Don’t Get Trashed – Is Recycling Discarded Mail Profitable? – Part I

Anyone who reads “Marketing Sustainably” knows I’m a huge proponent of recycling options for the mail that consumers choose to discard once they are through with it. Earlier this year, I reported on the U.S. Postal Service’s efforts to recycle mail that is discarded in Postal Service lobbies (under the mantra, “Read, Respond, Recycle”) and mail that is undeliverable as addressed—all of which generated millions in revenue for the USPS from what might otherwise be a pure cost center.

A “town square” held during the DMA’s DMA2012 conference in Las Vegas looked at the profitability of direct mail recycling overall—from a brand’s and direct mailer’s perspective. Does, in fact, the encouragement of recycling of direct mail create profit for marketers, or simply good public relations (both being beneficial). Two experts from the field—Monica Garvey, director of sustainability, Verso Paper Corporation, and Meta Brophy, director of procurement operations, Consumer Reports—weighed in with their opinions and observations.

The issue is not a rhetorical one. Earlier this year, the DMA Board of Directors approved a public goal to do just this—get more marketers and mailers to promote and support the recycling collection of mail (and its diversion from landfills) as an industry objective. DMA has a Recycle Please logo program for brands, agencies and mailers that DMA members should use on their printed communications (and digital properties, too). Garvey and Brophy explained why during the town square:

Chet Dalzell: I want my audience to respond to direct mail—not just recycle it! Does use of a Recycle Please logo or recycle please messaging depress response in my marketing materials?

Meta Brophy: Absolutely not. Consumer Reports has tested specifically use of the logo and recycling messaging on our masthead and inside our direct mail materials. We experienced no negative effects. Dozens of companies are using DMA’s Recycle Please logo, too, which shows its industry acceptance (www.recycleplease.org).

Marketing Sustainably: What's Going on Beyond and Beneath the Green? A blog posting questions, opportunities, concerns and observations on sustainability in marketing.

Chet Dalzell has 25 years of public relations management and expertise in service to leading brands in consumer, donor, patient and business-to-business markets, and in the field of integrated direct marketing. He serves on the Direct Marketing Association International ECHO Awards Board of Governors, as an adviser to the Direct Marketing Club of New York and Direct Marketing Idea eXchange, and is a former member of DMA's Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility, where he led the Marketing & Communications Public Outreach Strategy Working Group (2005-2012).

Chet co-developed the first professional certificate program in environmentally responsible marketing within the United States. He also served on the United States Postal Service Greening the Mail Task Force (2007-2010), and led its Life Cycle of Mail Subcommittee. He loves UConn Basketball (men's and women's) and Nebraska Football (that's just men, at this point), too!

Email Chet below, or reach him at Twitter or LinkedIn.

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