Hey, Mr Postman: talking about plastic in the mail

When my bank began offering my statements in electronic format, I hit the yes button immediately and have since received no statements except during tax time.

Electronic delivery is so much easier and saves me having to file and put away those forms. Plus less trees are cut down. It is a win.

Since going electronic I rarely receive mail apart from postcards, wedding invites or the useless bulk of letter box drops spruiking the latest deals. My life is filed away in databases on my laptop. So I had never paid attention to the plastic and waste that can come in through the mailbox at our house until I received a magazine from my health fund. There it was, sticking its body out of the mailbox, wrapped in glistening plastic.

plastic in the mail

I could not identify the plastic and had no idea if it was recyclable. I remembered that the REDcycle program at Coles allowed newspaper wrapping to be dropped off. I emailed the company asking if the plastic casing could be recycled. Turns out it can be recycled, so off it went into the REDcycle bins at Coles.

I didn't want to have to do this each time a magazine from my health fund was dropped off into our mailbox in the future. It was unnecessary and also a waste of time and energy to dispose of correctly. I contacted the company with the following note:
To whom it may concern, 
 I am writing to you with regard to a recent magazine that was mailed to my house. I do not wish to receive any postal mail from your company and would prefer all correspondence to remain digital. I am trying my hardest to live a life with less plastic consumption and find the catalogues plastic casing unnecessary. My address is xxxxxxxx. My membership number is xxxxxxx.
Kind regards,
The company was quick to respond (which I knew would be from previous correspondence) and were more than happy to oblige. I continued the conversation by letting them know that if they continue to send magazines to their members in plastic casing then they should encourage users to drop the plastic off at the REDcycle bins at Coles. They said it would be considered.

Truthfully I have never tracked any other mail that comes into the house. As I mentioned before, I rarely receive anything unless it is from friends or letter box drops. So when bills come for the builder I collect them from the mailbox and pass onto him. I can go down stairs right now and see our latest gas bill with its plastic window face sitting on his desk. It is something neither of us had thought of and from habit, probably placed into our yellow recycling bin in the past (luckily these envelops types are accepted!)

Recycling for us is the second step when we use anything. Our first step is to REFUSE. The quarterly gas, electricity, water and internet bill, can and should, be addressed. So what are we going to do?
  • Contact the companies like I did with my health care fund and request for our bills to be sent digital if possible. If they cannot or refuse to, then we will continue to recycle as we do now or reuse the envelopes. 
  • Reuse the envelopes for new letters. 
  • Remove the plastic window from the envelopes if applicable, recycle plastic and use the envelope paper for shopping lists and general notes. I am big on list writing. 
What about the rest of the mail, like supermarket catalogues, that does not come in plastic casing or with plastic window facing? It is in no way sustainable to have a constant stream of unwanted catalogues each week telling me about deals. We never look at these and they take up the bulk of our recycling each week. We are putting up a “no junk mail” sign to curb the constant sale pitches.

If you think companies will not listen to you. Think again. Don't be afraid to speak up. Put aside half an hour of your week, sit down and contact the companies. I am going to give it a go and persuade the lovely utilities companies to save some paper and plastic, and send my bills via my inbox rather than the postbox.

If you like reading catalogues but do not want to sacrifice an acre of woodland, check out www.cataloguecentral.com.au


  1. I'm pretty certain the plastic envelope windows are, in fact, cellophane rather than plastic, which is cellulose-based. This means it's biodegradable and can be put in the compost and can be recycled without removing. For peace of mind, I'd still check with the company what brand envelopes they use.

    1. I did not know that fact - its been a long time since I received an envelope but next time I will check for sure.

  2. The health company saying they would consider “encourag[ing] users to drop the plastic off at the REDcycle bins at Coles” sounds to me more like they would not actually make the suggestion ...

    1. Not right away, they could in the future. Best practice would be for no plastic at all.


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