You've got junk mail: 33kg of it

Love it or loathe it, want it or not - we are drowning in junk mail.

A survey into the amount being stuffed into letterboxes has found the average household receives about 33 kilograms every year - about the weight of a golden retriever.

But whether or not you want it, there's little you can do to stop it. There are no rules to restrict what can be put in your mailbox, regardless of how many "no junk mail" signs you stick on it.

Now a new company is trying to battle the plague online, and it is getting the backing of local government.

A survey by Ecomailbox tracked the amount of junk mail deposited in Invercargill letterboxes for 12 months and found that, on average, each household received 985 pieces weighing 33.1kg. Of those, 95 were sent by The Warehouse. A survey in Auckland returned similar results, Ecomailbox spokeswoman Charlene Fitisemanu said.

But The Warehouse is defending its marketing strategy - and took issue with the "junk mail" label.

"We don't use the 'junk mail' method; we distribute mailers to customers' homes because it is a highly effective and popular way of communicating directly with our customers about the great bargains available in our stores," marketing general manager Lorraine Breheny said.

The Warehouse's research found 84 per cent of people would use its mailers, and some customers walked around the stores carrying them.

"Not everyone has internet access, and we know that many of our customers prefer a hard copy to browse."

There are no rules governing junk mail, but there is a voluntary National Code of Practice for the Distribution of Unaddressed Mail, administered by the New Zealand Marketing Association.

It includes a regulation that "unaddressed mail must not be delivered to letterboxes displaying a ‘No Unaddressed Mail', ‘No Junk Mail', or ‘No Circulars' sign".

It also says unaddressed mail should not be delivered to letterboxes that are already full, and distributors should reduce waste where possible.

Ecomailbox was set up to combat junk mail. People who sign up are sent a durable "no junk mail" sign for their letterbox, and companies can sign up to have their catalogues posted online, so people can still look at deals they are interested in.

Fitisemanu said more than 150,000 stickers had been distributed and the project had received backing from 14 councils, including the nine in the Wellington region, after the Regional Waste Forum signed up to support it.

Forum member Jackie Elliott, who represents Kapiti Coast District Council, said it was a good option for households.

"It is an excellent way to deal with a mountain of circulars, using the internet to ensure householders don't miss out on great deals."

Nikki Styles, of Newlands, 33, said she had mixed feelings about junk mail. Her letterbox was "usually bulging with it", but if she wanted a big-ticket item she was more likely to shop around and research online than use catalogues.

However, she liked to drop hints to her husband about good gift ideas by circling items and leaving the mailers in an obvious place. "It's kind of nice to go through it and dream."

Junk mail had also proved educational for daughters Olivia, 5, and Charlotte, 2, she said - she used supermarket catalogues for maths lessons, by asking them to work out what they could get for $100.

Marketing Association chief executive Michael Pryor said unaddressed mail was cost-effective for advertisers aiming to reach a lot of people or specific geographic regions.

"The public are advertising and media savvy, and as a result increasingly skilled at filtering out material that isn't relevant to them, that's poorly targeted or not respectful of best-practice ways of using the medium.

"Beauty . . . is in the eye of the beholder. It's really no different for advertising mediums. They all generate different levels of response, and this response can and does fundamentally change all the time, depending on how effective companies have been at engaging the interest/attention of a consumer."

The Dominion Post