Effects of Junk Mail on the Environment
Studies regarding junk mail (with the exception of catalogs and phonebooks) have shown that the average household gets sent only 1.5 personal letters a week while receiving in average 16 envelopes of junk mail. Doing the math, when adding up the weight of the junk mail, using a conservative estimated average weight of 2oz per letter, it amounts to 41 pounds of junk mail per house per year! The 2001 Canadian Census reported there to be 11.5 million households, which means just under one BILLION pounds of junk mail per year in Canada only. In other words, that’s roughly 18 times the weight of the Titanic! If an average mailing costs 10 cents per letter, it sums up to about 0 million per year for these useless mailings, 40% of which go directly to the garbage bin unread and only 2% of which are responded to.
The worse thing about junk mail is not just the fact that we receive it. Its negative environmental impact is astounding: forests are destroyed to make pulp, toxic chemicals are used to print them, landfills are clogged, and to dispose of them is pricey, among other issues. As one can visibly understand, junk mail is not just a nuisance to us; it’s to the environment as well.
The negative effects of logging to build the paper used for junk mail are everywhere. Deforestation destroys the equilibrium of forest ecosystems, which can erode the soil, destroy habitats, damage water tables, and impact on the environment in many other ways. Disappearance of forests renders the atmosphere unstable by taking away trees that would otherwise eliminate carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) from the air. The damage to the water tables that can be caused by deforestation dries drying otherwise fertile soil, which then becomes highly prone to erosion and further soil damage. Erosion due to deforestation can in turn increase the risk of drought or flooding in waterways. Erosion is not the only soil damage. Working with ground water can result in sucking away important nutrients from the topsoil into the water table. Changes in forest cover, water supply, and soil content have a direct impact on forest ecosystems. Each year, deforestation, especially in tropical rainforests, results in the extinction of tens of thousands of animal and insect species. Also each year, production of pulp to create junk mail creates almost 2 billion tons of carbon emissions: equal to the pollution of about 9 million automobiles.