7 Tips for Ditching Junk Mail

A couple of week ago, a brand new Yellow Pages landed at my doorstep. {Shakes fist at all the unnecessary waste generated in creating and delivering a product I will not use, do not want and will put straight in the recycling bin.}

I’ve removed myself from the Yellow Pages register at every place I’ve lived in since I’ve been in Australia (that’s four addresses) and from places in the UK before that, but having just moved, I hadn’t quite got round to removing my self yet again.

However, I thought it would be a good opportunity to rally the masses (that’s you!) to remove yourselves from not only this list (but only if it’s a product you don’t want, obviously!) but also talk about some other ways that you can stem the tide of unnecessary mail.

1. Cancel the Yellow Pages.

If you’re in Australia, it is possible to opt out of the Yellow Pages delivery by signing up here: directoryselect.com.au

Apparently it takes 3 months to be removed from the list, so don’t waste any time registering! The good news is, once registered you’re done – your cancellation does not expire.

If you’re in the UK, you will be relieved to know that the Yellow Pages stopped printing and distributing physical copies in January 2019.

If you’re in the USA, you can opt out of receiving the Yellow Pages online at yellowpagesoptout.com .

And if you’re in Canada, you’ll be able to cancel via the online form at delivery.yp.ca .

2. Get Yourself a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign.

If you’re in Australia, there’s no way to opt out of unaddressed promotional material, but Australia Post suggests getting a ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker for your letter box. Material deemed to be political, educational, religious and charitable is exempt from “No Junk Mail” signed letterboxes according to standards developed by the Australian Catalogue Association.

Australia Post only deliver 10% of all unaddressed mail, and they don’t control what other operators will do, but I have had good success with a ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker (I’ve also used a ‘No Advertising Material Accepted’ sticker, which I think sends a clearer message).

Whether you’re in Australia or not, I’d recommend that anyone who hates letterbox spam gets a ‘no junk mail’ or equivalent sign. You can buy them at hardware stores, scrawl a message on your letterbox in pen, or request Keep Australia Beautiful send you a sticker (or 10!) if you’re in WA.

The few things I do still get in my mail box are from local businesses who say the only way they can generate business is by disobeying ‘No Junk Mail’ signs.

(I know they say this from ensuing arguments that happen between angry people whose signs have been disrespected and the business owners on the various community chat groups…)

3. Cancelling unaddressed promotional material.

Not an option in Australia, so get that ‘No Junk Mail’ sign sorted!

In the UK, the Royal Mail website details a number of options for removing yourself from mailing lists. Opting out of the Royal Mail Door-to-Door service stops all unaddressed items being delivered by Royal Mail (potentially including council notices).

You’ll need to print and fill out a form (scroll to the bottom of the page to find the form) and then post it, and you’ll need to repeat the process every two years.

To opt out from deliveries from other unaddressed mail distributors register with the ‘Your Choice’ preference scheme run by the Direct Marketing Association. They can be contacted via phone (0207 291 3300) or email urchoice@dma.org.uk .

4. Avoiding unsolicited marketing.

In Australia, you can add yourself to the Association for Data-Driven Marketing & Advertising’s ‘Do Not Mail’ register to stop receiving mail from businesses on their membership that you don’t currently deal with. You can sign up to the ‘So Not Mail register here: adma.com.au/do-not-mail

Basically, it stops these companies on the ‘cold calling’ you with promotional stuff and sales catalogues. It doesn’t stop unaddressed mail (such as addressed ‘the the homeowner’), or businesses you have used in the past, or businesses not on the register.

In the UK, a service to stop unsolicited mail addressed to you (or a previous resident) visit The Mailing Preference Service mpsonline.org.uk, which provides details on all other preference services, or call them (0845 703 4599).

You can also register with the Fundraising Preference Service to control marketing received from fundraising organisations registered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As well as post, you can choose to stop receiving emails, telephone calls, addressed post and/or text messages. You can cancel contact from 3 charities at once by filling in their online form, or 20 if you contact them by phone ( 0300 3033 517).

5. Contact businesses directly.

If you receive a catalogue or mail from a business or organisation you purchased something from once, but definitely don’t want their ongoing spam, see if there is a website, email address or phone number. Then, contact them and ask to be removed from the mailing list.

In WA, a hot topic on the Zero Waste Plastic Free Perth facebook group is the RAC Horizons catalogue that gets mailed all the time (it feels like). RAC do roadside cover and insurance, so many people across the state use the service – and get the “free” magazine. Simply by calling RAC and asking to be removed from the list, many of us have avoided receiving a magazine we don’t want. (They’ve been pretty helpful.)

Important bit – when you call, don’t forget to say that you’re removing yourself as you don’t like the waste. Go on record for the cause!

6. Send stuff back.

If I receive anything I’m not expecting, didn’t ask for and don’t want, and there isn’t a clear way to remove myself from the mailing list, I send it back. It’s free to do so.

I simply strike through the address, and write in big letters: ‘NOT AT THIS ADDRESS / RETURN TO SENDER.’ If there’s a ‘if not delivered, please return to…’ address printed on the envelope, I circle it. Then, I pop in the mailbox.

It doesn’t always work on the first go, but I’ve found it to be a pretty successful technique. (I also do this with previous resident’s mail if I don’t have a forwarding address.)

With local businesses, I have dropped things back at their office. All of the real estate businesses here went through a phase of leaving notepads (branded, of course) in every letterbox. So I took mine back and told them, ‘you left this in my letterbox’. Generally what happened was: they reassured me it was free, I explained I didn’t want it, they thought I was peculiar (because ‘free’) and I didn’t care because I had returned stuff I didn’t need to where it came from.

Works for me.

7. Let’s not forget online junk ‘mail’. Unsubscribe from any newsletters that you’re not reading.

Email clutter is just as annoying as physical letterbox clutter, in my view. So whilst you’re on a roll, have a look in your inbox and see if there are any newsletters that you never read, or any that take more than they give (such as sending constant salesy content and never offering anything of meaning or value) and hit ‘unsubscribe’.

Doesn’t that feel better?

Now I’d love to hear from you! Any other tips to reduce mail or deal with unwanted things when they arrive? Any other online forms to add where others can remove themselves from lists and services? Anything else to add? Please share your thoughts below!

7 Tips for Ditching Junk Mail from Treading My Own Path | Zero Waste + Plastic-Free Living | Less waste, less stuff, sustainable living. Reduce trash, yellow pages, reduce paper waste, how to live with less waste, avoid junk mail, save trees, eco-friendly swaps, easy green actions to take, simple green swaps, zero waste tips, sustainable choices. More at https://treadingmyownpath.com
25 replies
  1. Mim
    Mim says:

    Great article, thank you! Also it’s worth remembering that email junk isn’t without its own environmental costs – there’s electricity used in running the servers that bring it to you.

    Reply
    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hi Mim! I actually wrote that, but then deleted it! I felt that it was probably worthy of a post of its own, rather than a finishing statement tacked onto the end – and because I’d like to back it up with data. So down the track I hope to write a post on that, and then I’ll link to it here. Always so much to say on everything! Very glad you brought it up though, thanks, as now it’s here anyway!

      Reply
  2. Frances de Jong
    Frances de Jong says:

    I have the ‘No Junk Mail’ sign on my letterbox but still get plenty of unwanted junk from Real Estate agents. At this time of year it’s the magnetic calendars. Grrrr. I’m not too shy to go to their offices and return them so that’s what I’ll be doing with the next one. Plumbing companies are also guilty of this.

    Reply
    • Lex
      Lex says:

      Hi Frances,
      I had the same problem with the magnetic calendars, so I called my real estate agent and requested they not send me any more mail. No more junk mail from them :)

      Reply
    • Marcella
      Marcella says:

      I had the same issue and walked it back to return to the local agent with a request that they instruct their delivery suppliers to respect the no advertising mail signs on people’s letter boxes. The first young guy was quite respectful, then an older guy in the office came out and started arguing with me that it ‘was a gift, not advertising’. He had a very bad attitude so I emailed the head office of the real estate agent brand to inquire about their policy on the environment and respecting their local residents and I got a very favourable response. The manager ended up sending an email apology and assured me that they did speak with their delivery suppliers.

      Reply
  3. Mel
    Mel says:

    We have many local community groups who put their newsletters in our letter box. I have emailed and written to them and even got a response from one, but they still keep putting them in our letter box.

    Reply
  4. Anneka
    Anneka says:

    Thanks Lindsay. Such a shame the ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker has exemptions – I have one on my letterbox but it gets absolutely inundated at election times. Sh*ts me to tears!

    Reply
  5. Melanie Hawkes
    Melanie Hawkes says:

    Great article. But I have to confess that I love my junk mail, especially at Christmas time. The shops are too crowded and busy to spend hours browsing (and I have not yet convinced my family and friends to cancel gifts yet), especially to get my wheelchair through. I enjoy flicking through the junk mail, neither on my phone nor my computer. Does that make me a bad person?
    I love the tip about the magnets and notebooks – will return them from now on!

    Reply
  6. nesscrump
    nesscrump says:

    I just opted out of the Yellow Pages and the ADMA, so thank you for the links. I too have got the plastic magnetic calendar (again) from the real estate agent. I drop it back into their office with a note (getting a bit blunter each year). I’m wondering if I do need to go in myself to make the point.

    Reply
    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Ugh, those calendars! If we didn’t all get 10 each maybe it wouldn’t be so bad – well, it would be 1/10th as bad! I don’t want the cheery faces of the realestate company on my fridge for an entire year. They are the worst! Go make your point, tell them I said hi! ;)

      Reply
  7. Sophie
    Sophie says:

    I just received a Yellow pages so I missed out on this year, but the other thing is – I want to opt out, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed as I am a tenant and not the owner of the property. How do I find out?

    Reply

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