How to cut drastically down on unwanted mail in your mailbox

Enough with the junk mail!

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 10:15am

It is so easy to get caught up in the minutia of everyday life that I hadn’t really noticed, but, I was finding myself irritated every time I went to my mailbox. Every single day I was pulling out flyers, fundraising appeals, credit card offers, catalogues, phone books. In one week alone, I received probably two dozen pieces of junk mail.

It was time to do something about it.

According to the most recent Small Business Trends 2017 study, more than 150 million pieces of direct mail promotions were delivered annually. At the risk of getting blow back from direct mail companies, more than 54 percent of consumers say they do want to receive mail from brands they are interested in and 62 percent of consumers who responded to direct mail in the past three months made a purchase. So, somewhat good for business. But, what is the negative impact on the environment?

Waste-Away Group, Ltd. an organization that manages waste collection, transportation, and disposal, cites several statistics:

  1. About 42 percent of all junk mail goes to landfills unopened. That fills up space and creates demand for new landfills.
  2. Experts estimate 100 million trees are used every year just to produce junk mail. Many of them come from the largest forests in the world – located in Indonesia and Canada.
  3. The factories that create and ship out junk mail are responsible for carbon emissions equivalent to about 9 million vehicles, according to

As time consuming as it was, I kept each piece of junk mail and began calling, emailing and writing to the source to ask them to stop delivering to me. After a couple of days of this, I decided there had to be a better way.

According to the National Resources Council of Maine, there is one organization, that most direct marketers use: Direct Marketing Association.

You can go to their website, once you log in, you DMAchoice, which offers  a simple, step-by-step process for a processing fee of $2 for a period of 10 years. Two bucks? Worth it! Registering online is the fastest way to see results. Once registered, it takes four buttons to click to eliminate mail in the following categories: credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers, donation requests and more. You can also search for specific companies and  (Note: it takes 30-90 days to take full effect.)

DMA Choice isn’t able to eliminate pre-screened credit offers, but you can go to this free site to opt out: (Once registered, however, you’ll have to print out a hard copy of the confirmation, sign it and mail it in.)

There’s also a free app, PaperKarma, where you snap a photo of the junk mail; it recognizes the company (or you search from a list if you’re not sure). Then you submit the removal request, along with your mailing address

What about the cheap paper shopping flyers? After bringing them into my local post office to inquire where they were coming from, I was told Target Marketing Maine sends most of these flyers to residents.  After asking one of Target Marketing Maine representatives the best way to get off their list, the recommendation is to call (207) 596-6203 and press #3 for customer service. A staff member will take your address over the phone and mailings should stop within three weeks.

Now, what to do with the junk mail that is already in your mailbox?

If the mail was sent First Class or has the words "Return Service Requested" or "Address Service Requested" at the top of the envelope, then it can be sent back to the sender, and the sender will need to pay to get rid of it.

Certain pieces of junk mail can be recycled.  Magazines, flyers and clean paper can go back to your recycling center, but if it is wax or foil coated, it cannot. With unwanted donation requests, remove the letterhead and recycle that. See Mid-Coast Transfer Station’s list of what can and cannot be recycled in the .pdf attached to this story.

I’m saving what I can’t return or recycle in a paper bag. Because I’m loathe to send any more “junk” to landfills, when the bag is filled, I light the sucker on fire in my fire pit and watch it burn. (Note, some experts caution that burning junk mail releases some toxic fumes into the environment.)

Want more ideas on how to get rid of all that junkmail? Here’s 9 Awesome Uses for Junk Mail

Kay Stephens can be reached at