Thursday, April 19, 2007

Battling Junk Mail

In honor of Earth Day 2007, some tips on battling junk mail:

It seems that mailboxes act as a magnet for junk mail. Unwanted catalogs, credit card offers, and other mailings waste paper, time, and could endanger your privacy if they fall into the wrong hands. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to reduce the flow of junk mail. The Bay Area Recycling Outreach Committee has a Stop Junk Mail kit that consists of several pre-addressed letters to direct mail clearinghouses (the Direct Marketers Association, for example) and an all-purpose form letter that can be used for catalog companies and other junk mailers. Although the program was put together by a Bay Area group, the form letters and links can be used by anyone in the U.S.

If you really want to stop junk mailers and don't mind paying a few dollars, the Greendimes company will actively work to reduce your junk mail for a small fee. Their service costs $3 per month (and includes a tree planting in your name) and promises to be more effective than the letters mentioned above. There are also several books available with detailed plans to stop junk mail, which can be found in bookstores or at on-line booksellers (searching for "junk mail" is a good way to find some of them.

Image Credit: Picture from Liam Quin's Pictures From Old Books Web site, via Compendium of Public-Domain Image Links by Nonpartisan at Daily Kos.

Random link from the archive: An Hourglass of Pollution: The Uneven Burdens of Trade (June 2006, at Eat Local Challenge)


shuna fish lydon said...

Also I've had great experience with
they fine people who call your house with bs. In fact caller id helps with this too. I don't answer calls from the 1.800 people.

I think I'm just now starting to see that greendimes has stopped the onslaught of catalogs. Good job reporting on this stuff!

kendra said...

Thanks for mentioning GreenDimes, we really appreciate it! We are happy to get folks off junk mail lists and help them manage the catalogs they receive. Check us out for new partnerships and member updates and don't forget to tell your friends!
Thanks again for the post,

rfahel said...

US Postal Service won’t let you refuse mail.

If the US Postal Service would abide by its own rule, each homeowner could easily stop junk mail from getting into their mailbox by putting a written notice on their mailbox expressing their preference.

The US Postal Services practices are supposed to be according to the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM). The DMM contains provision 508.1.1.2 that says, “Refusal at Delivery: The addressee may refuse to accept a mailpiece when it is offered for delivery.” I interpret this rule to mean that if a homeowner wants to refuse an unwanted mailpiece (i.e. junk mail), the homeowner can do so when the mailpiece is offered for delivery. More to the point – refuse it before it is put into the mailbox!

In practical application, since the postal carrier comes to homes at different times each day, the homeowner cannot be waiting at the mailbox to dialogue with the mail carrier about each mailpiece. The only realistic way to interpret 508.1.1.2 therefore is that the homeowner should post a notice on the mailbox telling the postal carrier about the homeowner’s preference. The notice to the postal service must be specific and unambiguous. For instance, a homeowner should certainly be able to write, “No mail that is not addressed to the Jones” because that does not require the postal carrier to make a subjective judgment. On the other hand, it would not be acceptable to write “no junk mail” because the definition of “junk mail” is subjective and the mail carrier cannot decide.

Unfortunately, the US Postal Service has written to me that they will NOT honor a notice refusing mail, not matter how specifically it is worded, because the postal carrier does not have time to sort through the mail at my mailbox to pick out the pieces that are not addressed to me. Therefore, the US Postal Service is passing their sorting and disposing task onto me by putting all the mail they want into my mailbox, even though this seemingly violates 508.1.1.2.

Since the U.S. Postal Service will not abide by 508.1.1.2, homeowners need to stop unwanted mail at the source (i.e. by blocking the sender from sending it). We need a nationwide “Do Not Mail” law to create a one-stop, convenient place for homeowners to give senders notice that we do not want certain kinds of mail sent to our homes.


Ramsey A Fahel

rfahel said...

Do Not Mail Opt-Out Law would be fair to everyone.

The proposed recent "Do not mail" is an Opt-Out law. Only those not desiring advertising mail need opt-out. Anyone desiring advertising mail can do nothing - and continue to receive it. Why deny those wishing to avoid advertising mail the power to do so?

I do not consider handling unwanted advertising placed against my will on my personal property to be a civic obligation!

The US Supreme Court said in the Rowan case in 1970, ““In today's [1970] complex society we are inescapably captive audiences for many purposes, but a sufficient measure of individual autonomy must survive to permit every householder to exercise control over unwanted mail. To make the householder the exclusive and final judge of what will cross his threshold undoubtedly has the effect of impeding the flow of ideas, information, and arguments that, ideally, he should receive and consider. Today's merchandising methods, the plethora of mass mailings subsidized by low postal rates, and the growth of the sale of large mailing lists as an industry in itself have changed the mailman from a carrier of primarily private communications, as he was in a more leisurely day, and have made him an adjunct of the mass mailer who sends unsolicited and often unwanted mail into every home. It places no strain on the doctrine of judicial notice to observe that whether measured by pieces or pounds, Everyman's mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know. And all too often it is matter he finds offensive.”

Furthermore, the Supreme Court said, “the mailer's right to communicate is circumscribed only by an affirmative act of the addressee giving notice that he wishes no further mailings from that mailer.

To hold less would tend to license a form of trespass and would make hardly more sense than to say that a radio or television viewer may not twist the dial to cut off an offensive or boring communication and thus bar its entering his home. Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit; we see no basis for according the printed word or pictures a different or more preferred status because they are sent by mail.”

We need a nationwide “Do Not Mail” law to create a one-stop, convenient place for homeowners to give senders the aforementioned affirmative notice that we do not want certain kinds of mail sent to our homes.

Ramsey A Fahel