PeopleMaking a Difference

How to stop junk mail coming through your letterbox

Save money, save the planet: Reduce unwanted flyers coming through your letterbox and lighten your green bin with these tips

Each piece of unsolicited post requires trees, water, electricity, ink and other additives to make it, and more energy again to dispose of it. Photograph: iStock

Is your letterbox breathing a sigh of relief? The elections are over and so too one hopes is the daily deluge of candidate flyers. It’s good to know who is running and what they pledge to do, but you’ve got to question anyone who thinks more paper is the answer.

Did you get the flyer with inky snaps of all the broken footpaths fixed since 2021? Or the glossy one with them looking into a pothole? There was definitely a whiff of the 2021 political satire and black comedy film Don’t Look Up to it all – some politicians and businesses will do anything but acknowledge the threat to the planet. Keep flyering and carry on.

Do you want triple glazing? Or maybe a pizza? Would you like your drive power-washed, your gutters cleaned, solar panels installed, or maybe you want to sell your house altogether? There’s a flyer for that.

Some 66 per cent of respondents like receiving direct mail according to a recent survey by An Post, it says. Paper is made from wood, a renewable material and Europe achieved a 74 per cent paper recycling rate in 2020, it further argues. Householders can check if materials they receive are on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper, it says.


Why is junk mail so bad?

If you want to be totally “mé féin” about it, you’re the one paying bin charges to dispose of something you never asked for. Sift through your bins from the past few weeks and there will likely be armfuls of material that went straight from the postbox to the bin. Whether you pay for your bin by lift or by weight, junk mail is costing you money.

It’s hard to get exact junk mail figures for Ireland, but in France, for example, it’s estimated that if households put a “stop unsolicited mail” sticker on their postbox, it would save 40kg of paper per person per year, according to Zero Waste Europe.

An American adult receives about 18kg of junk mail a year, according to the Center for Development of Recycling at San Jose State University. That’s the size of a small child.

Each piece of unsolicited post requires trees, water, electricity, ink and other additives to make it, and more energy again to dispose of it.

Catalogues, glossy paper and other paper products account for up to 15 per cent of total wood consumption globally. We can play a role in driving responsible forestry through our paper choices. We can reduce the amount of paper products we use and eschew unwanted paper too.

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What can I do?

If the post is personally addressed to you and it’s promoting a product or service, it’s direct marketing. If you want it to stop coming, under data protection rules, you can have your details removed from a direct marketing database.

It’s a pain, but write to, or email, the organisation. They must act on your request, write back to you within 40 days and confirm your details have been removed. If you have concerns about where they got your address, ask the company.

What if they don’t stop?

If you’ve asked them to stop but they don’t, make a formal complaint to the company by email or letter, says the Data Protection Commission. If you’re not satisfied with their response, then contact to make a formal complaint.

What about unaddressed stuff?

Do you get material addressed to “the householder” or “the occupant”? Respond to the sender, including your name and address to request you are removed from future mailings, says An Post. And what about unaddressed leaflet drops from local businesses? ComReg, the communications regulator, suggests putting a “No unaddressed mail” or “No junk mail” sticker on your letterbox.

This type of mail doesn’t necessarily involve the use of personal data so data protection legislation doesn’t apply.

If that takeaway food business keeps delivering flyers, despite your “no bumpf” sticker, then call them. Your recycle bin costs up to €1 per lift, and it costs you up to 6 cent per kilo to recycle the contents. They probably owe you a free takeaway – in recyclable packaging of course.