No Junk Mail fines?

Australia is a reasonably small country population-wise, around 23 million at present; so it was quite a shock when I discovered just one of our supermarket chains is sending out millions of paper based catalogs each week.

An article on The Land focused on Woolworths’ move to post prices online – which is a great development, but the closing lines of the article mentioned Woolworths’ director of supermarkets saying the company would continue sending out eight million catalogs to mailboxes *each week*.

Over 400 million catalogs a year!

The same sort of saturation in the USA would be in the region of 5 billion catalogs a year from a single company.

Even if those catalogs are printed on recycled paper and are then recycled again; that’s an awful lot of resources going into creating and delivering this one junk mail item – recycling consumes energy too. Paper is also usually not recycled in the true sense of the word, it is downcycled.

While it’s easy to point the finger at Woolworths and “tch tch” about this terrible waste; they are doing it for a reason – this form of advertising is obviously still working for them and that won’t change until we start communicating to companies that things need to change.

The problem is some people like these catalogs and in some instances I can understand that; for example, if a household doesn’t have Internet access.

However, an issue that certainly needs to change in the junk mail delivery business is the continual ignoring of mail boxes that have a sticker on them saying “No Junk Mail”. In Australia, I believe the sticker needs to read “No Advertising Material”. Regardless of what it says, I still see it being ignored regularly.

In the online world, when you send out an email marketing campaign, it needs to include an unsubscribe function on every communication. If a merchant should continue to send marketing emails to that address after being asked to stop; they can wind up in court and face stiff penalties. In Australia, we also have a telephone “do not call” registry. Telemarketers must steer clear of numbers listed or face a considerable fine.

I think it’s about time that companies who continually flout the “no junk mail” indicator on mail boxes be subject to similar action. Instead of at worst just a slap on the wrist by an industry organization; a fine should be imposed on the merchant and the company delivering the catalogs; the proceeds of which could go to funding environmental programs.

Does anyone know of a similar system in any country that financially penalizes ignoranceof the “no junk mail” instruction on a mail box? Does the system work?


Avoiding junk mail
Paper reduction diet
Recycling processes – how stuff is recycled