WASHINGTON – Five US cities launched initiatives Tuesday to let residents refuse junk mail, hoping to support the environment and cut expenses by stopping waste at its source.
Americans receive some 100 billion pieces of advertising mail a year, according to the US Postal Service. Catalog Choice, a non-profit group, estimates that disposal costs at least $1 billion annually.
Catalog Choice, set up in 2007, allows people to go online to ask specific companies not to mail them. Chuck Teller, executive director of the group, said some one percent of the US population now chooses to opt out of some mail.
Five communities including Chicago and Kansas City said they were teaming up with Catalog Choice to set up localized versions, which Teller hoped would give the initiative more authority and broaden involvement.
“This is a bit like recycling was 25 or 30 years ago,” Teller said. “Recycling was a community service run by people who would get a truck and fill it up; now it’s part of a city service.”
Teller said the service was a “win-win” for consumers freed of unwanted mail and for cities, which cut costs.
“We view technology as on our side. As more and more people use our service, it doesn’t cost the community any more,” he said.
He acknowledged that some companies resisted the step, believing that persistent mail was the best way to win customers — particularly older people.
The move also comes as the US Postal Service considers closing thousands of stations across the United States as it struggles to curb losses.
But Chicago’s environment department said in a statement that the junk mail initiative would help the third largest city in its plan to fight climate change. Chicago hopes to divert 90 percent of its waste from landfills by 2020.
Teller hoped to expand the effort to more US cities and overseas, saying there was no comparable service internationally even though the European Union has stricter rules against junk mail.
The other cities involved in the effort launched Tuesday are the university cities of Berkeley, California, and Ithaca, New York, along with Oregon’s capital, Salem.