Stopping junk mail

Last updated Wednesday 30 April 2008

Stamp out mass mailings, post-haste

Disappearing under a mountain of takeaway leaflets, bogus prize giveaways and Benidorm time-share offers? Then try our new miracle cure!

"Congratulations! You've won a holiday in the Caribbean, 2,000 in cash or a toasted sandwich maker." Or, more likely, at the end of a long, premium-rate phone call, a cheque for 1. And junk mail isn't just a waste of your time, it's a waste of energy and resources. Every year in the UK, 3.5 million trees are cut down to produce half a million tonnes of junk mail, most of which goes, unopened, into the bin.

Recycling it helps of course, but wouldn't you rather stop the nuisance at source?

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Photo: Stopping junk mail

Saves about 4kg of CO2 a year

1062 Bloomers are doing this

CO2 reduction 1 out of 5

Cheapness 3 out of 5

Popularity 5 out of 5

Cost 0

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How will it make a difference?

Pub Fact

  • Half a million tonnes of junk mail is generated annually in the UK
  • UK junk mail uses 3.5 million trees each year
  • The average home receives 224 items of junk mail a year

The average home receives 224 items of junk mail a year, most of which end up in landfill. Preventing them will save around 4kg of CO2 per household per year. (It might also improve your mood and make your hallway look tidier.)

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How do I do it?

  • Stop receiving 'direct marketing' mail by registering your name online with the Mailing Preference Service (MPS). This will stop 95% of mail addressed to you, though not junk addressed to 'the occupier' or delivered by hand. You should see a reduction within a few months
  • Email an 'opt out' form to the Royal Mail, which is responsible for 25% of the junk mail that comes through your letter box. You should see a reduction in six weeks
  • Make a label saying "No junk mail, leaflets or unsolicited mail" and stick it on your letter box
  • Write "Return to sender" or "Not at this address" on junk mail and put it back in the post. If the junk mail contains a free return envelope, seal the junk mail inside it and include a note requesting that your address be removed from their database
  • When you register to vote, make sure you tick the 'opt-out' box on your registration form to stop your address being used for marketing. Likewise, whenever you fill in your details on a paper or online form, check for small boxes at the bottom to ensure you are not added to a mailing list, or your details passed to third parties
  • Ask your bank to stop sending you promotional literature. (You could save more unnecessary mail by cancelling written statements and banking online, and most utility and telecoms companies now offer a discount for 'paperless billing')

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What's the debate?

The Royal Mail relies on revenue from 'direct' mail companies and says it would need to put up stamp prices to compensate for the loss of business.

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Comments

Tom, Gloucester 2009-06-18

We have sent back loads of marketing leaflets etc, and most still go into the bin. Its a waste of money, paper and puts out loads of CO2 into the atmosphere.

If they are determined to still send us Junk Mail use recycled paper from old marketing leaflets, its quite poetic:)

Jack, London 2009-02-11

When I get sent marketing material sent to me that contains a pre-paid envelope I put other stuff: leaflets, other junk mailing, party political, basically all the unwanted/unneed bits of paper I have laying around in the pre-paid envelope, and mail it back to them. This keeps the Post Office workers employed but costs the marketing people twice as much. I feel this makes it less cost effective for them mail me in the first place.

Woodcrafts, Staffs. 2009-01-21

I have just gone to the Royal Mail website to opt out of unaddressed junk mail, but guess what, they have yet another way of stuffing unwanted mail through your letterbox. They are legally obliged to deliver all ADDRESSED mail, fair enough, but that INCLUDES mail 'addressed' to THE OCCUPIER. So what will junk mailers do, send it TO THE OCCUPIER. Yet another waste of time and effort, wasting even more CO2. I am very keen to be green but this sort of thing is enough to make you give up.

Woodcrafts, Staffs. 2009-01-21

There is little point in registering with the Mailing Preference Service as most of my junkmail is delivered, unaddressed by the Post Office. That is one way they are trying to make money. I have asked my postman NOT to post it through my box but he tells me he has to as part of his job.
The suggestion of posting catalogues etc back to senders will ADD to CO2 use as it takes resources to return it. What is needed is a concerted effort by the Government to BAN unsolicited mail, addressed and unaddressed and a penalty imposed on any company that does not comply with the first request for cessation of mailings.

Anonymous 2008-11-20

Have registered my Husband and myself up with the Mailing Preference Service, hopefully this shall cut down on the amount of junk mail we currently receive, anything else we get in the post that we aren't interested in shall be recycled now we have a recycling box that'll take that kind of stuff.

Peter Scott, Bullith Wells 2008-09-10

There is a really good service to stop all junk mail http://www.myletterbox.co.uk You can stop everything or leave the things you want, hobbies etc and stop all the rest, try it it's really quick and very easy. Well done.

Spuitelf, Leiden, The Netherlands 2008-08-29

In the Netherlands, we have a good system of stickering your letterbox. The counsil and environmental group provide free sticker: one option No to all unaddressed mail, and Yes to local papers (free of subscription). The other sticker says No to all unaddresssed mail and No to free local papers. All mailservices respect these stickers. It is a faboulous way. Something that can be followed all around the world

Brent, Spokane, Washington, USA 2008-08-27

In the United States, you can visit the website www.donotmail.org and sign up to remove yourself from junk mail senders. Fast and easy.

Lexy, NYC 2008-08-27

Used a site that told several catalogs to stop sending mail to my house. I also write "return to sender/take off list" and throw it back in the post. I also recycle alot of the magazines.

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Glossary terms used on this page
CO2
CO2, or carbon dioxide, is made up of the elements carbon and oxygen. It exists quite naturally in our atmosphere, as part of the carbon cycle. Everyday processes in the plant and animal world both add CO2 to the atmosphere and take it out. However, because it is a greenhouse gas - meaning it affects the temperature of the earth - the exact level of CO2 is important. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere, hence the anxiety that extensive use of these fuels is causing climate change.
Landfill
Landfill is disposal of rubbish by burying it under the ground.

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