Junk mail: What you can do to stop it



PITTSBURGH - Your mailbox is crammed with clutter. You may be tired of all that paper, but the problem's about to get worse. Consumer investigator Robin Taylor found out the U.S. Postal Service plans to deliver even more unwanted mail.

The Postal Service is in a heap of debt. Losses are expected to hit almost $16 billion dollars this year, so the postmaster general is looking for anything that brings in money, and direct mail, better known as junk mail, is one of those things that helps pay the bills.

"The mail is still the way to find new customers," said Jerry Cerasale of the Direct Marketing Association.

Delivering this advertising is keeping the Postal Service in business, accounting for almost half of the revenue at the cash-strapped agency.

Earlier this year the postal regulatory commission began cutting deals with direct mail companies to encourage even more junk mail.

The more they mail, the more money the Postal Service makes.

"I love direct mail," said U.S. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe, jokingly. "I read every piece."

We confronted him about whether stuffing mailboxes with what often becomes trash is the solution.

"People read their mail every day. If you want to get a message to somebody the best way to do it is to do it in the mail," said Donahoe.

In Pittsburgh, the mail processing center handles about 800,000 pieces of mail a day. About half, or 400,000 pieces, are pre-paid bulk rate mail. That's up 7 percent from a year ago.

Some of that junk mail is recycled, but much of it ends up in area landfills, costing communities money to collect and process it.

Junk mail has so overwhelmed some cities that they've contracted with a company called Catalog Choice.  The group essentially creates a Do Not Mail list for consumers, much like the Do Not Call list for telemarketers.

"In a time when municipalities are struggling to make ends meet and make budgets work, extra burden and costs with the removal of junk mail is absolutely something communities are trying to avoid," said Scott Mitic of Catalog Choice.

Right now, there is no national Do Not Mail list, but you can opt out by going to the direct mail association website, at www.dmachoice.org.  It won't get rid of everything, but it will make a big difference.