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Junk mail – a royal pain in the neck or a Royal Mail necessity?

Junk mail in letter box

Junk mail – does anyone like getting it? Marketers have many names for it (advertising mail, direct mail) but whatever you call it, there’s no doubt it’ll be staring back at you when you make your way to the front door.

In fact, you might have a hard time finding your personal mail in amongst all those glossy ads, leaflets and menus.

And who delivers much of it? Royal Mail. In a recent Panorama special on the issue, Why Hate Junk Mail?, it was suggested that Royal Mail’s survival relies heavily on junk mail.

Since we’re all sending less by post, the reliability of junk mail (1.7 billion pieces of it was delivered by Royal Mail last year) is apparently helping to prop the company up. Richard Hooper, who authored a report on the future of our postal services, commented:

‘There is absolutely no question that advertising mail, which the critics describe as junk mail, is central to the viability of the Royal Mail in the 21st century.’

So, just as many of you have told us that you’re happy to put up with growing stamp prices, it seems that if you want to keep Royal Mail, you’re going to have to put up with junk mail as well.

The price of junk mail

And you won’t see the back of your junk mail after throwing it straight into your bin. You’ve still got to pay to get rid of it – whether it’s sending it to landfill (which isn’t very good for the environment) or recycling it.

The county of Cornwall paid £700,000 to send its junk mail to landfill last year, and recycling it would still cost £500,000. When you extrapolate this out to the rest of England, we’re spending around £50 million per year to get rid of mail we didn’t even want in the first place.

Then again, Royal Mail says the amount of direct mail being sent to landfill has fallen by 80% since 2003 and that it’s ahead of recycling targets.

Royal Mail’s defence of “direct mail”

Royal Mail is defiant in its response to junk mail critics:

‘We do not recognise the term “junk mail”. Companies use direct mail because it has proven results. Direct mail accounts for more than £16 billion in sales for the UK economy every year.

‘Many households find the information useful. If they do not do so, there are many established ways of stopping it.’

That is, in part, true. You can certainly opt out of “unaddressed” mail, which you can find out about on Royal Mail’s website. But it’s still legally obliged to deliver anything with your address on it, including (if you can believe it) mail addressed “To the occupier”.

So, are you fed up with junk mail? Should Royal Mail do more to help us avoid all types of marketing post? At the moment it feels like this country is drowning in junk mail and the Royal Mail’s addicted to it.

Have you tried to stop junk mail?

Yes - and it's helped reduce it (37%, 211 Votes)

Yes - but it hasn't worked (35%, 198 Votes)

No - I don't know how to (20%, 112 Votes)

No - I can't be bothered (9%, 50 Votes)

Total Voters: 571

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Tenpasenta says:
25 September 2012

Internet advertisers make a big deal of directing their adverts to people who may be interested via tailored adverts, so why does junk mail via the post still use a scatter gun approach? I’d guess because it’s easy and the Royal mail like this add on business. I feel that it is not the Royal mails job to distribute leaflets, however well it fits in with their current service.

Lol.Lambart says:
11 May 2015

I have applied for opt out of junk mail but royal mail still puts it through my letter box, So I now return all the junk mail back into a Royal mail letter box and see how they like it,,,,..

Jack says:
6 December 2015

Can’t we set the greenies on them and make it politically incorrect? Surely the biggest cost is deforestation?

David Jones says:
16 May 2017

Why not send it back to Moya Greene CEO as I do and let her have all the junk mail going to her office every day and just think of the cost to her office with no stamps on the junk mail Address to send to is
Moya Greene. Chief Executive’s Office Royal Mail. Royal Mail Headquarters. Royal Mail Group Ltd.
100 Victoria Embankment. London. EC4Y 0HQ