Live Green and Earn Points


Recycling Q & A: Junk Mail

By Annie Bell Muzaurieta |

We might want to throw bulk mail straight into the trash, but can it go in the recycling bin?

Had enough of those Valpak coupons, catalogs you never signed up for, and all-too-tempting credit card offers?

Bulk, unsolicited, or just plain junk mail clogs our mailboxes and can be time consuming to sort through. But it's not just a headache for you—the paper advertisements contribute to environmental problems too. According to the EPA, more than 4 million tons of junk mail is produced annually, and over 50 percent of it ends up in landfills. The junk mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes, according to the Oberlin College Recycling Program website. Yikes.

The good news is that most junk mail is recyclable. Catalogs and paper offers certainly are, and the EPA says that even those envelopes with see-through windows can be recycled with paper goods. Placing them in a recycling bin sure is a lot easier than building a monument out of excess catalogs and credit card offers, like San Francisco sculptor Hector Dio Mendoza did.

According to the EPA, more than 4 million tons of junk mail are produced annually, and over 50 percent of it ends up in landfills.

Of course, before you think about recycling bulk mail, consider cutting back on mail volume before you need to recycle it. To reduce the amount of junk mail you receive in the first place, you should make an effort to get your name removed from bulk mailing lists. Try Catalog Choice, where you can unsubscribe from various retail catalogs after plugging in your personal information, or visit the website for San Mateo County's Recycling Works program to learn how to do it yourself.

There are other companies that will do this for you, such as Tonic MailStopper (formerly known as GreenDimes), which will send you a Postal Junk Mail Reduction Kit (included in their Precycle package) for $36. The kit not only promises positive results (i.e. less junk mail) in 90 days, but the company will also plant 5 trees when you sign up.

The Consumer Research Institute offers a downloaded Stop The Junk Mail kit to combat bulk mail for $10.95 (you can order a print copy for $13.95).

Getting on the junk mail recycling bandwagon is a surefire way to reduce clutter and help the planet, and in one California city, it's already the law.

Got any creative ideas for recycling or reusing your junk mail? Share them with us by commenting below.

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  • VALERIE H. 5 years ago
  • james and Ella Mae j. 5 years ago
    always recycle junk mail
  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    I will recycle my junk mail.
  • anne d. 6 years ago
  • 6 years ago
    Glad to know I do not have to separate the envelopes with see through windows.
    We recycle the newspapers, yes I'm using the computer now but I like to read my local news, but I save stacks of the regular newsprint [not the slick ads] when I have a gardening project. Layers of newspaper & even cardboard make great biodegradeble mulch when trying to start a new bed. Put the paper down, wet it and put a layer of soil & regular mulch on top - instant flower bed. I like to 'make' a bed then wait until the next season to refresh it & plant, Go to your local library [the best recycler of 'paper' in the world] & ask for a book titled "Lasagna Gardening." I do not remember the author's name.
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