Until recently, the debate about the environmental impact of junk mail was almost exclusively about increasing recycling rates and better targeting of mail-outs. This changed with the publication of the Government's Waste Strategy White Paper in May 2007.
'Direct mail' featured prominently in the paper and the then environment secretary, David Miliband, warned marketeers that if they would not do more to reduce waste, the Government would consider introducing an opt-in system, whereby people would only receive junk mail if they contacted a central register and added their name to a list.
The introduction by Royal Mail of a 'green' version of its door-to-door scheme (that is, the delivery of unaddressed mail items) in July 2007 can be seen as the company's answer to this 'challenge'. Royal Mail is a big player in the junk mail industry; roughly a quarter of all unaddressed advertisements are delivered by the postman. And along with the rest of the UK's marketing industry, Royal Mail has committed itself to minimising its impact on the environment.
The green door-to-door scheme goes much further than 'just' improving recycling rates; the aim of the scheme is to make mail shots carbon neutral. If successful, the new scheme could make a real difference. However, the devil is in the detail and Stop Junk Mail argues that the new scheme is unlikely to be more than a smoke screen to ward off much needed improvements to the existing 'not-so-green' door-to-door scheme, such as making it easier for people to opt out of receiving Royal Mail door drops in the first place.