Thursday, 27 March 2008

Will junk mail be 'the new plastic bag'?

It's an intriguing thought that came up today in a meeting with Cyndi, Lea and friends. I know companies do it because it brings in more revenue than it costs. But in environmental terms it's a very big waste - it's like a restaurant bringing me every single dish on the menu and asking me to throw away all the ones I didn't want.

And if you thought plastic bags were bad:

*103.5 billion pieces were delivered in the USA in 2007, according to the U.S. Postal Service.
* each year junk mail production in the U.S. consumes 96.7 billion gallons of water and more than 100 million trees,
* those figures don't include the footprint of its transportation and disposal either
* Junk mail has nonenvironmental problems too. It exposes you to identity theft and is a drag to sort through.
source: Forest Ethics via salon life 12/07

In the UK you can opt out of direct mail as an individual using the following details
Unaddressed mail - Opt-Outs, Royal Mail, Kingsmead House, Oxpens Road, Oxford, OX1 1RX
Addressed mail - Mail Preference Service (MPS), Freepost 29, LON 20771, London, W1E 0ZT or call 0845 703 4599
In the US there are sophisticated new services to block it for you such as

But what if you wanted for instance to ask the banking sector as a whole to stop sending it (if they all did, they would all end up with roughly the same market shares they have today, it's not likely people are going to stop needing the services they really need, and there are many other ways to generate leads more responsibly - plus they would save a packet)?

Then you would need a public recognition (as with plastic bags) that it is letting the side down. And an incentive to lead the way. We had quite a good idea today on how to do this, watch this space :J


Paul F said...

Great post. Interesting and shocking numbers. No one likes junk mail anyway so you have a good base point to work from.

Keep us posted, really interested to know what you came up with.

Do we have any idea who the worst offenders in the UK are at present?

John Grant said...

short answer is BANKS

slightly longer answer - I dunno if they are all equally 'offenders' in terms of justification of use of this media but these are the latest rankings in pure volume terms for the uk (figures are £millions spent in the month of October 2007)

Mailers Volume Spend
m pounds m
Cancer Research UK 8.02
Lloyds TSB 7.15
Halifax 6.97
MBNA Europe Bank 6.71
British Sky Broadcasting 6.69
Hillarys Blinds 6.10
Barclaycard Services 6.07
Somerfield Stores 5.92
Capital One 5.91
Direct Line Insurance 5.40

Door drop Spend
pounds m
Cancer Research UK 0.39
British Sky Broadcasting 0.33
Somerfield Stores 0.31
HIllarys Blinds 0.26
WM Morrison 0.23
British Gas 0.21
Lidl UK 0.18
Argos 0.16
Help the Aged 0.15
Orange 0.15

Inserts Volume
British Sky Broadcasting 38.66
Alliance & Leicester 18.38
Dell Computer Corporation 11.32
ING Direct 8.91
Orange 8.79
Purely Creative 7.75
Barclays Bank 7.35
British Gas 6.60
Halfords 5.73
P&O Princess Cruises 5.52


John Grant said...

sorry, first and third group of figs are millions of items, only second block is in £m, anyway the main thing was who uses it the most

Anonymous said...

You can also 'unsubscribe' online at the Mail Preference Service website (there's a telephone and fax equivalent too).

John Grant said...

mind you they could just ban it

BUSINESSES will this week urge the Scottish Government not to cave in to demands by campaign groups to ban junk mail.
The Scottish Direct Marketing Association (DMA), whose members include Lloyds TSB Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland, will attempt to persuade MSPs that junk mail and other forms of direct marketing make a substantial contribution to the Scottish economy when it publishes its first report into the state of the industry.

kendraott said...

GreenDimes here- thanks for this post! Telling your readers about our service, along with the other great info, is a great step in the fight against the junk mail beast. Take good care and check back for updates and some big news early next week!

Anonymous said...

Junk Mail is a baddie - no argument. I posted a bit of a controversial thread here saying that I think one of the #next plastics bags' is... erm, cotton bags.

Anonymous said...

stem here in Denmark is pretty efficient. It works like this. You go into a post office and tell them you don't want to receive advertising through your door. They send you a sticker, which you then stick next to your letter box. What I like about this is it's visible and it says something about the people behind the door.

Anonymous said...

No doubt junk mail will be the new plastic bag. As you may know the government has recently threatened the marketeers with a 'junk mail opt-in' if the industry doesn't make it easier for people to opt-out.

Great you mention opting-out of leaflets delivered by Royal Mail as few people know about that one. People can actually write to Freepost RRBT-ZBXB-TTTS (saving a stamp!).

Another good tip is to get your name of the edited electoral register when you register to vote in elections. The edited register is mainly used to create junk mail lists.

Lots more tips are available on!