What to Do With Junk Mail and Shredded Paper

Image: Max Pixel.

Perhaps obsessing over reducing junk mail while simultaneously generating a metric freak-ton of construction debris is a bit of a pathological redirection, but I’m really tired of the daily chore of transferring the mail straight to the recycling. I’ve thought about asking our nice mail person to just drop the mail straight into the blue bin, but that would insult her noble profession.

Recycling junk mail may not even do much good. Recycling is dirty, complicated and, at least in part, just a ruse to make us all feel less guilty about shopping. Listen to our two part interview with Kreigh Hampel, recycling coordinator for the city of Burbank if you’d like to get the lowdown on what it’s like on the receiving end of all our garbage (Part 1, Part 2). And the possibility of a trade ware with China may make things even more complicated. China no longer wants our trash.

So what to do about reducing paper waste at the source aside from the obvious (sign up for paperless bills). The Data & Marketing Association will grant you the privilege of not getting receiving their trashy mailings for a $2 fee. Thank you Adam Smith! Thankfully you can remove deceased relatives from their database for free. Just don’t try to fake your own junk mail death as the DMA, apparently, checks. To opt out of credit card applications head here.

And what to do with all that shredded paper? We’ve had both our mail and credit card numbers stolen so I have to shred a considerable amount of paper every month. Shredded paper is a big problem for recyclers and a trade war will only make it worse.

Assuming you’ve done your best to stop incoming junk mail, what can you do with the stuff that still clogs the mail box? I have a very short list:

Junk Mail

Shredded Paper

I’ve also been pondering the possibility of making lumber with junk mail and/or shredded paper bound together with resin. I’m not the only person who’s had this idea but, unfortunately, it involves plastics which I don’t like to work with if at all possible.

If you know of a good way to stop junk mail or re-use paper please leave a comment!

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  1. I use shredded paper (no glossy) in compost and the bottom of pots to keep dirt from falling out as I add it. But this weekend, I discovered plastic shreds (same shape/size as the paper) in a pot I made this spring. Apparently the college catalogs I was shredding contain plastic that remains when the paper decomposes. So now I have to sift through all my compost to pull out the plastic.

  2. Shredded non-glossy, non-plastic paper (like newspaper, or printer paper) can be used for worm bin bedding and as a substitute for coco coir in seed starting mixes. Once it’s wet, it holds water really well. I’ve done a few tests with seed starting and it works as well as the stuff I make with coco coir (though it looks really weird, like plants growing out of garbage). I haven’t had the problems Abby R did, but maybe I just haven’t noticed yet . . . There is plastic lurking where you least expect!

  3. I didn’t know about the $2 option, so I emailed every company that snail mailed me. (You can find their email in the privacy policy or on a contact us page — usually at the bottom of the page). It took 3 months of emailing different companies, but I’m now 95% junk free. (I created a new email account for this purpose so I didn’t start getting email spam.)

    The only downside is I feel ignored by my postman. Often he passes right by my box without so much as a glance 🙁

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  6. I compost it. Even the glossy paper. If my compost pile can break down the toxins in oleander I’m sure it’s up to print inks. No time consuming and electricity using shredding.

    And I’ve asked my letter carrier to skip the junk mail for my mailbox. She replied that, by law, she can’t. Senders have paid to get that stuff delivered and the post office is required to do it. Fortunately, most of those grocery circulars, etc. that go in every mailbox on the route are on newsprint.

    And speaking of packing materials, I have recently discovered that UPS stores will take that off your hands and recycle it for you. It’s become a monthly stop for me. They take the dreaded styrofoam peanuts, brown paper, those plastic bag balloons, shredded paper. The only thing they turned down is large molded pieces of styrofoam.

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  8. My deceased mom was getting monthly donation requests from a charity for years. Even after I wrote “Deceased-return to sender” on their mail, they still kept coming. Finally I sent them the same message using their pre-stamped, addressed envelopes.(The ones they always include for you to send them money.) After doing this 4 times, they finally stopped.

    Also, thank you to Rainey for the UPS tip. I didn’t know they take packing materials.

    • My brother-in-law died quite unexpectedly two years ago. I begged my husband to rent a post office box as a forwarding address, but since that would entail regular trips to the Post Office, the mail ended up coming here. Naturally, it fell to me to actually deal with the catalogues from every company on earth and the solicitations from every charity on earth, because my husband’s method of managing junk mail is to put it into boxes and put the boxes in the garage.

      I kept a list of each junk mail sender (over 150 in all) and logged every time I contacted each one to take George off their list. Not a single one acted on the first request, most required at least three. In my experience, Covenant House and the Salvation Army have been the absolute worst: I’ve emailed, called, and written over and over and over, but the junk still keeps coming. Arrrrrgh.

    • I have the same issue. My late parent’s mail is forwarded to my address and I’m getting a lot of charity, cruise ship and general junk mail addressed to them. I just used the link in this post to take them off the DMA’s mailing lists and we’ll see if it works.

  9. I managed to have my name removed from most catalog mailing lists. I have called a few persistent ones that don’t seem to respond to the online removal tools. They usually comply. I have a post office box, so I sort my mail at the post office and tear my name and address off from junk mail, and put the junk mail in the post office recycling bin. I can only hope that the contents of the post office recycling bin are truly recycled. I shred the junk mail pieces with my name on them, and use the shredded paper in my worm bin.

  10. Goodness, it’s simple living in Australia. You just put a No Junk Mail sign on your letterbox, and you don’t get any. It seems slightly sinister that companies are allowed to send you mail that you didn’t sign up for..

    • The same holds here in Canada; I put a “No unaddressed or junk mail please” sign on our mailbox, and that put an end to the unwanted mail, for the most part. We still receive our property tax bill, unfortunately. 😉

    • No junkmail signs and . . . healthcare! We can’t have nice things here in the US.

    • Ditto for Portugal. You can even get a nice, offical-looking sticker from the post office…

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  12. I found that my chickens were eating the shredded white paper with great gusto like it was spaghetti. I had to stop using it as bedding in the nest boxes and as “litter” on the chook shed floor.
    I was also going to mention the’No junk mail’ stickers we have here in Melbourne, Australia. Our catalogues are generally delivered by people who are paid to walk the suburban streets and put the advertising material in our letter boxes.
    A politer version of the no junk msil (considering that the people who have their goods in the catalogue don’t consider their products as junk) is ‘No advertising material’. Under law here I believe the deliverer (other than the paid post man) is obliged to not put the catalogue in.
    Claire in Melbourne

  13. I work as a mail carrier. I know I’m a few days late to this party. But if you simply search “red plum opt out”, you’ll find a way to get off their list. They are the flyers people. I did this, because frankly “bulk” mail is not our future. Getting off this list took me off a couple others I didn’t realize. Do it. However, I haven’t figured out how to get your local cable company to stop mailing you every wingle week. (I get two companies, altho one doesn’t even service my side of the street)

  14. My worm farm loves shredded paper. We have a “no junk mail” sign, but if I end up with any unwanted paper I put it in the worm farm and they convert it to compost for me.

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