Want to know how to stop Junk Mail once and for all? Here are the key steps to take to prevent piles of unwanted junk mail, including those that are personally addressed to you. Aim for a zero waste letterbox and still access your favourite catalogues and magasines online without the trash.
According to Punch Bowl, millions of tons of paper products, like junk mail, are made every year and head straight to the trash by recipients. I love paper, and always prefer it over plastic, but when it’s landing in my letterbox unwanted, and becomes yet another thing I have to sort and make a decision on, then I’m not so happy.
Given that Australian households receive SO much junk in the mail, only to toss it out is a little worrying as it consumes natural resources like water and trees, and creates extra pollution, just so companies can market to us.
Wambuguh undertook a year long study in one American household recording some 1250 pieces of junk mail and 70% of it was coming from 3 major offenders – Insurance, Mortgage and Credit Card companies! I suspect over the years since this study was done these volumes have likely grown.
About a month ago I started receiving a stack of catalogues that were jamming up my letterbox and took a good 5 minutes of wrestling to remove. I was starting to get junk mail rage, as I have had a no junk mail sign for a long time and decided I was going to complain and take some serious action…….when I took a closer look, turns out the sign had fallen off *groan* but not only that, some of the junk was actually personally addressed to me and no sign was going to stop this.
Maybe I could just remove the letterbox completely?
I’m too scared of missing a bill payment to actually follow through with this, plus I spoke to a lady who had no letterbox and she reported that she still received junk mail shoved into her fence, garden and trees!
With our attempts at heading towards zero waste living, I really wanted to tackle this head-on and put a stop to the all the different sorts of junk mail.
The changes we made have been noticeable and now we probably only get a handful of items over an entire year!
First Steps To Stopping Junk Mail
First, you need to recognize the junk - It’s basically marketing materials that encourage us to buy stuff, advertising for businesses & services, special offers and all kinds of paper crap.
This includes annoying reminders from the optometrist, real estate agents checking if you want to sell your home and those giant Ikea catalogues.
Identify what ‘junk’ is of value to you personally, and the mail items you don't want coming into your life.
I've found that most junk mail I have received is usually not of any interest to me at all, but occasionally (maybe once every year or two) I have gotten a valuable discount or offer. Most catalogues can be accessed online which I'll explain further down.
Once you have a good idea of what you want to eliminate and keep, it's time to take targeted action against your junk mail.
Many items can be stopped completely, or you can consider swapping to online access, these tips will help no matter where you live.
Below are common junk mail items AND how to stop them. Start with the ones that cause you the most trash.
How To Stop Different Types of Junk Mail
>Put a Stop To Unsolicited Mail
Did you know if you are in Australia you can get yourself a free No Junk Mail sticker from the Distribution Standards Board and you can also look up registered distributors from this website and lodge a complaint if they continue to stuff junk in your letterbox.
If you're in Adelaide, head to the Sustainability Centre for a free sticker
You can write No Junk Mail on your letter box with a permanent texta as I did, however, not all letterboxes allow for this.
About 4 months ago I complained about Dominoes Pizza junk mail advertising (for some reason these guys are particularly hard to stop), AND am happy to say, I haven't received another one since. (**UPDATE - I did receive one in the entire year, that is a huge improvement!)
UK residents can get register at Royal Mail to opt out (I’ve heard some good and bad about this, some people have had great success while others are regularly still working hard trying to get results) additionally register with DMA Your Choice to stop receiving junk (you need to redo this every 2 years).
>Quit Paper Catalogues and Access Them Online
I know quite a few people that really love catalogues in their letterbox!
Don’t worry, you can still get your fix without the paper and can register for a ton of digital versions either on store websites or search for a local service that offers a variety of catalogues online. (If you want to keep your email junk down though, I would recommend just visiting the sites to browse rather than signing up for regular emails.)
Those in the USA should check out Catalogue Choice
set-up by the creators of The Story Of Stuff (A great Movie by the way!). If your favourites aren't there, then of course head straight to their website.
This action can cut out a huge amount of paper waste and you can still find catalogues online at any time that suits you.
> How to Stop Personally Addressed Junk Mail
How about all the junk that is actually addressed to you? This can also include catalogues, newsletters, special offers, subscriptions and more.
I have been working on this one at a time as the items arrive, and either cancelling or transferring to digital versions.
Beware, swapping to digital newsletters and junk can begin to fill up your email account, so be selective with those you really want to recieve AND before subscribing, read the fine print to make sure they aren't passing your details on to third parties who will send more marketing straight to your inbox.
>Stopping paper Bills & Statements
Your power bill, bank statement and super fund mail are not technically junk mail, but most Banks, Gas & Electricity providers will allow you to switch to online bills and notifications. My bank allows me to receive some bills straight to my bank notifications, making it very quick and simple to pay them.
Australia Post also offers a Digital Mailbox to handle bills, secure mail and receipts (I haven’t tried it, but love the concept and I think I will give this a go).
Americans might also want to check out Opt Out to stop credit card junk, and Direct Mail Opt Out for advertising materials. There are so many companies sending out junk that it would be a huge task to contact them all individually and this could save a lot of time and effort and actually pay off.
UK residents may be able to put a stop fundraising & charity letters here.
>Swap to Online Subscriptions to Reduce Paper Junk
Many subscriptions for newsletters and magazines are available online, and you will need to identify these individually and just work your way through the list.
Did you know these days libraries stock a pretty good range of magazines, so if there is one you just have to read each month see if you can access it digitally or stop off at your library. I absolutely adore my library system One Card Network (South Australia) as it gives access to request any book in the state which will arrive at the library of your choosing, and it is my go to place for movies, books, magazines, and audio books.
Magasines are not really thought of as junk mail - you want the ones you have subscribed to right?
If you never get around to reading them, do yourself a favour and just cancel it, you'll save money and reduce the amount of clutter in your home.
But, for magasines you really enjoy, and are not easy to get hold of at the library, why not switch to a digital subscription.
Places like isubscribe have a growing collection of digital magasines that can reduce the need for paper versions. The added benefit is that you can access at home, on the train, at work and while your sitting around at your kids sports games.
>Contact Individual Businesses to Stop Junk Mail
This is time consuming and sometimes not very effective, however don’t rule it out. If you are regularly receiving your local Chinese takeaway menu and Real Estate Agents promos, despite having a no junk mail sign, it may be worth calling them direct and complaining.
>Put a Stop to Phone Directories
Do you still use Yellow & White Pages? I know my dad does, but for most of us, they are just an ugly doorstop and an easily forgotten source of junk. In Australia, you can literally cancel phone book deliveries in under a minute by visiting Directory Select ,
In America, try your luck at Yellow Pages Opt Out although I have heard that even after opting out, you may still receive them!
UK people, according to this article, your yellow pages printing is due to be stopped completely after 2019! (I'm jealous!)
>Cancel Local Newspapers & Newsletters Being Delivered
Readership is dropping for local newspapers and if you want to cancel your South Australian copy head to Adelaide Now or for those living elsewhere google your local provider. Still want to read it? – No sweat, Digital messenger newspapers are available online, here’s the link for South Australia.
It may take a while after cancelling to take effect. Alternatively, life is sometimes like a video game…..Anyone a fan of The Sims?…Well, I have discovered in this game AND it works in real life too, that if you leave 3 of your newspapers out on in the front yard, delivery just stops.
School newsletters, although they are stealthily brought in the house via the kids school bags I really wish these were optional. Our school uses the Skoolbag App
which has digital versions of all newsletters and information which I love, however sometimes runs a bit behind. For example, this week I received online notification about a newsletter from 3-4 weeks ago letting me know there was an early dismissal (I suspect they are too busy looking after the kids and sometimes slip with the timing). So for now, I am going to keep needing these newsletters if I hope to keep up with what’s happening at the school.
>Start Sending The Junk Mail Back
Crossing out your address and putting in bold letters RTS (Return To Sender) will have the item returned to whomever sent it (only if they have a return address though) and I believe they sometimes get charged for this (and if you’re lucky they will stop sending it, however this can be a long term process and would only recommend it for those companies you are unable to contact or who refuse to take you off their list). I am still receiving mail for an ex-boyfriend despite repeatedly requesting this to stop. Along with RTS, I sometimes add ''This guy was a real jerk, and no longer lives here, please stop sending me his mail'' hoping they finally get the message (I'm not proud of this petty behaviour, I don’t recommend this, but I hate they are sending junk AND its plastic wrapped…it really gets on my goat...my little notes may get the attention of someone one day and I might win this one)
>Preventing Junk Mail Before It Starts
Prevention is better than a cure, so think twice before you hand out your mailing address and ALWAYS check if you are agreeing to be contacted by marketers with those tricky tick boxes at the bottom of forms. This can stop unwanted mail before it even begins. I strongly advise you to ignore prizes and other tricks companies use to entice you to provide contact details. Of course, not all companies are completely open about what they will do with your name and address, and how many other advertisers they will share this with. Years ago I signed up for something, I can't even recall now, but I had purposely misspelt my name and it was a huge shock to see how many items began arriving with that miss-spelling from companies I never would have guessed would be linked to the original thing I signed up for.
>Use An App to Stop Junk Mail
There’s an app for everything and I’ve heard that Paper Karma is brilliant. Snap a photo to stop your junk mail and catalogues. It's a quick and simple way to unsubscribe, leaving you with less paper filling up your recycle bin. It's not available to Aussies, but if you’re in America this free app is worth a try and available on android and iPhone. If you know of other Apps that do a similar job, I'd love to hear about them!
>Can You Have a Zero Waste Letterbox?
There are still bills, letters and invitations that come by post to our house, but I’m not aiming for a totally zero waste mail box at home, so this is not a huge problem. I do however make the most of what arrives and reuse envelopes for my own mail, or use them as scrap paper for notes and shopping lists.
Cards and party invitations are repurposed as kids craft supplies and occasional glossy junk mail is used to wrap meat scraps for the organics bin, while bills and other paper is shredded and added to the compost. Plus, you can use newspaper as gift wrap.
>More Ways To Deal With Junk Mail
A few extra resources that might help you in the war on junk mail....
Check out some extra resources that might help from the Mindful Mum Blographer, this is a great site and full of interesting information , and for advice on Junk Mail scroll down to number 11 on this post
If you’re fed up or short on time, check out 41pounds.org who you can pay a $35 fee to have them stop the junk coming to your household on your behalf for 5 years in the USA.
UK residents, check out the Stop Junk Mail site, a not for profit service with lots of advice on stopping junk mail and you can get advice on specific junk mail issues and access information and resources here
Overwhelmed by email junk? This could happen if you swap all physical junk for electronic versions. I read this great book several years ago called the Hamster Revolution, which I found incredibly useful when I was dealing with thousands of emails a day in one job I had. It was crippling me, and I didn’t believe the book would help so I actually kept a spreadsheet and graphed the progress (Yes, I can be a bit mental like that when confirming theories and claims! But it came in handy as it proved a worthy book, and I was able to use this for a study assignment) Here’s one place you can find the book .
I know I’ve only covered a portion of the world, so if you are somewhere I haven’t mentioned or I've missed a really good resource, Let me know! And don't forget to share this with anyone you know who is struggling with a letterbox overflowing with junk mail.
COMMENT BELOW – What’s your biggest junk mail gripe? And what did you find to be the best way to stop it?
If you’re already zero waste on this then WELL DONE, I am still working on this as little surprises pop into my mail box on the odd occasion.
Looking to reduce more than just Junk Mail? Here is a great article on 30 Ways to Use Less Paper