Recycling Know No’s: Junk Mail

~Submitted by Liz Antanavica, Refuse & Recycling Administrator, DPW

You open your mailbox and it’s full, but almost everything is marketing mail. On your way up the driveway, you slide it all into the recycling cart. Sound familiar? 

Junk mail is not only annoying, it’s a drain on resources. The average American household will receive 41 pounds of unwanted junk mail in a single year. According to the Sierra Club, (https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/let-s-ban-junk-mail-already) 100 million trees are cut down annually to provide the paper for all that junk, just so consumers can dump most of it straight into the recycling cart. Junk mail wastes the resources we can see (like trees) but also all the energy and carbon emissions that you don’t see during the manufacturing of the paper, printing and transportation to the recipient and the added transportation and energy costs of recycling the paper you never wanted in the first place. Worse, the EPA estimates that only 40% is recycled properly. The New York Times reported (https://archive.nytimes.com/green.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/16/reducing-the-junk-mail-footprint/ ) that junk mail creates 51.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year – enough to heat 13 million homes. 

With a little persistence, you can turn off the tap on junk mail. Try these tips:

• Opt out of pre-screened credit card offers by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com This is a joint-venture of the major credit card bureaus. 

• Opt out of marketing mail. Use Catalog Choice http://www.catalogchoice.org/ a free service run by The Story of Stuff project, to request that individual companies that are already marketing to you stop sending junk mail. You can also register with the Direct Marketers Association (for a few of $2 for 10 years) to make sure your address is not sold for marketing purposes in the future. http://www.dmachoice.org/ 

• Change your preferences to receive email statements and digital marketing only. This also helps keep confidential information secure. 

• Call or email companies who consider you a customer (you bought their stuff once or signed up for a catalog) and ask to be removed from their direct Mail marketing lists. The same works for non-profit organizations. 

Cancel the mailings you don’t want and be sure to properly recycle the advertising you still receive. Paper junk mail can be recycled in your blue curbside cart. Just be sure to remove any free samples or plastic dummy credit cards first. Advertisements printed on plastic sheets are trash. 

Questions can be directed to Liz Antanavica, Refuse & Recycling Administrator at (781)275-7605 x4261. 


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Mario Mendes
Mario Mendes
18 days ago

Not much of a choice after all.

  • http://www.optoutprescreen.com does not work for me, I have tried multiple times over the years. It tells me my social security is invalide because it contains one of the number sequences that it says social security numbers do no cointain.
  • likewise for catalogchoice.org I still receive catalogs from places I have requested for them to stop
  • I was no aware of dmachoice.org and I will think abou it. Paying so marketing people don’t send me crap I don’t want does sit well with me. Afterall they are sending me crap trying to get my money, so damned if you do damned if you don’t situation here.

I do opt in for paperless billing and communications as much as I can, but there are a few things I still prefer to get on paper for personal reasons.

Tip #1: there is a lot of mail you can just write “rejected: return to sender” on the envelop and usps must return it to sender with no questionis asked. But the wording is important. It must say “Rejected” and unopened. Once you open the envolop, ther is not way to send it back. There are exceptions to this method however. Any items sent to your with bulk mailing rates the usps just dumps it instead of returning if they even take it out of your hands at all. So dump for dump…

Tip #2: if you use google for your email, you can find out which companies you have paperless service with that are selling your information to marketers and whatever other services that want your email address too.

Here’s an example of how you do that. Your email is MJOE@google.com. You go to Bank of XYZ’s website to open an account. When asked for your email, tell them your email is MJOE+BankXYZ@google.com. the “BankXYZ” part can be whatever you wantm, but try to use text that you will recognize where you used it when you signed up for a service. When they send email to MJOE+BankXYZ@google.com, google sees the “+” in the address and drops the plus sign and all characters up to but not including the @ sign in your email address, and delivers that email where it you inteded it to go all along, in the MJOE@google.com inbox. Now if you start receiving spam that is sent to MJOE+BankXYZ@google.com, you know that Bank of XYZ sold your information to someone even if you told them not to. Then you spank them with a bad review online letting people know they sell clients’ email addresses to spamers.

This works very well. At least until companies out there get smart enough to screen email addresses and start to remove the +BankXYZ from the email address before sending out the email and we’re back to square 1.

Tip #3: similar to #2, but works better than #2, but there is a bit more initial setup, but if you’re a computer geek, you problably alrady have half of it setup anyway. With this method, you get to use your personal email address only for comunications with your friends and family and out of the hands of all busineses that will sell your address. Get yor own internet domain name and set it up with a hoting service that provides basic email server service. Now you create a separate email address in your email server for each account you create/sign-up to. For example, you own mycoolsite.com, you set it up with a hosting provider. When you open an account with Bank of XYZ, you create the email account bankofxyz@mycoolsite.com and use that when you open your account with Bank of XYZ. You then create a new email address lebertymutual@mycoolsite.com, and verizon@mycoolsite.com, etc, etc. Yes, there will be muitiple email addresses, and if you do this right, there will be many email address. But it’s OK, you don’t have to remember them all. You setup your email program to receive email from all of those accounts and the all end up in your inbox as usual. When you start receiveing spam from verizon@mycoolsite.com, you know Verizon sold your information, and you spank them with a call to your favorite politician complaining about it. Then you create an email account verizon2@mycoolsite.com and update your verizon account with the new email addres, and delete the verizon@mycoolsite.com from your email server, and voila! no matter how much spam is sent to verizon@mycoolsite.com, it will never arrive anywehere becaus the acccount no longer exists.

Note about option #3: if you do this, make sure you enable the black hole option in your email server. That way, every email that arrives in your server addressed to an email account that no longer exists, it will be deleted out of existence automatically. If you do not do this, the spammer will get at least 1 email back for every email they send out that no longer exists. While this may seem like sweet revenge that the spamer gets spamed by their own doing, they likely have their own server setup to delete all the return emails to their own black hole, so no such joy here. Also, every email sent over the internet takes a tiny bit of “space” from the internet. Your email to the spammer that will not be received by the spammer adds up to this internet trafic. According to Statista, “Spam messages accounted for 45.37 percent of e-mail traffic in December 2021” see https://www.statista.com/statistics/420391/spam-email-traffic-share/ You sending out an email to a spammer every time you get a spam email will only help take away more and more of the internet’s ability to do it’s thing and only help increase the need for upgrades to keep it working. While spam does not contribute to things being sent to the land fill, sending spam does take work and work take energy, electric engergy. Spam contributes to make climate change worse.

Unfotunately, there is not such thing as setting up a block hole at the usps service.

Matthew Agen
Matthew Agen
17 days ago
Reply to  Mario Mendes

Catalog Choice has generally worked for me. Some companies kept sending so I made more requests through Catalog Choice. Eventually they all stopped.

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