How to keep 550,000 tonnes of junk mail out of landfill

Filed in Blog, Reduce by on December 3, 2010 17 Comments
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Stop junk mail and save 3.5 million trees

Stop junk mail and save 3.5 million trees

It’s coming up to Christmas and I don’t know about you, but I’ve started to get more junk mail.

Catalogues filled with pages of stuff I don’t want or need, people offering me deals on car and house insurance and magazine subscription offers.

I’ve been sending it back with ‘return to sender’ written on it, but that’s not really getting to the root of the issue. The trees have already been cut down, made into paper and covered with toxic inks. When it gets back to the office I’m under no illusion that it will be binned and end up in a landfill site.

I am fully signed up for the Mail Preference Service, but we need to bear in mind that this is only valid for two years – you must renew your preferences otherwise the amount of junk mail you receive will start to creep back up.

Here are 6 ways to drastically reduce your junk mail. Junk mail in the UK accounts for 550,000 tonnes of paper annually:

Contact the company

if you’re still getting mail from companies you no longer buy from, or if you’ve switched to online purchasing, write or call them and ask to be removed from their mailing lists.

Mail preference service

Sign up for the mail preference service. This should stop 95% of addressed direct mail. Addressed direct mail is the result of you signing up for a company catalogue or similar or is sent from companies who have purchased your details on a database.

3.4 billion items of addressed direct mail are sent out every year.

Opt Out

Although we think it should be opt IN, rather than opt OUT, this is the way to stop the 13 billion items of unaddressed mail that are sent out yearly.

Write to:

Door to Door Opt Outs
Royal Mail
Kingsmead House
Oxpens Road

or email op[email protected] to request their ‘door-to-door opt-out form’.

Alternatively, call 08457 950950 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 08457 950950 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

‘The occupier’

You know the mail addressed to ‘the occupier’ or ‘the householder’? If this has your address on it, the Post Office are legally obliged to deliver it to you.

All you can do is return to sender and hope for the best. If there is space to write on the envelope clearly, just do that. If the envelope is covered in fancy logos and advertising, it’s better to use a sticker so your writing can be clearly seen.

Leaflets and menus

For junk mail that has nothing to do with Royal Mail, such as leaflet drops from local companies and takeaway menus, you’ll need to put a sticker on your letter box.

Robert, who is passionate about helping us all stop junk mail, has a fantastic selection of stickers and other goodies in his stop junk mail shop. But that’s not all; he’s kindly donated his renaming ‘stop junk mail’ kits to you lovely people. Send an email to [email protected] along with your name and address (UK only please) and he’ll send you one of his kits which contains a 20-page brochure, an opt-out card to stop junk mail delivered by Royal Mail, some ‘return to sender’ labels and five envelope re-use labels.. It’s first come, first served, so be quick!


To get most of your junk mail stopped in 30 seconds flat, hop over to Junkbuster.

in a few clicks, you can contact the main opt-out schemes in the UK and reduce unwanted mail by up to 60 per cent.

Any success (or otherwise) stories to share about junk mail? Any companies to name and shame (hello Viking Direct!)

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (17)

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  1. KarenV says:

    Our main problem is flyers for takeaway places. Living so close to the City Centre, we can get 2-3 of these every. single. day. I’m not sure that putting a sticker on the letter box will help, but I’m willing to give it a try. Boden catalogues and Lakeland catalogues run a very close second – I’m definitely going to do something about these, as I always order online if I use them. Thanks for the information and links, I shall be checking some of them out to see if I can reduce what we receive.

  2. mieke says:

    Returning your junkmail to sender is worth it ,in the end.
    I allways found that, given some time, it works.

    Also to stop leaflets from shops and restaurants coming in through the letter box
    we in the netherlands use letterbox stickers, widely (free)available from your local government or on the internet, saying NO NO or YES NO, their is a division , if you wish receive local(free )papers. That’s the difference in the yes/ no bit.
    Most leaflet people stick to it. It’s only in use for non-adressed stuff.
    And it save about 45 kilo’s per year in leaflets you don’t get!

    I could sent a picture of the sticker, but I dont’know how. I could look up the site, so you could see, Don’t know if it;s in available in english.

    PS I don’t know how much 45 kilo’s is in weight used in england.

  3. mieke says:

    In additio to my last post, go to and search for JANEEstickers.
    There in black with green and orange letters.

  4. Julie Day says:

    Yes, my main problem is takeaway menus, getting several a week. I just pick them off the mat and put them straight in to our recycling basket. I notice this more now that I am at home all the time.

  5. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Telephoning or writing to all companies involved is not very practical as you will be spending most of your day doing this. A tip I find that works and almost guarantees no mail or nuisance telephone calls is to tell them “if you call me again or write to me again I will report you to the data protection people. I want my name removed from your database. Goodbye”.

    Companies are scared and do not want to be fined for data protection breaches and so will comply. Sending back mail in the envelope provided is fun as they will have to bear the cost of delivery. Additional when it come to renewing or looking for new Car/home insurance tell the company that you would like to receive the quote by e-mail. Nowadays some companies who are trying to reduce cost sent the policy documentation via e-mail where you can print it or not. My last home insurance renewal was do in this way and was only £90.

    If you have a regular postman talk to them and say “please do not give to me any junk mail” and if they like you they will probably comply. The problem with this is that nowadays you do not have regular postmen as the delivery person can change from day to day.

    All other advice greatly received.

  6. I put a no junk mail sign on my letter box about twelve months ago and I love it. I don’t want to know about sales on things I don’t need anyway. Now my actual mail fits in my mailbox and doesn’t get wet when it rains. Fancy that!

  7. Jane says:

    Many Councils offer these stickers free to their residents (less unwanted paper = less disposal cost + less landfill = funds available to be spent elsewhere) which helps keep Council Tax down. Check out the Environment/Waste & Recycling/Waste Reduction areas on your Council website! Email their Customer Services and ask.

  8. Sinead says:

    i have tried the royal menu opt out – they deny any knowledge, every time.

    i have a clear polite sign on the door but the menu posters still post

    mps and tps work. will try junkbuster as the others don’t work

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @KarenV: Hi Karen; I hope you manage to reduce the amount of flyers coming into your home.
    @mieke: Great to hear things are working well for you, Mieke. We use kilos too, and that’s a LOT of junk mail!
    @Julie Day: I didn’t realise how lucky we were. I get about 3 takeaway menus a YEAR over here!
    @Antonio Pachowko: Good idea about asking for email quotes from insurance companies, Antonio.
    @Colleen ( Sounds like your sign is working well, Colleen. I agree, I don’t want to know about things I don’t want either!
    @Jane: Thanks for that Jane; something else I didn’t know!
    @Sinead: Some things are effective Sinead, and others aren’t. Let’s hope junkbuster sorts things out for you 🙂

  10. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    The problem with Junk Mail is the disconnect between users (companies, including the DMA) and waste outcomes resulting. Return To Sender addresses this issue especially with regard to plastic ‘windows’ in envelopes. The more we all send back the quicker better alternatives will emerge. Another aspect is the recognition of serious enthusiasts by the senders who then tend to avoid further contact.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, Although annoying, I do find RTS is the most effective option; anything that hits their bottom line is going to have an effect 😉

  12. Ben says:

    The no thank you to junk mail sticker on my letter box does seem to work and most the leafleting people don’t deliver anything to my house. I have however been receiving lots of letters for people who used to live here, but returning them all to sender with ‘not known at this address’ written on them has been steadily stopping that as they do seem to eventually take them off their lists. I was also pleased to notice that last time I registered to vote that they asked if I wanted to be on the list which is used for commercial mailings or not.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Ben: Hi Ben, glad the sticker is working for you and thanks for the update on registering for the MPS; good to know things are changing gradually 😉

  14. Guen says:

    Do you know about some things like that in europe?

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @Guen: Hello Guen, I don’t know of any schemes like this in Europe – is junk mail a problem in your country? I’d love to hear more about it and perhaps I can help you find something to reduce your junk mail.

  16. Sinead says:

    Hi, Junkbuster is working:)
    I heard the letterbox go today and it was yet another takeaway menu. so i called the bloke back over, he jogged down the road – and i gave it back to him, pointed out the no junk sticker and he apologised and left – finally!

    on a different note – kerbside recycling.
    our little green bins have no lids. so every other tuesday morn our road is littered with rubbish. no one seems to care or take responsibility. i don’t mind trapsing down the road to get my box back but then i have to pick [email protected] out of my garden and street. grrrrrrrrrrrrr

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Sinead: 😀 great story Sinead; glad Junkbuster is working for you. Shame about the green bins though, I can see that must be a big problem, particularly if your council collect paper as that tends to blow around a lot . Have you phoned them to see if lids might be forthcoming?

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