The Pro-Junk Mail Lobby: Fighting to Sustain the Unsustainable?

Junk MailJunk mail kills trees, clogs mailboxes, packs landfills, wastes natural resources, and everyone would be glad to be rid of it. Right?

Well, maybe not.

Whether out of environmental concern or sheer annoyance, legislated efforts to reduce junk mail are on the rise, but companies that have vested interests in its continuance have started organizing to save it--in a big way. Of course, they don't call it junk mail. Their preferred euphemisms are "advertising mail," "direct mail" or even "standard mail."

Industry Ramps Up Efforts to Preserve Junk Mail

A little-noticed, April 2008 press release from an organization called the National Association of Printing Leadership (NAPL) announced that it had awarded its 2008 "Technical Leadership Award" to Benjamin Y. Cooper for his work as "a dedicated champion and eloquent spokesman for the print media." Sounds innocent enough, but who exactly is Cooper, and what did he do to merit this award?

Cooper is a principal in the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm Williams & Jensen, who for almost three decades has been the chief lobbyist for the U.S. printing industry. He also heads Mail Moves America (MMA), a pro-junk mail front group that works to prevent the passage of "Do Not Mail" laws that would give consumers a way to opt out of receiving junk mail, similar to the way "Do Not Call" lists have helped people end unwanted telemarketing calls. Formed in 2007, MMA is the creation of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), a trade association for companies and industries that profit from the creation and sending of junk mail, like printers, advertisers, paper manufacturers and paper catalogue retailers.

On its web site, MMA says "Do Not Mail" laws would be "bad public policy." It dismisses the accusation that junk mail destroys trees as "a myth," saying simply, "Direct mail is not trees, it is printed communication." In a July 10, 2007 press release, DMA President & CEO John A. Greco, Jr. called state bills to set up "Do Not Mail" lists "misguided legislation" that is "being driven by environmental, privacy, and consumer groups who often distort the facts in their efforts to eliminate advertising mail to consumers." Greco said MMA responds aggressively to Do Not Mail list initiatives with "convincing information about the consumer benefits of advertising mail."

U.S. Postal Service: Using Third Party Technique to Preserve Junk Mail?

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is another player with a vested interest in the junk mail issue. It derives a substantial portion of its revenues from bulk mailers, so giving people the ability to opt out from receiving junk mail would threaten its budget. The Postal Service is prohibited from lobbying Congress on its own behalf, so it cannot directly oppose “Do Not Mail” legislation. According to the Washington Post, however, the USPS is "working closely with the Direct Marketing Association ... in its new campaign -- Mail Moves America -- which is designed to quash the Do Not Mail initiatives." Thus, even our trusted post office is not beyond using the third party technique to achieve a business goal.

A related pro junk-mail effort is a new web site called IP Moves the Mail, started by the International Paper Company. International Paper is a multinational corporation with offices around the world, and as a paper manufacturer, it stands to lose business if laws are enacted that reduce the quantity of paper being dropped into mailboxes. "IP Moves the Mail" therefore facilitates pro-junk mail activism, urging visitors to contact their legislators and oppose passage of "Do Not Mail" bills.

Most people don't like the mounting number of unsolicited ads that arrive in their mail and would be happy to have a way to be rid of them. In a world of diminishing resources, junk mail consumes tremendous amounts of dwindling resources, most of which ends up as trash. At a time when people are increasingly using electronic communication, is it right or sensible to give credence to a fight to preserve what might be an anachronistic industry whose time might be naturally winding down anyway? Would it be so bad to create a way for only those consumers who want paper junk mail to be the ones to receive it? Despite the junk mail industry's "sky-is-falling" attitude, legislation allowing consumers to block unwanted mail probably wouldn't end the world. "Do Not Mail" bills, in addition to saving increasingly precious natural resources, just might give people some peace until advertisers start finding more ingenious and less harmful ways to put their ads under our noses.


Int Paper letter at here's the WashPost... Correction to This Article Earlier versio nof the article misstated the number of people who signed an online petition created by ForestEthics. It was 28,900, not 289,000. Efforts to Block Junk Mail Slowed Postal Service Argues Against Registries to State Lawmakers By Lyndsey Layton Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, March 19, 2008; A13 Chris Pearson, a state legislator in Vermont, had a sense that the people were with him when he proposed a bill last November to allow residents to block junk mail. He got media attention, radio interview requests and e-mails from constituents eager to stop the credit card offers, furniture catalogues and store fliers that increasingly clog their mailboxes. Then came the pushback from the postmasters, who told Pearson and other lawmakers that "standard" mail, the post office's name for junk mail, has become the lifeblood of the U.S. Postal Service and that jobs depend on it. "The post office and the business groups are pretty well-organized," said Pearson, whose bill remains in a committee and has not been scheduled for a vote. Barred by law from lobbying, the Postal Service is nonetheless trying to make its case before a growing number of state legislatures that are weighing bills to create Do Not Mail registries, which are similar to the popular National Do Not Call Registry. The agency has printed 3,000 "information packets" about the economic value of standard mail, with specific data for each of the 18 states that have considered a Do Not Mail Registry. It has dispatched postmasters to testify before legislative committees around the country. "The Postal Service has come in and clobbered legislators," said Todd Paglia, executive director of ForestEthics, an environmental group that has collected 289,000 signatures on an online petition to Congress that calls for a National Do Not Mail Registry. "It's really a people-versus-special interest kind of battle." The Postal Service is working closely with the Direct Marketing Association, the trade group that represents retailers and the printing industry, in its new campaign -- Mail Moves America -- which is designed to quash the Do Not Mail initiatives. So far, their efforts appear effective. None of the states where Do Not Mail legislation has been introduced since 2007 has approved a law. And no similar legislation is pending in Congress. Sean Sheehan of the Center for a New American Dream, a progressive group based in Takoma Park, said state efforts may precede national action, just as they did with the Do Not Call Registry. "Federal legislators are more sensitive to the heavy lobbying of the paper industry, as well as the impact on the postal service, whereas a lot of state legislators are really more in tune with local needs," Sheehan said. "It's local governments that have to pay millions to truck that trash out to landfills." So far in the 2008 campaign cycle, the Direct Marketing Association has made $141,877 in contributions to federal candidates, including $6,610 to Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), who chairs the subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service and does not face reelection until 2012. Perhaps surprisingly, environmental groups -- whose members say they are concerned about junk mail -- are cool to the idea of a registry that prohibits marketers from sending mail to those enrolled and that fines violators. One reason may be that most environmental groups are themselves junk mailers. They use standard mail for their solicitation letters. A national registry "would affect anybody who mails," said Laura Hickey, senior director of global warming education at the National Wildlife Foundation, which belongs to the Direct Marketing Association. "I don't think it would be any different whether you were for-profit or nonprofit.'' As an alternative, the National Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups have created Catalogue Choice, a program that asks retailers to voluntarily stop sending catalogues to anyone who signs up for the free online service at "If people participate in a voluntary system, then I don't see the need for a legislative strategy," Hickey said. When Catalogue Choice was launched in October, the foundation expected about 150,000 people to sign up in the first year. Six months into the project, more than 642,000 people have joined. "It obviously filled a void," Hickey said. Still, it is unclear how many marketers are voluntarily heeding requests to stop mailing. The Direct Marketing Association operates its own registry ( and in an e-mail sent last November, instructed its members to ignore Catalogue Choice. Postal officials say they are aware of the environmental concerns related to junk mail. In testimony on Capitol Hill last week, Postmaster General John E. Potter told lawmakers that the Postal Service has one answer: Recycling bins positioned beneath personal mailboxes at post offices, to catch junk mail as it tumbles out. © 2008 The Washington Post Company Fascinating to see how Pitney & co are trying to spin this. We WILL get a Do Not Mail Registry!!!!!

If you want to stop your junk mail, do it. The corporate big wigs who are making money by making your life miserable only succeed at this because we don't stop it. Don't wait for "a bill to pass" or whatever, get on your phone and call the companies who fill your mailbox. It took almost two years but I finally stopped all incoming "junk mail". And yes, without question it was the most mindless, frustrating endeavor, but I had enough. (It was the morning I went out to my mail box and couldn't open it because of all the "junk mail" that set me on the war-path with junk mailers. Consumers have to know that no one is going to stop your junk mail; if you want it done, do it yourself. Each and every shred of paper that came to my house, I'd call the company and demand that they take me off their mailing list as well as any list they "rent or sell". Unfortunately this does not stop it immediately - they take your name off and continue to send mail to "or current resident". Call again. It will stop. You may have to call once or twice "to remind them", but stay on it and you will be junk free. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have an empty mailbox. Not one shred of unwanted mail comes to my house or "current resident". People (or companies) only have the power we give them. Take the power back and send them on their way ...

<blockquote>Consumers have to know that no one is going to stop your junk mail; if you want it done, do it yourself... Take the power back and send them on their way ...</blockquote> Why must "doing it yourself" and "taking back the power" entail the laborious process of contacting junk mailers one by one? In my mind, a more efficient and meaningful way for people to take responsibility and reclaim power involves petitioning the government to defend the individual's right to be left alone. <blockquote>It took almost two years but I finally stopped all incoming "junk mail". And yes, without question it was the most mindless, frustrating endeavor, but I had enough.</blockquote> This is precisely why legislation is necessary. As you say, it took TWO YEARS of effort and frustration before you stopped receiving junk mail. Do you really believe folks should have to exert that kind of effort to stop something they never wanted in the first place? Don't you think that's an unreasonable burden to place on hundreds of millions of people? In addition to opting out of mailing lists, I think it's important for people to consider the big picture, to band together and petition Congress for a national Do Not Mail registry. That's why I'm organizing a synchronized protest that involves sending thousands of boxes of junk mail to Congress. I hope some of the folks here will consider participating. Rezzie Dannt [ Junk Mail Revolt] (Launches May 12, 2008)

jobs loss with the do not mail list logging jobs trucking jobs printing jobs postal jobs carrier jobs just because you cant take your mail and put it in a recycling bin. lazy azz people. are you paying to send these ads. yeah probably with the products you get but if you don't get the ads through the mail they will find another way to get it to you. to the person who says her box was plum full. one i seriously doubt that and two if it is full then get a bigger box cause i know that wouldnt be full.

The biggest culprits in the junk mail deluge are "non-profit" organizations flooding the system with innumerable tons of Seminar, Training and Continuing Education solicitations. I have had an on-going battle for over 2 years with these organizations, requesting they forward their brochures to our HR Dept. only, advising them of employees who are no longer with the company, duplication of employee names, etc. to no avail. It's quite obvious that the more junk they distribute, the more money they receive to keep their so-called non-profit organization going. There most certainly should be a law. Where do I sign up?

I can't claim my side to be completely one sided. I do agree with you that the extreme of junk mail has increased and paper including other resources are being wasted. But at the same time, we can't make rational decisions or question the legislation and organization playing hand in hand with such an issue. Keep in mind that the economy is interdependent and that businesses too dependent on each other to gross business and make money. If these junk mails weren't circulated I don't think postal services would exist and considering the mess it is in. It can only support such junk mail as businesses pay them for these circulation. Now I don't think you speak on behalf of the entire U.S population because there are people who appreciate junk mail. After all even if they are being circulated, they eventually are recycled too so where does the waste lie?

The idea of ending "junk mail" is more complicated than one thinks. First of all, one has to define "junk mail." Are we talking about all third class mail? Secondly, perhaps you hate 99% of your third class mail, but you enjoy your Pottery Barn monthly catalog or some other catalog. Well, if you want to ban all third class mail, you may actually miss those few catalogs, or whatever, you actually like. On the other hand, if all of this massive, impersonal, not asked for mail was abolished, perhaps the senders would be forced to target their addressees better. Send people things they actually might be interested in. This is why the best solution may be the one where an addressee actually picks and chooses the bulk mail they don't want. Also, if I'm not mistaken, one can refuse any mailpiece. If one put a note on their mailbox, "First and Second Class Mail Only," the mail carrier would not deliver the third class mail and the like.

It would be nice to have a "one stop" option for stopping junk mail - for those who are interested. This is how I completely stopped my junk mail - yes I receive zero junk mail. 1.Order free credit reports yearly & correct any misspellings of name/address for current/closed accounts & Opt out of pre-approved credit card and insurance offers 1.888.567.8688. 2.DO NOT submit a "permanent change of address" with USPS - Instead use "temporary change of address". Good for 6 months & renew for another 6 months. Or remove your name from the NCOA - The USPS National Customer Support Center (NCSC) in Memphis, TN can remove your information from the National Change of Address (NCOA) system. Email, attn: Garry Moore, or call 866-315-7856 X6453. 3.Contact,,, AKA Abacus. 4.Read privacy policy and opt out whenever possible. (insurance, credit cards, mortgage, banks) 5.Contact each mailer and ask politely to be removed.