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Junk Mail and the Environment

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Junk mail conjures up a variety of different thoughts. But the idea of junk mail as a danger to the environment probably isn’t the first thing most people think about. For many people, junk mail is an annoyance, a pile of mail with advertising of all sorts. However, because of the vast amount of junk mail and the declining number of recycling programs nationwide, that unwanted pile of mail has become a real environmental problem.

Junk Mail Facts

  • Billions and billions. The amount of junk mail delivered each year is staggering. It’s been estimated at 100 billion pieces of mail in the U.S. each year. That’s one-third of the total of all mail delivered in a year. Or to put it another way, every household gets about 848 pieces of junk mail a year.
  • 100 million trees. The only way to produce that much junk mail is to rely on lots of trees. 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. But those forests are also home to about 17 percent of the world’s birds and 12 percent of the mammals on earth.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 chances it’s junk mail. If you stored your junk mail, it would weigh 41 pounds by the end of the year. While there’s a 30 percent chance that an individual piece of mail delivered anywhere in the world is junk mail, the percentage of junk mail to regular mail in the United States is much greater. Experts say the average person gets 18 pieces of junk mail for every piece of so-called “regular” mail delivered.
  • Credit solicitations. While there are many different kinds of junk mail, solicitations from credit card companies account for a good chunk of junk mail. That’s the case even though credit card companies have determined that only .25 percent of everyone who gets a junk mail solicitation will become a customer.

How does Junk Mail Affect the Environment?

  • Loss of trees. The loss of 100 million trees a year is a huge blow, experts say. The forests on the earth absorb 2 billion tons of carbon a year. But with the deforestation needed for junk mail, there are fewer trees to help reduce greenhouse gases.
  • Fill up landfills. About 42 percent of all junk mail goes to landfills unopened. That fills up space and creates demand for new landfills.
  • Junk mail production. The factories that create and ship out junk mail are responsible for carbon emissions equivalent to about 9 million vehicles, according to www.forestethics.org.
  • Reduce junk mail and save the planet. Experts say that by hiring one of many companies that offer to contact direct marketers to remove you from mailing lists, you can eliminate at least 80 percent of your junk mail. There are also a number of free ways to reduce your personal pile of junk mail.
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