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Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Industry publication DM News has partnered with Pitney Bowes to produce a glorifying portrait of the junk mail business as being concerned about the environment. A broad statement was made from the report that it “suggests consumers greatly overestimate the environmental impact of direct mail (junk mail), a fact that likely colors attitudes toward the medium. It goes on to say that people enjoy their mail and do not want to stop receiving it, even if that were to benefit the environment, and that they are open to industry efforts to police itself. Reading further in the release, it was noted that junk mail is responsible for only 2 percent of municipal waste in the U.S., according to the environmental Protection Agency. As a former junk mail list/data broker, I can assure you that the industry’s concern over the environment—at least during my 35 years—extended only to the point that it did not affect the bottom line. Sure they thought about it, even some mailers used recycled paper, but there was never an all-out crusade for change that I know of. But that’s not the point. The point is just what does that 2 percent of junk mail represent, considering that it is a medium forced on a high percentage of the public? I know this because, as a data broker, the junk mailers to whom I sold names and personal data had an expectation of only 2 responses out of 100 pieces of mail sent (2%). Although some of this lack of reply is due to wrong product or service being delivered, there is no way this can account for 98 percent not responding. And in a report cited by New American Dream, a non-profit devoted to conserving natural resources, 44 percent of junk mail is thrown away, unopened. So what does all this add up to? More than 100 million trees lost each year from junk mail, with nearly 6 million tons of it ending up in municipal waste; each consumer will get 560 pieces of junk mail each year, according to Global Junk Mail Crisis, accounting for the majority of household waste; 28 billion gallons of water are wasted yearly to process paper for junk mail; declares that Americans pay $370 million annually to dispose of junk mail that is not recycled; 41 asserts that due to the high concentrations of heavy metals in junk mail inks, it is difficult to recycle. Based on these statistics, I find it hard to feel sympathy for the fact that junk mailers are burdened with an attitude toward their industry that is considerably less than illustrious. Especially when there are ways to reduce the unsolicited volume. First, predictive modeling programs that can target those who want certain products and services, something junk mailers have been reluctant to do for years due to the cost. Second, organize an industry coalition that would embrace my concept of giving consumers control over their names and personal data. Until then, by sending out 100 catalogs or whatever with the baggage attached that I have documented above, and only 2 people respond to this effort, it will continue to be junk mail.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes! Let's get rid of junk mail!! is a nonprofit service that stops your junk mail –and they donate more than 1/3 of the fee to their nonprofit partners such as, American Forests and Habitat for Humanity chapters. It costs only $8.20 a year (2 cents a day). You can find out more at