Zero Waste Hack: Start with Stopping Your Junk Mail

Ever wished the spam button applied to snail mail, too? Yeah, so do we.

If you’re reading this, it’s either that, or you want to know just how bad junk mail really is for the environment.

We’ll talk about all these things and more, so read on!

Why Stop Your Junk Mail

What is junk mail anyway?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Junk mail is any mail you receive which you did not personally ask for nor expect. This includes those glossy catalogs, credit card offers, cable and Internet services, and many more.

While there are petitions for lawmakers to step in, unlike plastic bans, there are yet to be laws that directly address junk mail.

And it won’t be junked anytime soon if it’s up to companies. Stats on direct mail suggest that consumers consider addressed mail more personal than online offers. And this translates to earnings. 

For every $167 a company spends on mail ads, there’s an average return of over $2,000. That's a huge ROI.  

So should we be stopping junk mail?

Well, even with business gains, junk mail is still that: junk. It produces mostly annoyance. In fact, a whopping 85.5% of junk mail (without a direct address) ends up unopened and just trashed.

Granted, many still prefer paper bills over going paperless (for them it’s easier to track and document paper bills than emails) banning junk mail could be one step to lessening paper consumption.

But can it really make a dent on our environmental concerns?


Junk mail may be a small fraction of the entire paper waste in the US – only 6% of annual paper waste in the country – but it’s just so annoying and unnecessary that it has to go!    

Margaret Klein Salamon, founder and director of The Climate Mobilization, told Sierra Club that banning junk mail is akin to government initiatives banning plastic straws. 

It’s something doable, and definitely lessens single-use paper consumption if we all decide to stop receiving it.

How to Start Stopping Your Junk Mail

Here are some ways you can do to stop receiving junk mail:

1. Get your name off the list

Want to stop receiving mounds of useless junk mail? Opt out of prescreened lists. These include credit card and insurance companies, and other businesses that may have sourced your contact information in a common database. 

It makes sense. Aside from keeping junk mail at bay, you’re also reducing risk of people and companies getting hold of your personal information.

Fraudsters that are able to get info from junk mail might be able to open accounts in your name without that person’s knowledge. And who knows what else they can do with the data?! 

The Federal Trade Commission says that while stealing junk mail isn’t the most prevalent form of identity theft, it still happens.

Hence, you’d want to explore sites like OptOutPreScreen, CatalogChoice, YellowPagesOptOut and others. These enable you to remove your name from various mailing lists. It usually takes weeks, but it works.

If you’re in Canada, you can opt out by following these steps:

Go to this CanadaPost page. They explain on this link what type of advertising mail you can opt out of, and which ones will still be sent to you (e.g. election materials, newspaper, etc.) 

You could send a request form directly here: Opt Out of Canada Post  

We received a call after a few days verifying if we really wanted to opt out of receiving junk mail. And then, we were simply advised to place a sticker on the mailbox (which we’ll also talk about here).

We haven’t received any junk mail since!

2. Return to sender

This one might take more of your time and effort (aside from the annoyance you’ve already felt seeing the junk mail pile up) but how satisfying!

If they send a return envelope along with it, use it to mail back a letter clearly requesting removal from their mailing list.

If the company still insists on sending their catalog, send another return envelope – this time filled with junk mail. As they say, “Don’t get mad, get even!”

3. Say it on a sticker

You can also put a “No Junk Mail” or “Addressed Mail Only” sticker on your mailbox. This is a legitimate way to indicate an official return to sender for junk mail.

This keeps junk mail from coming every month, especially those with your name indicated on them. 

Here are some sample stickers you can print out and stick on your mailbox:



4. Opt out of the Data and Marketing Association

The Data and Marketing Association (DMA) is the largest US data and marketing body. It includes businesses and nonprofits that market directly to consumers. 

They have the paid option of DMAchoice, where individuals can filter the type of mail they want to receive for 10 years. You can even opt out of entire categories, such as catalogs.

You have the option to send a letter or an online form directly. Use the info below:

In the United States:

Direct Marketing Association

Mail Preference Service

PO Box 9008

Farmingdale NY 11735-9008



In Canada:

Canadian Marketing Association

Do Not Contact Service

55 University Avenue, Suite 603





5. Call them

If you have the time and patience (and we mean a lot) you can pick up the phone and ask to get your name off their mailing list.

But don’t expect that the business will remove your contact info at the first try. It’ll take multiple calls before they will do that.

The Takeaway

Until there are policies controlling junk mail, trying to stop it falls on individuals like us. 

Of course, junk mail could be sometimes useful too. If you just had a baby for instance, you could find baby store coupons and discounts pretty awesome. Or if you’re recently retired, there may be financial plans and vacation packages you might be interested in after all.

But if you’re the type who has never perused these materials, chances are you’ll continue not to. It’ll make sense to explore our suggestions to stop receiving junk mail.

Have you tried any of these steps? Which one/s worked for you? Share in the comments.

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