Junk mail is costly to recipients as well as annoying, according to a Spokane woman who wants a spam filter of sorts for physical mailboxes.
In addition to indirect costs such as wasting resources and damaging the environment, junk mail imposes a disposal cost on recipients and local governments, Donna McKereghan told Spokane County commissioners last week.
She urged commissioners to ask the Legislature to pass a statewide “Do Not Mail” law modeled on the federal registry of telephone numbers solicitors are prohibited from calling.
Citing statistics prepared by the ForestEthics environmental organization, McKereghan said junk mail produces 56.2 tons of greenhouse gases annually. That’s the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 9 million cars.
Also, she said, unsolicited credit card offers can lead to identity theft if not shredded.
McKereghan said 105 billion pieces of unsolicited commercial mail are distributed every year in the United States, and the average American home receives 800 pieces. She said 44 percent of those mailings wind up in landfills, unopened.
Residents and taxpayers pay the disposal bill, and local officials must provide the service.
Also of interest to politicians, McKereghan said the federal Do Not Call Registry is the most popular consumer rights legislation in history, and a survey showed around 90 percent of voters would support a similar Do Not Mail Registry.
McKereghan said she got involved in the Do Not Mail movement, which she said is active in several states, when she encountered a ForestEthics representative while traveling on state business.
McKereghan serves on the Washington state Legislative Ethics Board. She said state officials authorized her to promote Do Not Mail legislation at the local level.
Commissioner Todd Mielke was skeptical of the need for legislation, but not because he likes junk mail. Mielke said he cut his junk mail to “a trickle” by taking advantage of a Postal Service offer to stop delivering third-class mail upon request.
“I want to know where you signed up,” Commissioner Mark Richard said.
“I just walked up to the counter of a local post office and said, ‘Is there anything you can do?’ ” Mielke said.
Richard said his attempts to sign up for the Do Not Call registry seem not to have worked, but he wanted to take a closer look at the possibility of blocking junk mail.
“When two-thirds of it just gets thrown in a barrel, it seems incredibly wasteful,” Richard said.
Commissioner Bonnie Mager needed no convincing.
“I take you very seriously, and I’m a great supporter,” Mager told McKereghan.
Mager said her late mother lived with her and liked to sign up for catalogs. A dozen years after her mother’s death, the catalogs keep coming, Mager said.
“It’s no fun to get the mail anymore,” Mager said, noting she lives in a rural area that doesn’t have curbside recycling.
Commissioners agreed to consider McKereghan’s suggestion.