Enviro groups call for 'Do Not Mail' listFive years after Congress approved the popular Do Not Call List to limit unwanted telephone calls, environmental groups and activists are calling for a national Do Not Mail List to slow the flood of junk mail.
By: John Myers, Forum Communications Company
Five years after Congress approved the popular Do Not Call List to limit unwanted telephone calls, environmental groups and activists are calling for a national Do Not Mail List to slow the flood of junk mail.
The group ForestEthics on Tuesday said that Americans receive about 105 billion pieces of junk mail every year — about 392 pieces each year for each person in the country.
The group said junk mail also contributes to identity theft and takes time to sort, shred and toss or recycle junk mail.
But the group also claims junk mail is more than an inconvenience for consumers — that it’s a huge waste of natural resources. The group says it takes paper from almost 100 million trees each year to print the nation’s junk mail and that unsustainable logging for that paper is deforesting parts of Indonesia and Canada that are important carbon sinks to slow global warming.
Because trees store carbon, trees lost to logging for paper are lost as carbon storage sinks, although any new trees that sprout or are planted would help make that up.
ForestEthics also claims the manufacturing process to make 6.5 million tons of paper is equal to the carbon emissions of 3.7 million cars.
In the Northland, both the Blandin mill in Grand Rapids and the New Page mill in Duluth manufacture paper used in catalogs.
“One third of all the mail delivered in the world is U.S. junk mail,’’ said Todd Paglia, executive director of ForestEthics, in a telephone press conference Tuesday. “And the environmental costs associated with this are tremendous.’’
Direct mail marketing officials counter that consumers already have the choice to opt-out of direct mail by brand or by so-called prospect lists for most companies. Consumers can go to a Web site, www.dmachoice.org, and select catalogs they don’t want to receive. About 80 percent of direct marketers are members of the Direct Marketing Association.
“We’re trying to improve the message that consumers do have a choice to make their own preferences,’’ said Steven Berry, vice president of government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association. “Our members have to honor a consumer’s choice to opt out within 30 days.’’
Association spokeswoman Sue Geramian said consumers recycle about one-third of all junk mail and that direct marketing companies are continually supporting recycling efforts. Moreover, much of the paper for the industry comes from trees grown sustainably or from tree farms, Geramian said.
Industry officials say direct marketing is a huge economic engine for the nation and spurs as many as 9 million jobs nationally and that a Do Not Mail registry would cut revenue by $50 billion in the first year alone, Berry said.
Unlike simply saying yes or no to all junk mail, Berry said the current system allows consumers to receive some catalogs but not others.
“A lot of people like to get their catalogs and coupons that they get,’’ he said, noting people save about $1,200 each year using coupons received in the mail. “We believe self-regulation gives the consumers the most choices.’’
A Do Not Mail List would have a major effect on the U.S. Postal Service which critics say could be bankrupted if the plan was approved. The agency has geared much of its service toward the junk mail industry, Paglia said.
ForestEthics said exceptions should be made for both political campaigns and non-profit groups to allow unsolicited mailings but that catalogs, credit applications and other mail would be stopped unless consumers asked for it.
In a September 2007 Zogby International poll, 93 percent of respondents were aware of the Do Not Call Registry, and 89 percent of them supported a Do Not Mail Registry to make it easier to opt out of unsolicited ad mail.
Paglia said the group will focus on supporting legislation in states moving toward a Do Not Mail list before approaching Congress for a national bill.
ForestEthics, based in Bellingham, Washington, has focused conservation efforts on large corporations that use large amounts of paper. The group focuses on threatened and sensitive ecosystems and native peoples that live in forests used to create that paper.