20111209

Opt In Pretty Please


Dear Representative Crisanta Duran,
Dear Senator Pat Steadman,

There are few things I hate more than waste: of time, of money and most especially of resources. Every Wednesday, I find a large stack of brochures of mostly grocery stores advertisements in my mailbox. This huge stack of unwanted paper goes promptly into the recycling bin and try as I might, I cannot get the ad agency, Redplum, to remove my apartment from their mailing list.

I am not the only one who does not wish to receive these ads. My apartment complex has about 200 units full of mostly 20- and 30-something young professionals and the last place we are going to look for a good deal on seedless grapes is in a paper advertisement. This is seen by the full trash can in the lobby next to the apartment’s mailboxes every Wednesday night and Thursday morning. (I’ve even started a tradition of emptying the entirety of the lobby trash into the recycling a couple times a week since we produce so much recyclable paper.)

This pesky, weekly packet is only part of the problem. I will also automatically receive a four-inch thick phone book which will also be promptly thrown into the recycling as well. When I need to look up a phone number or address I use the Internet and get the answer instantly with no need to thumb through a 1000+ page pile of waste.

This is important to me for a couple reasons. First, I care about the waste that all this unwanted mail is producing. While recycling helps offset the costs to our precious natural resources, it should come second to avoiding the use of those resources in the first place. Second, I care about the nuisance all this extra waste brings to so many people: Our postwoman, Juanita, who has to carry these advertisements for every mailbox on her route as well as stuff these advertisements into our too-small mailboxes; Our custodian, Manuel, who has to frequently empty the heavy lobby trash that is exclusively full of discarded advertisements; And finally, it is a nuisance to me. I spend time transferring the “trash” into the recycling, making phone calls to put an end to this unwanted mail and generally feeling guilty that I am not doing more.

Neither the United States Postal Service nor the advertisement agencies and phone book companies have any incentive to change this system. Both the producers and the deliverers derive financial gain from this waste. It is only we, the consumers, of this waste that can change the system. I have recently made several phones calls to opt-out and even then, there really is not a way to fully opt-out because passing the message from the customer service representative who took my call to the courier who is told to place a phone book in front of every door is a tricky endeavour.

As a first step, I have posted signs with instructions for how to be removed from the most commonly received bulk mailings near the mailboxes in the lobby of my apartment complex. I included pull-off tabs that will direct my neighbors to either a website or a phone number to call. I also included a list where my neighbors can simply add their name and apartment number and I will do the time-consuming part for them. Hopefully this will help send the message to the advertisement agency that “We don’t want this garbage!”

Ultimately, I would like to see a bill in the Colorado Legislature that requires a “by request only” (or frequently called “opt-in”) system for all free, paper advertising that arrives at my doorstep automatically. This has to be done with a change to public policy since the major stakeholders, the producers and the deliverers, have no incentive for change.

But what of the elderly, low-income or internetless? Even my parents still regularly use a phone book. (Although they are quickly catching up and realizing that the Internet can give them faster and more accurate information.) With an opt-in system, those that still want free grocery store ads and phone books can still receive them. They would just have to seek out those free deliveries. I would recommend a post card, with return postage pre-paid, to every address. Mail back the postcard and your free phone book will arrive on your doorstep as requested. Do nothing and your stoop remains garbage free. This would cut down on thousands of pounds of paper waste that is going straight to the recycling, or worse, the landfill.

Similar bills have passed successfully in other municipalities including San Francisco, CA and Seattle, WA.  I think Colorado is primed and ready to become the leader in the “opt-in” movement.

Thank you for your time, public service and consideration.

Sincerely,

Kaleena Menke
Resident, State House District 5 and State Senate District 31

(Click here and fill out the form if you would like to stop receiving Redplum's packet each week)

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