.

Tell me if the following sounds familiar.  Arrive home in the evening, check the mailbox and walk inside.  Flip through the pieces of mail with a faint hope of receiving a letter from a friend or relative but typically have that hope dashed by a steady stream of credit card and cable offers crashing upon the breakwater of your soul like the endless waves of the ocean.

If this scenario describes the current state of your mailing affairs this post may be for you.


Junk mail has been around for many years and is often just another slight annoyance during the day.  The amount of junk mail Americans receive each year is pretty large.  According to the EPA and cited by a mail advertisement industry group, The Direct Marketing Association, 2.4% of all municipal solid waste is from direct mail / junk mail.  This association implies that 2.4% of solid waste is a small percentage but it seems large to me given the usefulness that I find these sort of mailings to have.

The previously noted The Zero Waste Home addressed this issue and how they had gone about stopping the seemingly endless flow of junk mail they received.  Their basic approach was to take any junk mail received and call the sender immediately to request removal from all of their mailing lists.  This is the approach we have followed and although we still receive the occasional advertisement nearly all of the mail we receive now is worth getting excited about - letters from grandma, Valentine's Day cards, photos for the refrigerator.  Checking the mail has been re-transformed from a daily disappointment to a source of anticipation and one of life's small daily pleasures.

Suggested action steps:

1) Pick up your daily mail and place any junk mail on the kitchen table or somewhere else you can't ignore it.
2) Call the company that sent each piece of junk mail the following day (since business hours are likely done for the current day).
3) Keep a list of the numbers, companies, and date contacted so you can refer to it if the mailings do not stop.  Here's an example of the list we created to do this which has been handy for the few companies that repeatedly ignored our requests.  We made it on Google Docs so we could have it handy and both access it easily.

Maybe with less junk mail we can avoid a world that only has fake plastic trees.

Question for attorneys or those with class action suit knowledge: 

Is there any basis for a class action suit against companies that repeatedly ignore requests to stop mailing materials to a residence?  I thought that perhaps from a privacy standpoint (exposing personal information including name, address, and potentially additional information depending on the contents of the mailing) or a harrassment standpoint (ignoring the explicit and repeated requests of a person to stop solicitations) might be grounds for a suit.  Given the quantity of junk mail and people affected by it I thought there might be potential here but am not familiar with the relevant laws.

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