The Truth About Mail Waste

Over 40% of all bulk mail is reclaimed for use in new paper products.

Many of us value the special sales and offers we receive in the mail, but when we’re through with the piece, there is a perception that our discarded letters and postcards become part of the landfill. Thankfully, that’s no way it is.

I stumbled upon an article in Target Marketing magazine today, that just blew me away. While opening a yogurt container, Hallie Mummert, editor of Target, noticed the lid proclaimed “Junk Mail Trashes Our Planet.” After a little research, she found that wasn’t the case. In fact, a huge portion of discarded mail doesn’t end up in the landfill at all. According to the Environment Protection Agency, over 40% of all bulk mail waste is reclaimed for use in new paper products, and discarded mail makes up only 2% of landfill waste and is on the decline!

More than 60% of communities in the US, including Phoenix, Glendale, and Scottsdale, offer paper recycling. With the high demand for recycled paper and your help, the amount of mail waste can decline even more. So make sure to discard your unwanted mail into the recycle bin instead of the trash. Even businesses can help by mailing postcards and other easily recycled pieces instead of big bulky mail pieces that can be difficult to reclaim.

What Happens to Direct Mail that is Recycled?

Magazines, catalogs, and direct mail, as well as the envelopes they may be delivered in, are currently recovered and used to make newsprint, tissue, paper/boxboard, and even writing and printing paper at numerous mills throughout the country. Recovered paper mail waste is graded, bought, and sold in regional, national, and global markets.

Old catalogs and magazines are valuable to producers of recycled-content newsprint because they help to de-ink (or remove ink from) recovered newspaper. They also contain fiber and clay coatings that can impart improved brightness and a smoother texture to certain components of multi-ply box and liner board.

The direct mail industry has taken huge steps to self regulate mail waste. In 2007, The Direct Marketing Association launched “Recycle Please,” a movement to encourage consumers and businesses to recycle unwanted mail. Even here at Accurate, we recycle everything from unused postcards to the boxes they came in.

So while the first reaction is that bulk mail seems wasteful, we have to be careful to learn the facts and help educate people on how they can make a difference.

Editor’s Note, “Enough Mail Bashing,” Target Marketing, Feb 2010
RecyclePlease.org and Direct Marketing Association

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