Dealing with Junk Mail

Filed in Blog, Reduce by on May 27, 2011 23 Comments
FavoriteLoadingAdd article to favourites
Mrs Green returns her junk mail to sender

Mrs Green returns her junk mail to sender

It’s that time of year for me when all my insurances come at once – home, contents and car.

Even though I’ve been reducing junk mail here at zero waste towers I definitely notice an increase in visits from the postman at this time of year too. Companies are vying for my custom and to take care of my every need.

This month I saved up all the rubbish that had come through my letter box and was horrified to find myself with a huge pile of dead trees and toxic ink to deal with, yet again.

It seems that you have to really be on the ball to stop junk mail in its tracks.

We need to remember that in the UK, opting out is only a temporary situation; you have to keep renewing your disinterest in Readers Digest, Viking Direct and numerous charities…

An astonishing 21 billion items (550,000 tonnes) of junk mail are sent out every year in the UK – can you imagine what that looks like in trees, transportation and water usage?

It’s not easy to stop junk mail either. The process for stopping junk mail in the UK is 4-fold because of the different types of junk mail sent to householders such as addressed direct mail, un-addressed direct mail and marketing leaflets. In order to have any success with reducing mail coming into your home you need to tackle the issue from all 4 corners:

Contact the company

Companies are obliged by law to stop sending you junk mail if you ask them. So if a particular company is sending you mail you no longer want, contact that company direct and ask them to stop.

You can also Return any unwanted mail to sender; cross out your address (but ensure they can still see it so they know who to remove from their database) and write something like “Return to sender. Please remove me from your database as per the Date Protection Act” and stick the offending item(s) back in the post. The company will have to pay to have that mail returned so there is a financial incentive for them to stop.

Mail Preference Service

Around 3.4 billion items of addressed direct mail are sent out every year, requiring 180,000 tonnes of paper.
If you sign up for the Mail Preference Service (MPS) you should find your junk mail reduces dramatically. It can take a while for the cogs to start turning but I’ve found you can stop around 80% of addressed direct mail once you register with them.

For people not on the internet, they can call 020 7291 3310

Opt out

Around 13 billion items of unaddressed direct mail are sent out yearly.

If you want to stop leaflets and unaddressed mail being delivered by Royal Mail send an email to [email protected] and request their ‘door-to-door opt-out form’.

For people who are not on the internet, they can write to:

Royal Mail Door to Door Opt Outs
Kingsmead House
Oxpens Road

Get a sticker

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 saying “No commercial leaflets” or similar.

There is also some great information on the Junk Busters site, where you can register for all these services in one go.

What about you – how much junk mail do you get each week?

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 (23)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Julie Day says:

    I know what you mean about junk mail. It’s this time of year for me too for insurances etc. As to menus, well we get about a dozen or so every week. I seriously think though that even if you put a sticker on the window and point the deliverer to it, they will ignore it.

  2. Attila says:

    When you use the mail preference service, you need to be careful to list every possible name. For instance, my DH is known informally by his middle name, so he gets mail to his legal name as well as to his commonly used name. And someone, somewhere, sometime addressed me as Mrs Xxxxxxx, but with one letter wrong, it got on a mailing list, so I had to block that name too. Then my mum, who has dementia and lives in a nursing home, kept losing important mail, so I have all her mail come to me too, so I had to block her name for junk mail too. What a pain!

  3. Sue says:

    I’ve recently bought one of those stickers that says no to commercial leaflets but yes to free newspapers (my husband likes them). Fantastic thing! No more takeaway menus or home improvement leaflets.

  4. Lomba says:

    Hi Mrs Green

    Have just come across this piece in the Guardian environment section. If this works, it will make your wonderful site and bog redundant! boo.

  5. CarSue says:

    We’ve been fortunate to see a huge drop in our amount of junk mail after signing up for a service to stop it. However, every week, I still get at least one post card for a discounted oil change.

    I once heard an anecdote of a man who, frustrated with a company who continued to send him junk after he requested they not, taped one of their envelopes to a very heavy box of rocks…. so the company had to pay to have the box shipped back to them!

  6. Hazel says:

    I like the box of rocks idea! I can’t remember if I wrote about my saga with American Express and trying to stop their mail shots. I should have done that with them. If I didn’t, all I need to say is that when you phone them and the voice says “Press 1 for all new credit card inquiries, press 2 to make a payment…” it actually says “Press 9 if we’re annoying the hell out of you by continuing to send you application forms you’ve never asked for even though you’ve asked us to stop repeatedly.”Or something similar.

    I made a concerted effort to stop the catalogues I receive recently, and was very impressed with the effort Joe Brown went to to help me. It actually transpired that Experian had sold them my details- no idea how they’d got them.

    Luckily living rurally we get very few pizza menus etc, although I did have to be quite assertive with the lady who insisted on leaving me an Avon catalogue just in case I changed my mind about becoming an Avon lady…

    I do have a collection of those charity clothing collection bags that the collectors never pick up when they call round again.Any idea how to opt out of those? Handwritten sign on the door? I rarely use bin bags and now have enough for life, I should think.

  7. Alyson says:

    I’ve made a notice and stuck it to my door. It says.”NO charity bags please!” The no is in red. It’s been on my door for about 3 yrs now and works 99.9% . Every once in a while I have go over the no in red because it does like to fade away. I’ve, also, noticed ,recently, that Mondays around here seems to be junk mail day, the unaddressed kind, so I shall be looking into that royal mail opt out form. And, yes, we have pizza leaflets on, almost, a daily basis. That is so annoying.

  8. mieke says:

    Am between houses, put a NO/NO sticker(dutch version of ‘No commercial leaflets’) on the letterbox of my old home.
    It works, I get practicly get no mail at all, (because of move mainly).
    The sticker helps.
    Usually I have a YES/NO sticker, the Yes meaning you get leaflets and papers from locally(events, local government plans etc), which are O.k. by me.
    But I’m waiting to see what I get in my new letterbox after the definate move……

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Julie Day: Interesting about all those menus; we don’t tend to get them – perhaps it’s a rural thing !

    @Attila: Really great information – which I didn’t know. Thanks for sharing, Attila

    @Sue: Glad that sticker has made a difference Sue.

    @Lomba: Ah yes, I’ve heard of this and joked that one day it might happen. If something like that puts me out of a job I will be delighted!

    @CarSue: Love that story – not sure I would have the guts to do it though!

    @Hazel: I tend to use the charity bags dropped off at the door to put stuff in to take to the charity shop when I’m ready – it saves me buying black bags for the purpose.

    @Alyson: a daily basis for pizzas? Blimey, they must be spending so much money; I wonder if they’ve figured out whether it’s worth it to them?

    @mieke: Hope the move goes well and the junk mail decreases!

  10. Teresa says:

    @Alyson: When out campaigning in the AV referendum (for YES btw) I noticed stickers on letter boxes saying that if the occupiers receive a menu they would not customise the restaurant or take away shop that sent it out. Hardly any junk mail comes through my letter box now because of the sticker on it and signing up to the Mail Preference Scheme. I did received an unsolicited catalogue through and it was impossible to find out where they got my contact details from as the staff working for the catalogue company were very unhelpful so I reported them to the Mail Preference Scheme.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: I didn’t know you could report people like that Teresa; I might have to try it 🙂

  12. Jane says:

    @Hazel: “Calls may be recorded for training purposes” I can’t be the only person whose screams of frustration are recorded!

  13. Nicole says:

    I wonder if a sticker would work to opt out of unaddressed flyers that come in the mail here in the US. They are mostly for grocery and drug stores but aren’t even addressed to my address, let alone my name. They are delivered by the postal service but there’s no addresses on it at all! That’s the only junk mail I seem to get and it’s my weekly frustration. It’s hard to know how to stop mail that comes unaddressed and without an identifiable sender.

  14. Jane says:

    @Nicole: Many Councils in the UK provide these – check out the Waste Reduction help with the Recycling info on their website. If you already have one and it still get puts through it gives you more of an argument to put to the company when you complain!

  15. this is a really good website i found to help deal with junk mail

  16. john kennedy says:

    After being quite vigilant on this for sometime, and joining every preference service there is and contacting insurers personally.
    I need to know what I can do when they dont honour my preference.
    Insurance companies still post there annual letters and the royal mail still post things occasionally.
    It says ‘legally binding’ so how to hold them responsible, I am totally up for the banter.
    I record calls so have evidence that I have notified them and recently started taking ‘screen shots’ to prove they dont honour those opt out tick boxes.

    I want to fine them everytime they breach my instructions, how can this be done???

  17. Rik Trik says:

    Like so many households these days I am armed with a colour ink-jet printer and I know how to use it. So there is always a sign on my front door that clearly indicates “No Leaflets”. However, I am finding that with takeaways who are prolific menu posters, tend to ignore my signs and post the darned menus anyway. I have tried tackling (not literally) the poster but I tend to find that they can barely speak English so there’s no reasoning with them and I’ve even tried contacting the restaurant itself but they also lack a command of the English language. Maybe what’s needed here is a multilingual “No Leaflets” sign. Seems worth a try anyway.

  18. I have been receiving quite a noticeable amount of Junk mail at my door everyday and it increased since last two months. Some of them are of prievious tenant before we bought the house and never care to change the address. I used to send it back to sender that reduced the amount. Currently is more of commercial leaflets , netto , take aways, catalodgue shoppings and charity bags and so on. I just straight put them into blue bin, Thanks for the Royal Mail Door to Door Opt Outs. I just bought the no Junk Mail Sign. Let see if this out.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Good luck with the no junk mail sign and let us know if it works out. I know some people STILL get inundated with junk mail despite the signs. Grrr.

  19. Gemma says:

    I struggle so much with junk mail. I’ve opted out of everything I can, but I live in a converted house with 5 flats and a communal post area. No one picks up the junk mail & by the end of each week there’s always a huge pile of 5 of everything for me to sort and recycle.

    Its totally heart breaking !

    • Mrs Green says:

      That sounds so frustrating Gemma. Do you have group meetings? I’m wonder if whether you could bring it up at one. Failing that invite everyone round for coffee, cake and a sign up to the MPS party!

      • Gemma says:

        Unfortunately no one else in my building even recycles & im constantly pulling non recyclables out of the bin & clearing up rubbish dumped on the drive. I think it may be unlikely that they will care about junk mail.

  20. Philippa says:

    Take some photos of the rubbish dumped on the drive and in the hall at different times so that you have a reference point on how you would prefer it not to be. You may feel like the only person who recycles or cares but you may in fact not be. There are probably others who breathe a sigh of relief when they see the rubbish gone and then there are those who are completely oblivious to much that is going on around them and don’t know it was you.

    Ask the Council for recycling info for the building. Perhaps the residents have changed since the last issue of info.

    Can you put a No Junk Mail sticker on the letter box? Is it a good idea to try and discuss this with them? Or just tell them that you are intending to do it because you’re fed up with wading through all the paper in the hall? If you didn’t pick it up it would become a fire hazard.

    As Mrs Green suggests – coffee and cake is always a good idea.

Leave a Reply