Nelson College for Girls students Caitlin Byrne, Fiona Brady, and Jaslyn Humphries have been collecting and analysing residents’ junk mail for the month of June. Photo: Andrew Board.

Students push for ‘no junk mail’

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Ever wondered how much junk mail gets delivered to local homes?

As part of a school project, a trio of Nelson College for Girls students went around local neighbourhoods to find out just that.

While most throw it away, the girls collected up all junk mail, giving most residents a welcome respite from the endless stream of paper flowing through their letterboxes.

The collection allowed students Jaslyn Humphries, Caitlin Byrne, and Fiona Brady, all 16, to analyse how much junk mail is distributed, who produces it and what consumers think of it

Over two weeks, the girls accumulated 323 pieces of junk mail from 17 homes in Nelson, Stoke, and Brightwater.

The average house recieved 19 pieces of unsolicited advertising and promotional material.

However, Jaslyn says it wasn’t just the sheer volume that surprised her, but the number of pieces printed on glossy paper, particularly advertising from political parties.

“It doesn’t break down as easy, you can’t even compost it, it’s harder to biodegrade, and people don’t like using it for their winter fires because glossy paper is a lousy fire starter.”

For his part Matt Lawrey, of the Green Party, says all its promotional material is printed on biodegradable glossy paper with vegetable oil-based ink.

In a survey the girls also asked about peoples’ attitudes towards junk mail. They asked: “How would you feel is there was no more junk mail?”

The response was almost unanimous. “We had three people who said they’d be sad if they didn’t receive any but the other 26 said they’d love it,” says Caitlin.

“The only people we found who liked junk mail were men who just wanted to check out the latest tools from trade places.”

The junk mail was made up of material from 46 different companies, organisations, and political parties, with The Warehouse, joint businesses Briscoes and Rebel Sport, and Smiths City being the highest producers.

The Warehouse put out 23 pieces of glossy junk mail, Briscoes and Rebel put out 23 pieces “plus a whole lot of plain paper junk mail”, and Smiths City produced 17 pieces. The next step for the girls, who started their ‘No Junk Mail June’ project to find a way to make Nelson more sustainable, is to approach the three leading junk mail distributors with their data and discuss alternate and more environmentally friendly advertising methods.

“I don’t think companies are aware of just how much is out there,” says Fiona. “So our main aim is to make them aware of the amount being produced when people don’t actually want it, the effect on people and the environment, and alternatives like using standard paper, online platforms and email.”

In the meantime, the trio recommend a simpler strategy. They suggest residents should put ‘No Junk Mail’ stickers on their letterboxes or sign up to receive junk mail online through Ecomailbox.