Rubbish might be a fact of life, but we can all agree that less rubbish is better, right? Not only is less rubbish better for the environment, meaning fewer landfill sites are necessary, but it's also better for you (no one loves taking the bins out, after all). Minimising rubbish has become a big movement recently, with zero waste projects encouraging people to compost or buy foods without package and all kinds of other clever ideas. But there's yet another way you can help keep your bins emptier: limiting junk mail. Interested? Then keep reading!
The Scope of the Problem
The average person in the UK throws away their own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks, which is pretty impressive. You might not think that limiting junk mail can help lower that number, but you'd be surprised. 17.5 billion pieces of junk mail are delivered across the country every year, meaning that the average household gets around 650 pieces of junk mail annually. And the truth is that most of that mail goes straight into the rubbish or recycling bin. Even halving that number would mean fewer trips to the bins for you, less full recycling boxes, and less paper needing to be produced. All of which are good things. But there's also the annoyance factor. Most of us don't like getting junk mail, so why bother with it if you don't have to get it?
What Exactly Is Junk Mail?
Junk mail is exactly what it sounds like: junk. Maybe it's catalogues, or requests for donations, or perhaps advertising material, or even free magazines that you're not interested in receiving. The majority of junk mail is unrequested, meaning that you didn't sign up to receive it. But companies can easily find your contact information or even buy your info, and then use it to solicit you through the post. Luckily there are ways that you can at least limit the amount of junk mail that you receive, though you probably won't be able to eradicate it altogether…
Opt Out With the Royal Mail
The British postal service hates junk mail just as much as you do. After all, it's their workers that need to sort it, carry it and put it through your letterbox. The Royal Mail are happy to help limit the amount of junk mail that you receive through their opt-out programme. According to their research, this should reduce the amount of junk mail you receive by around three to six pieces a week, which adds up to a lot over time.
Opting out isn't default though, you'll need to request the service. There is a phone number that you can call (0345 266 0858), but by far the easiest way is to just email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. You should then receive a simple form through the mail which you'll need to fill out and return. This will stop “unaddressed” mail (i.e. letters addressed to “the owner” rather than your name, or letters that have no name at all, only your address) from being delivered. It takes around six weeks for your opt out to kick in.
Join the Mailing Preference Service
The Mailing Preference Service (MPS) is another option. The MPS is a free service that is supported by the Royal Mail. Originally it was designed to stop grieving relatives from receiving mail addressed to a deceased friend or family member. However, the MPS can also stop you receiving mail that's addressed to you as long as you've never had contact with the company concerned. Be aware that if you HAVE had dealings with the company in question (maybe you bought their products and listed your address for a warranty, or perhaps you joined their mailing list deliberately), the MPS cannot help you.
The MPS works by removing your name and address from direct mailing lists (the lists that junk mailers use to send out mail), and according to their website can in you from about 95% of such lists. This should reduce the amount of junk mail you receive by an impressive 4 Kg a year. Registering with the MPS is easy, just call their phone number (0845 703 4599), or sign up online using their website (www.mpsonline.org.uk). Once registered it will take around four months for the changes to have a full effect.
Other Tips for Reducing Junk Mail
There are several other things that you can do to help reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. The simplest of these is to put a “no junk mail” sticker on your door or letterbox. There is no legal obligation for companies (or even the postman) to abide by the sticker, but in some cases, it will work, particularly for advertising flyers and the like.
You should also be careful when filling out forms, especially for warranties and guarantees. Look out for small print on any form where you fill in your address, and check for tick boxes that may allow you to opt out of junk mail. Companies obviously want to be able to market products to you, and you might find that you sign yourself up for junk mail without even realising when filling out address forms.
Finally, if you're getting a lot of junk mail, you can always try contacting the company that's sending it to you. If you can find contact information, a quick call or a written request can often be enough to stop mail from coming through your door. For many companies it's faster and better just to stop mailing you, since dealing with your complaints and possible bad publicity takes time and resources.
Nearly all of us receive junk mail at some point. But by following the above advice you should be able to limit the amount that you receive, meaning less waste. And that's good news both for you and for the environment!