For Consumers




What is DMA’s “Recycle Please” campaign?
DMA’s “Recycle Please” campaign is a nationwide public education campaign that encourages you to recycle catalogs and direct mail pieces when you are finished reading them.

Most of us recycle our newspapers, but many people don’t know that they can also recycle catalogs, magazines, direct mail, envelopes, and packaging. Because only about 30 percent of this “mixed paper” is recycled annually in the United States, DMA hopes to stimulate recycling activity through this campaign and improve the overall recycling/recovery rate for catalogs and mixed paper.

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What happens to the paper you recycle?
When you recycle paper, paper mills use it to make new newspapers, notebook paper, paper grocery bags, corrugated boxes, envelopes, magazines, cartons, and other paper products. Today, more than 36 percent of the fiber used to make new paper products in the United States comes from recycled sources.

Paper mills may also use wood chips and sawdust left over from lumber operations to make houses, furniture, and other things.

Paper can only be recycled a certain number of times before the paper fibers break down, making the material less versatile. At that point, recycled fiber must be mixed with virgin material to make the product useable.

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How much paper was recycled/recovered vs. landfilled in the U.S. last year?
In 2006, Americans recycled and recovered 53.5 million tons of the paper, averaging 360 pounds per person, according to the American Forest & Products Association (AF & PA). This is an impressive amount of recovered fiber, but there is still room for improvement, especially given 35.7 million tons of paper was landfilled in 2006.

Direct mail is a small and declining part of the overall solid waste stream, making up only 2 percent of the total municipal solid waste. This figure is likely to decline as greater strides are continually being made in paper recovery and recycling.

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Is using paper bad for the environment?
Using paper products is not bad for the environment because you’re using a natural product that’s renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and from a sustainable resource – our forests. The wood and paper industry more than makes up for what it harvests by managing forests and planting more than 1.7 million tree seedlings every day – more than 600 million tree seedlings a year.

As a society, we have made great strides over the past decade in using our resources more efficiently, increasing recycling efforts, and improving forest management. Since 1952, when national statistics were first reported, forest growth in the U.S. has continuously exceeded the rate of harvest. In fact, there is more forestland in the America today than there was in 1900.

Why is paper important?
Paper plays an integral part in our daily lives. Yet many of us take for granted how paper allows us to enjoy our lives and go about our daily routines with greater efficiency. Think of all the ways and places we use paper—in the home (e.g. tissue, paper towels, diapers, cereal boxes, juice cartons, toilet paper), in school (e.g. notebook paper and textbooks), and at work (e.g. office papers, brochures, notepads)—just to name a few.

Benefits of direct mail
Direct mail is an important vehicle for commerce and information exchange in the U.S. It provides consumers with value, choice, and flexibility, including the ability to shop from home at any time you like. Direct mail lets you know about products, services, and good deals that you might otherwise not know about. Perhaps that’s why over 80% of Americans usually read some or all of the advertising mail they receive.

In addition to convenience, direct mail provides a number of economic and social benefits to Americans. For example, did you know the following?
Without the revenue generated by direct mail, the post office might have to cut back on six day a week service and people might have to pay much higher prices to send letters. (Direct mail advertising provides the revenue for the post office in much the same ways that advertising provides the revenues for magazines, newspapers and TV.)

Millions of jobs are dependent on direct mail. A decline in direct mail could ultimately mean fewer jobs in your local community.
Direct mail is a cost effective way for small businesses to enter the marketplace and to compete against larger companies that can afford huge multimedia campaigns.

Nonprofits raise billions of dollars for charitable causes through direct mail.

While direct mail does use paper, shopping by mail has a tradeoff in that it reduces the number of miles consumers travel for shopping trips, saving gas and reducing air pollution. In 2004, 110 million shopping trips were saved and the number of miles driven dropped by almost 2 billion. This saved 35,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and reduced gas consumption by 75 million gallons.

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What types of paper products are recyclable?
In theory, just about every type of paper product is recyclable. In practice, however, recycling is limited to the systems set up in your community.

As a general rule of thumb, following is a list of paper products that are recyclable in most communities.

  • Catalogs and magazines

  • Mixed papers (direct mail, envelopes, unsorted household and office mail)

  • Newspapers

  • Computer paper and higher grade (office) paper

  • Corrugated paper (boxes)

However, always check with your local recycling facility to determine what materials your community will accept for recycling, since some types of paper are harder to recycle than others. For example, papers coated with plastic or aluminum foil, and papers that are waxed, pasted, or gummed are usually not recycled because the process is too expensive.

Recycling Tips
Before recycling catalogs and direct mail:

  • Sort different types of paper, such as newspapers and cardboard boxes, if required by your community.

  • Make sure the paper is clean, dry, and free of food, most plastic, wax, and other contamination.

  • Remove stickers, inserts, product samples (e.g. CDs, perfumes) and/or plastic “membership” cards.

  • Due to new technology, plastic window envelopes and staples are generally okay to recycle, but remove any binder clips or paperclips before recycling.

  • Double check with your community to determine what recycled material they will and will not accept.

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How to and where can I recycle catalogs and direct mail (mixed paper)?
Many communities now have curbside recycling service. In the 1970s, no curbside recycling program existed in the U.S. By the late 1990s, some 9,000 curbside programs and 12,000 drop-off centers had sprouted up across the nation. Some communities have drop-off and buy-back centers. Curbside programs, along with drop-off and buy-back centers, resulted in a diversion of about 30 percent of the nation’s solid waste in 2001.

For information about recycling direct mail and catalogs in your community, please visit

Also visit Waste Management at to find their recycling facilities closest to you. (Click on the “Locate Your Provider” section, select "Recycling Facilities" in the dropdown menu, and type in your zip code.)

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Where can I go find more information on paper and recycling?
Abundant Forests Alliance (AFA)

Earth 911
Contains information for consumers on a variety of topics such as air pollution prevention, recycling, global warming, and water pollution & conservation. Enter your zip code to search for recycling and reuse services in your community.

EPA’s “Recycling City”

National Recycling Coalition (NRC)

Paper Industry Association Council (PIAC)

  • FAQ’s About Recycling
    FAQ’s include answers to questions such as “How can I find the paper recycling facility closest to me?” “How can I obtain recycling bins?” “How much paper was recycled in the U.S. last year?” “How is old paper recycled into new paper?”

Waste Management
To find Waste Management recycling facilities closest to you, click on the “Locate Your Provider” section, select "Recycling Facilities" in the dropdown menu, and type in your zip code.

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