Hundreds of millions of kilograms of junk mail are delivered to households in New Zealand each year.
A huge amount of the advertising mail is thrown away without a look, and even when it is recycled it’s all going to end up in the landfill eventually.
Auckland Council is establishing one solid waste bylaw to replace the bylaws of the city’s seven former councils.
Part of the plan is the new littering bylaw which says only official agencies can post unaddressed mail to letter boxes marked “no circulars”, “no junk mail”, and the like.
Statistics New Zealand estimates households get more than 116,000,000kg of junk mail delivered each year.
In 2006 a Christchurch man collected a 70kg, 1.71m stack of unaddressed mail, the majority being advertising from home improvement and electrical stores.
Waitakere Refuse and Recycling Centre’s waste contract co-ordinator Jan Eckersley says junk mail gets stuffed into letter boxes already full of junk mail.
“It drops out of letter boxes and is found lying on the street and it blocks drains.
“The litter’s a big issue with junk mail, I think the last time we did a litter survey it comprised 16 per cent of litter items.”
Operations leader at the Waitakere Refuse and Recycling Centre Laurie Blair says he sees a lot more people recycling junk mail.
“I use myself as an example . . . I’ve got my recycle bin and I usually go straight from the mail box to the recycling bin.”
But Eckersley says junk mail does not always get recycled.
“Some people will just stuff their junk mail in their rubbish bag rather than recycling it and we’re trying to encourage people to recycle as much as possible.”
According to Letterboxer, an anti-junk mail organisation, recycling is not a sustainable solution. Paper can only be recycled five to seven times before the wood fibres become too damaged.
Sylvia Devlin, stakeholder relations manager at the Marketing Association, does not believe advertising mail has a negative environmental impact.
“We believe it’s a bit of a red herring.”
In the United States 5,600,000t of advertising material ends up in the country’s landfills each year.
Devlin says the exact number of pieces of junk mail delivered in New Zealand each year is unavailable.
“The numbers of catalogues and mailers have been increasing [in the past 10 years] but the size of them has generally been decreasing.
“We do know the cost of delivery is around $80 million per year. Unaddressed mail is the largest marketing expense for most New Zealand retailers and it is because of its effectiveness.”