Why Such a Fuss Over Junk Mail?

(From the New American Dream)

The world’s forests are feeling the strain of unsustainable demand for wood and paper. The United States consumed 99 million tons of paper in 1997, or about 740 pounds per American. The U.S., with 5% of the world’s population, consumes 30% of the world’s paper.

By weight, paper products comprise nearly one-third of all waste going into American landfills. Bulk mail, a substantial chunk of our paper waste, is especially troubling because it is often unsolicited and thus leaves citizens to dispose of materials they did not choose to consume.

Catalogs and other direct mailings account for 5.2 million tons of waste each year and are recycled at a paltry rate of 19%, leaving over 4 million tons to clog landfills. That’s 340,000 garbage trucks filled to the brim with nothing but bulk mail!

This is a problem not only because of the waste disposal issue but also because it forces more paper to be made from trees, a very resource intensive process. Producing a ton of virgin paper requires 17 more trees, 7000 more gallons of water, and substantially greater energy input than a ton of 100% recycled paper.

Furthermore, chlorine is often used in the bleaching process, releasing the carcinogenic chemical dioxin and other toxins.

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