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Reducing Unwanted Mail

418,000 tons of bulk mail was thrown away unopened in the US in 19901. Reducing junk mail saves landfill space, conserves natural resources, and may reduce your trash bill.2

How do I get on mailing lists?

Every time you enter a contest, make a donation, buy something, order a product by mail, write a check, send in a subscription, or warranty cards, chances are your name and address are being added to a mailing list of some kind. Then the mailing list may be rented, sold, or traded.

What can I do to reduce junk mail?

Below are steps you can take to reduce junk mail. Be patient; it takes three to six months before you notice a reduction in your junk mail.

1. Call mail order catalog companies

Most catalogs provide an 800 telephone number for placing an order; call this number and ask to be taken off their mailing list.

2. Contact specific organizations or businesses

If you receive unwanted flyers or mail, call the customer service department of the organization or business responsible and request that your name be removed from their mailing list. Alternatively, send in a written request that is signed and dated. Include a sample of the mailing label so the sender can identify how you are listed in their files.

3. Return junk mail stamped "address correction requested" or "return postage guaranteed"

Return it unopened to the sender by writing "refused, return to sender" on the envelope. DO NOT write this on mail without that special notation; the post office will not return it to the sender.

4. Get off national mailing lists

Write to the address below and ask to be placed on a "suppress" file. Include a list of your name and address in all the different ways it appears on your junk mail. The Mail Preference Service places your name in the suppress file for five years. The Direct Marketing Association sends this list to its business subscribers four times a year.

Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008

5. Notify mailing list brokers

Some companies specialize in collecting and selling mailing lists. Write or call these companies and ask to be placed in their "suppress" files:

R. L. Polk & Company
Attn: Name Deletion File
List Compilation and Development
6400 Monroe Blvd.
Taylor, MI 48180-1814
(800) 873-7655
Donnelly Marketing, Inc.
Data Base Operations
1235 North Avenue
Nevada, IA 50201-1419
(515) 382-5441
MetroMail Corporation
List Maintenance
901 West Bond
Lincoln, NE 68521
(800) 228-4571
Database America
Compilation Department
100 Paragon Drive
Montbale, NJ 07645-4591

6. Reduce coupons, ads, product samples

If you don't want these items, check for the name of the company distributing the item. Write or call and ask that your address be removed from the company's lists. One company mailing these items is:

Advo Incorporated
Delivery Services
1001 W. Walnut Street
Compton, CA 90220-5191
(310) 637-0438

7. Contact credit bureaus

Credit bureaus may sell names and addresses to banks and credit card companies. Contact these credit bureaus and ask to be removed from their direct mail file. The three largest are:

Equifax Options
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
(800) 755-3502
TRW - Target Marketing Services
Consumer Opt Out
601 TRW Parkway
Allen, TX 75002
(800) 353-0809
Trans Union, Transmark, Inc.
List Division
555 West Adams Street, 7th Floor
Chicago, IL 60661
(800) 680-7293

8. Avoid warranty cards

Warranty cards are a means of gathering names for mailing lists and to inform customers about product recalls. When you purchase a product, you may be covered by the manufacturer's warranty even if you do not send in the warranty card. Check with the manufacturer to find out whether or not you are covered and keep the receipt as proof of purchase.

Write or call National Demographics and Lifestyles to be removed from lists created from warranty cards.

National Demographics & Lifestyles
Customer Service Department
1621 18th Street, #300
Denver, CO 80202
(800) 525-3533

Don't forget to recycle junk mail you receive (where this service is available)!

For more information

CIWMB hotline: (800) 553-2962 to order CIWMB publications and for the name of your local government recycling coordinator.

California Waste Prevention Info Exchange at (916) 255-INFO.

The Stop Junk Mail Association, 3020 Bridgeway, Suite 150-F, Sausalito, CA 94965, (800) 827-5549. They lobby on behalf of postal privacy rights.

Special thanks! Material in this fact sheet was adopted from "How to Reduce Junk Mail" by King County Solid Waste Division, 1994 and "Junk Mail Reduction Kit" by City of Palo Alto Recycling Program.


  1. Nixon, Will, "Are we Burying Ourselves in Junk Mail?" E Magazine, Nov/Dec 1993. Sources listed as: US Postal Service, Postal Rate Commission, Direct Marketing Association, Advertising Mail Marketing Association.

  2. This applies in communities where citizens pay by the can or trash bag for waste disposal services.
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