How to stop junk mail - forever

Is your mailbox cluttered with catalogs and credit card offers? Well, if you feel like you're drowning in junk mail, there is hope.

On "The Early Show," Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen told of ways you can stop the flood.

Koeppen reported Americans receive nearly 90 billion pieces of advertising mail every year. But now, some new efforts could give consumers more control of the mail coming into their homes.

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Koeppen shared the story of Janice Kovach. When Kovach goes to the mailbox, she finds junk mail -- many are credit card offers and coupons. And she doesn't want it.

And she's not alone. Advertising mail accounts for 59 percent of all mail Americans receive. But only half of that mail is ever read, according to the United States Postal Service.

"The Early Show" asked Kovach to shoot a video diary to document all the junk mail she and her family received in a month. And then weigh it. At the end of the month, she had received 15 pounds of junk mail. She received only three-and-a-half pounds of mail she actually wanted or needed. That number doesn't even include the free newspapers she doesn't want.

Chuck Teller is president of Catalog Choice, a non-profit group that has helped 1.3 million people opt out of receiving 19 million pieces of junk mail.

Teller told CBS News, "If you ask anyone, you know, 'Do you get junk mail?' I think they'll raise their hand and say, 'Yes.' If you ask them how to get rid of it, they don't know."

The Catalog Choice website streamlines the opt-out process so you don't have to contact companies yourself. And the best part? It's totally free.

Teller said, "Companies actually make it pretty complicated to opt out many times. ... We've taken a five-minute process, and we make it around 10 seconds to make an opt-out choice, record that choice, and if the mail comes back, come back and file a formal complaint."

New legislation called the "Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights" could help reduce the junk mail clutter by limiting the amount of information that is shared with marketing companies -- but that's being opposed by the direct mail industry.

Jerry Cerasale, of the Direct Marketing Association, told CBS News, "Our surveys show that people do like to receive the mail. They read the mail. ... Mail is a very important medium to try and reach them."

But don't tell that to Kovach. She wants the junk mail to stop.

Koeppen asked Kovach, "What would you say to the people sending you all this stuff?"

"'I'm not going to be buying anything,'" she said. "'You know, you could save so much more money if you weren't sending this to me.'"

Koeppen added the Environmental Protection Agency reports Americans as a whole receive close to five million tons of junk mail every year.

Koeppen recommended these websites to opt-out of receiving mailings:

CatalogChoice.org
DMAchoice.org

If you do opt-out, Koeppen said, it can take "a little bit of time" to go into effect.

"If it doesn't work, you can file a complaint against the company," Koeppen said. "Catalog Choice says that about 95 percent of the opt-outs are being honored by these companies."

Koeppen said if you have a deceased relative who continues to receive mail, you can request to have the mail discontinued from the Direct Marketing Association website.

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