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Opting out: Stop junk mail in Juneau

Posted: March 24, 2013 - 12:01am

The City and Borough of Juneau and local nonprofit Juneau Friends of Recycling are now offering a free service to help reduce waste created by unwanted junk mail.

By partnering with Catalog Choice, local residents can sign up online at juneau.catalogchoice.org to opt out of receiving unwanted catalogs, coupons, credit card offers, donation requests, phone books and other junk mail that arrives in your mailbox on a daily basis.

This service will help cut down on the millions of unwanted mailings that fill up Juneau’s landfill, as well as save money since the city has to ship recyclable material down south, according to Jim Penor, CBJ’s solid waste coordinator.

“This is an easy way to be eco-friendly and save trees and natural resources,” Penor said. “This is a great program to stop waste at the source before it enters Juneau’s waste streams.”

According to the company’s website, Catalog Choice for Communities was created in 2011 as a way to “empower citizens to reduce unwanted advertising mail.”

Such mail amounts to 10 billion pounds of waste annually in the nation and can cost more than $1 billion to collect and dispose of, the website cites.

Dozens of cities are participating in the program, including Chicago, Sante Fe, San Jose and Seattle, according to the website.

Catalog Choice says that within 12 months of its inception, participating cities produced more than 530,000 opt-outs, which equates to more than 3 million pounds of solid waste prevented, 20,000 trees saved, 19 million gallons of water conserved and 8 million pounds of greenhouse gas avoided.

The way it works is that residents can log into to the website, create a free account and register your opt-outs online. Catalog Choice then gets the opt-outs processed. According to the website, you can keep track of your opt-outs and if you receive the mail again, Catalog Choice will follow up with that company.

For those who are wary of providing their email and other information online, Catalog Choice also provides a snail-mail service called Mail Stop Envelope. You send your junk mail to Catalog Choice in a special postage-paid envelope, for a small fee. Catalog Choice then fill out the opt-out’s for you and does the rest. There’s also an iPhone app where you can take a picture of your junk mail and Catalog Choice takes care of the rest.

Penor said he first learned of the program through a newsletter from the Solid Waste Association of North America. He researched Catalog Choice and talked with officials in Seattle and other cities to see what they thought of the program.

Convinced it could help Juneau cut down on household waste, Penor urged CBJ to try it out as a pilot program for one year. After going through legal procedures, CBJ signed the one-year $2,500 contract with Catalog Choice in early December.

About 380 residents in Juneau have signed up for the service since the website went live last month, Penor said. Catalog Choice oversees the website and conducts daily reporting of activity.

“Let’s see if we get the bang for our buck,” Penor said. “I will evaluate the program at the end of the year and if it’s successful, let’s keep it going.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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