Recycle junk mail into something useful or cool instead of dropping it into a recycling bin. There’s so much more you can do with it, from the practical to the ingenious and crafty.
Turn junk mail into a gold mine
Take a dip into this list of creative and useful things you can do with mail nobody wants. But do bear in mind that junk mailings use many different types of paper and some may contain chemicals or inks that aren’t safe for all projects.
First of all – things you can do to reduce the flow of junk mail
If you live in the UK, here are some steps that you can take to reduce the amount of unwanted mail that comes through your door:
- Reduce addressed junk mail being delivered to your home, by registering with the Mailing Preference Service.
- Reduce unaddressed junk mail being delivered to your home, by joining the Your Choice scheme from the Mailing Preference Service.
- You can further reduce unaddressed junk mail being delivered to your home by using the Royal Mail’s opt-out scheme.
The steps above can help to slow the flow of junk mail but it seems impossible to stop it completely. So it’s a good idea to think how you’re going to make use of the stuff… and everyone will see how important recycling is if you do it brilliantly.
Practical ways to recycle junk mail
Keep warm by a fire made with the literature that companies would like us to study. For something that burns better and longer than piles of paper, turn junk mail into bricks using a tool like the Paper Log Maker.
Make your own packing material to protect fragile objects in the mail or in transit. Just crunch up the paper or run it through a shredder.
Use it as a liner or shred it as animal bedding for pets or chickens.
Make a funnel using an envelope. Cut a small hole at one corner of the envelope and a larger section from the opposite end. Use this for all your funnelling chores such as topping up salt and pepper or spice jars.
Make a notepad out of old envelopes. Don’t just think of blank or plain areas of paper – there are wonderful patterns inside security envelopes. Or how about this cute little accordion notebook. You’ll never need to buy a notepad again!
You can also use these patterned envelopes to make business card holders that stand out, which is just what you want them to do.
Of course it’s possible to re-use envelopes… simply as envelopes. You don’t have to do anything to them, just use them as they are! Ready-made junk envelopes are ideal for organising photos, sewing supplies, receipts, small nails and seeds or other bits and bobs.
You can also re-use envelopes for sending through the mail. This tutorial shows you how to turn them inside out, or look at the next tip for creating labels.
Cut off the adhesive flap from one of these unwanted envelopes to use as a blank label. There’s plenty space to write on and they stick well to lots of surfaces.
Cut out your name and address to reuse on your own correspondence. Also carry a few of these slips in your bag or wallet to hand out whenever someone asks for your address details.
If there’s anything left of the envelope after you’ve found so many uses, clip off the corners to use as page markers or bookmarks.
Use junk mail in the garden
For projects in the vegetable garden make sure there are no toxic inks or adhesives in the paper or it could end up on the kitchen table.
Top of the list of jobs for junk mail in the garden is making compost. However, not all paper is compostable. Check out these instructions first – the shininess that marketers want to achieve comes through the use of additives and synthetic materials which you will want to avoid. Basically, the closer the paper is to ‘ordinary’ newsprint the more suitable it is for composting.
Keen gardeners always need pots for seedlings. Instead of plastic pots recycle junk mail into biodegradable pots that you can plant directly into the soil and leave to decompose. Use a tool such as the Seedling Paper Potter and make your garden beautiful.
Simply lay out sheets of junk mail or old newspapers on your garden as a mulch. It makes a great weed barrier and cuts down on watering just like a traditional mulch. You might choose to shred it first to make it break down more quickly.
Some traditional types of garden mulch have a decorative aspect (e.g.bark chips) so unless you like the sustainable look you may prefer to scatter junk mail mulch under existing foliage or cover it with a thin layer of more conventional material (such as leaves).
Recycle junk mail for art and crafts
Celebrate Christmas with these sustainable decorations and snowflakes. And don’t forget the good old paper chain!
How about decorating your mantle with snow-covered miniature houses crafted from junk mail with a sprinkle of glitter?
Or decorate with a junk mail flower garland.
Another tutorial for decorations: a junk mail wreath. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of companies churning out this mail it often comes ready prepared in seasonal colours – so red and green for Christmas and orange for Halloween. 🙂
Transform ‘vital’ mail into a set of coasters with this pretty weaving technique.
Take a look at this great tutorial for a junk mail clock. You might want to thank the company that sent the message by posting a photo of your creation to their Facebook page?
Check out this tutorial to make your own mini cards from junk mail.
Recycle mail to make pretty paper beads.
Make bowls out of junk mail or other scraps of paper.
Or how about this delicate confetti bowl?
Use junk mail in the coolest way possible – make a waste paper bin (or flip it round for a lampshade).
Roll sheets of promotional trash or catalogue pages into reeds to make boxes, frames and other craft articles.
Make a beautiful side table using catalogues.
One of the most popular uses of junk mail is to make your own recycled paper. Take a look at this post about recycling newspapers and lots of other ideas too.
Cut glossy pages into squares to use as origami paper. If you’re an origami expert you’ll know that specialist origami paper is very thin so choose your junk mail carefully for the most suitable paper.
Turn junk mail into wall art 🙂
Make mosaic-style collage portraits or other junk mail art by cutting out or tearing fragments of paper. You could generate art gallery prices if you take this to the level of Aurora Robson or other collage artists.
Mail like this is perfect for incorporating typography into your art, to give it an extra cool message.
Use coloured mail to make pretty gift bows.
Finally, add the finishing touch to your gift with a co-ordinated gift tag.
As you can see there are many ways to recycle junk mail into something special. There’s no reason to just drop it into a recycling bin. Give it the worthwhile use it deserves – and make it brilliant so your friends can see that recycling is important.