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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Will Proposed S.F. Anti-Junk Mail Measure Be Death Knell of Post Office? Environmental Group Says USPS Is Already Dead.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

click to enlarge Your powers are weak, old man
  • Your powers are weak, old man
As anticipated, San Francisco's City Operations & Neighborhood Services Committee yesterday approved of a proposed "Do Not Mail" registry that would, in theory, spare city dwellers from the acres of junk mail that clog our post boxes yearly. And, when you look at the jaw-dropping statistics presented by the antipaper-waste organization ForestEthics, it's hard to argue otherwise.

Will Craven, a San Francisco spokesman for the organization -- which penned the legislation sponsored by several S.F. supes -- notes that the United States Postal Service itself admits that 30 percent of all the mail delivered in the world is American junk mail -- 104 billion pieces at its 2007 high (or nadir, if you see things differently).

When asked how the USPS -- already on shaky legs -- could handle yet more reductions in mail volume, Craven notes that the postal service consciously made the decision to lash itself to junk mail as securely as Ahab was tied to the White Whale. The USPS lost $2.8 billion last year -- but anticipated losing $1 billion: "When you have a for-profit business -- and the postal service is a for-profit business -- and you don't anticipate being within $1 billion of profitability, maybe you need to re-examine your business plan."

Craven adds that 100 million trees are felled yearly to produce this junk mail -- 44 percent of which goes straight to the landfill without being opened. "Deforestation accounts for 20 percent of global carbon emissions -- greater than all planes, trains and automobiles combined."

How can you counter that argument? By bringing up another paper product -- money.

Jim Wigdell is the regional spokesman for the United States Postal Service. Naturally, it opposes this measure -- but, Wigdell claims, not just because it would cause the USPS to shift from losing money profusely to whatever is more than profusely. It's about all the folks who depend on this industry.

"The mailing industry is a $900 billion industry -- that's 6.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. We're just a small part of a large industry," Wigdell says. "In California, half a million people are employed by this industry -- ranging from the forest and paper industry to the printers involved, to graphic designers, to people who transport advertising mail." (Wigdell prefers the term "advertising mail.").

Besides, you can opt out of receiving junk mail yourself -- just go to or call up the folks at Macy's and give them hell. Administering a Do Not Mail list would cost "taxpayer money we don't have" and ... well, you get the USPS' point.

The full Board of Supes will vote on this possible measure on March 31. When it comes to fighting it, don't expect the USPS to mail it in.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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