Garbage Maven: New service stops junk mail before it’s sent


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Each year, more than 100 billion flyers, circulars, catalogs, donation requests, newsletters and other unsolicited pieces of standard class mail are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, according to the 2009 USPS Household Diary Study.

Now the website that has processed more than 20 million catalog suppression requests in the last four years is unveiling a new service to stop even more junk mail before it’s even sent. Tuesday, the Berkeley-based nonprofit,, unveiled a new MailStop Envelope to prevent not only catalogs but credit card offers, grocery store circulars, phone books and other unwanted solicitations. Using a MailStop Envelope purchased from the website for $6.75, individuals can place as many as 15 labels from unwanted mail into the envelope and send it to Catalog Choice, whose staff will scan the labels and fill out companies’ opt-out requests on behalf of its Envelope users.


‘If you have to go to every company yourself, it’s so mind-bogglingly difficult. That’s why we’ve built these tools to make it super easy,’ said Catalog Choice executive director Chuck Teller.

Until today, individuals who wanted to opt out of junk mail with Catalog Choice had to do so online. ‘But there are a lot of people for whom the Internet is still difficult, so the envelope has really been designed for those people,’ Teller said, adding that about 2% of American households are opting out of at least some types of mail through Catalog Choice.

Later this month, Catalog Choice will offer a downloadable app to allow users to snap a picture of a catalog or other piece of junk mail with an iPhone, after which the opt out will be processed by Catalog Choice.

Teller estimates that one tree is saved for each MailStop Envelope used to stop 15 pieces of junk mail for two years. He said the recyclable envelopes are locally produced by a ‘green’ printer and printed with soy-based inks.


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-- Susan Carpenter