Chicago, Berkeley Aim to Wipe Out Junk Mail, Cut Landfill Waste

Five U.S. cities rolled out programs targeting unwanted junk mail today to trim landfill waste and related disposal costs.

Chicago, Berkeley, Calif., Ithaca, N.Y., Kansas City and Salem, Ore., introduced a Mail Preference Service Tuesday, allowing residents to put an end to unsolicited junk mail, such as credit offers, phone books and advertisements.

The annual collection and landfill cost of these mailings and phone books is estimated at up to $10 per household. It may not sound like much, but it can add up when you consider that Chicago has more than 1 million households, while Kansas City boasts approximately 200,000.

The cities are characterizing the program as both a zero waste effort and austerity program. It was designed by Catalog Choice, a nonprofit that hosts a localized website for each city that allows residents to sign up for the program. Cities then receive data on participation rates and environmental impacts.

"We've identified waste reduction as a crucial strategy to meet the goals of our Chicago Climate Action Plan," Suzanne Malec-McKenna, Commissioner of Chicago's Department of Environment, said in a statement. "The Mail Preference Service with Catalog Choice will cut paper waste at the source, and offers an ease of use that we know Chicago citizens and businesses will appreciate."

U.S. residents are subject to more than 100 billion pieces of unsolicited mail each year, according to Catalog Choice. The city of San Francisco recently moved to ban the distribution of phone books unless publishers get residents to opt-in.  

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Casey Serin.