Millions of trees felled for junk mail

The Liberal Democrats are calling for tighter controls on direct marketing companies after jotting up the number of trees felled to fuel the industry every year.

Anxious to demonstrate their green credentials as environmental issues creep up the political agenda, the Lib Dems have published statistics on resources used for junk mail and are pressing for the public to have a legally enforceable right not to receive it.

According to the party some 550,000 tonnes of paper, equivalent to 3.3 million mature trees, was used for junk mail last year, making up a significant 4% of all paper waste in the UK.

5.4 billion direct mail items were sent through the post in 2004 and British homes also received over 15 billion inserts and door-to-door promotions, which makes for an average of 18 pieces of junk mail per household every week.

At the moment trade organisation the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) voluntarily administers a mailing preference service which takes people who have taken the time to register their objection to receiving junk through their letter box off dozens of mailing lists.

The DMA has also signed a voluntary agreement with Defra setting recycling targets for waste produced by its members.

Norman Baker MP, the Lib Dem’s spokesman on the environment, said: “The voluntary agreement between Defra and the Direct Marketing Association is simply not enough, and the latest figures show it is already failing.

“The Government accepts that the ‘four R’s’ approach to waste reduction (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover) is the most effective, but has failed to explore the first two steps.

“The constant bombarding of homes with offers and promotions resulted in 21 billion pieces of paper through letterboxes in the last year alone. People have the right to say no to unwanted mail and for that right to be upheld by the law.”

A spokesman for the DMA told edie that existing measures were effective, the association was on target for its recycling and further regulation was unnecessary.

“We have signed a producer responsibility agreement with Defra and we are working on that,” she said.

“We will be reporting back on the results at the end of the month.

“Also the mail preference service is extremely effective and stops around 95% of direct mail.

“That is there to prevent customers from receiving it if they don’t want it.”

By Sam Bond

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