junk mail halfway in letter box.

Junk Mail Disposal and Recycling

Junk mail can be unavoidable and annoying. It arrives uninvited into your home or business and is rarely – if ever – of any use. Plus, it’s then your responsibility for what happens to it next. Most of the time it probably goes straight into a bin without being opened.

The good news is that you can recycle most junk mail, so it’s important you dispose of it in the proper manner. Discover how to get rid of junk mail that comes through your letterbox in the best possible way in this guide.

Junk mail disposal
FAQs

  • Who invented junk mail?

    There are no clear origins of the concept of junk mail – it’s almost as old as the postal service itself. Companies are often offered lower prices for their mail costs due to the bulk nature of their stamps and envelopes. This means businesses have been using the mail service for years to reach their customers en masse.

    Although the presence of junk mail is lessening due to a combination of environmental factors and the existence of email, plenty of businesses still implement this method to reach older customers who may not be contactable digitally.

  • What materials are junk mail made from? And how are they made?

    Junk mail is typically printed on paper. This is rarely standard paper, as companies look to set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd. Instead, most junk mail is printed on glossy paper and using high-quality ink to stand out – usually using bright and bold colour, fonts, and images.

    Junk mail typically goes through a series of copywriters and graphic designers to refine the content, so it matches the needs of the audience. Then the design is printed onto glossy paper and shipped out to the relevant recipients.

  • What type of waste is junk mail?

    Most junk mail is a type of paper waste and can therefore be thrown away with the rest of your paper recycling. In your business you may have a separate paper recycling bin, or at home it can go in with your household recycling. Some thicker types of junk mail may class as cardboard waste.

  • How do you dispose of junk mail?

    The best way to dispose of junk mail is to send it for recycling – as it’s a type of paper that’s easily recyclable. Or junk mail you receive at home you can normally put it in your household recycling bin alongside dry mixed recycling. Businesses can dispose of junk mail with any other paper recycling, such as newspaper waste.

    Most local councils should offer recycling services on a set day according to a regular schedule. Recycling junk mail avoids it ending up in landfill, where the chemicals from the ink and glossy paper may leach into the nearby ground and water, contributing to pollution levels.

  • Should junk mail be shredded?

    Normally you don’t need to shred junk mail and can recycle it as it is – including recycling the envelope. If your junk mail contains personal information such as your name, address or contact details, you may want to shred it before binning it. This can help avoid cases of fraud or people sending more unwanted mail to your home.

    Alternatively, you can cross or scratch out your name and/or address from any junk mail so it’s unreadable. Then you can recycle whole without shredding it.

  • What are the problems with junk mail waste?

    Depending on the type of paper the junk mail is printed on, you may not be able to recycle it. For example, any type of junk mail that uses plastic or adhesive substances in their construction are unrecyclable, as the type of plastic cannot be recycled in the same depot as paper products.

    It’s important to check this, as failing to do so may make the entire batch unrecyclable due to material cross-contamination. Even though it’s often recyclable, junk mail is also a waste of paper in most cases. Printing and creating paper uses lots of energy that could be put to good use elsewhere.

    Junk mail waste can also pile up in landfill, adding to greenhouse gases and having a negative impact on our environment.

  • Are there alternatives to junk mail?

    There is no alternative to junk mail from a consumer point of view. If the junk mail you receive is addressed to you, it may be possible to request that the company delete your information through GDPR legislation, which would prevent addressed junk mail. However, there’s no way to stop unaddressed junk mail, and it should be simply recycled.

    The alternative for businesses and creators of junk mail is to simply use email for their communications instead. Once a customer has received junk mail there is no way to find a feasible alternative.

  • What are some facts about junk mail?

    A few key facts and stats about junk mail are that:

    • Every year the average UK household receives 650 pieces of junk mail.
    • 550,000 tonnes of paper are used in the UK every single year to produce junk mail.
    • Since 1997 the amount of junk mail has increased by 65% in the UK alone.
    • Over 100 billion pieces of junk mail are delivered in the US every year, with 60% going to landfill.
    • Like the proportion of mail that’s junk, spam takes up 85% of all emails online.
  • Where can you take junk mail to recycle or dispose of it for free?

    In the UK you can often recycle junk mail for free in your household recycling bin if you pay your council tax bill. Recycling is a service offered by the local council, so as long as you’re not in arrears to the local authority, you can recycle any and all junk mail that comes through your door this way.

Learn about more 
waste types

Find out more about other rubbish streams.

Read our guides to waste types
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