About this blog
Royal Mail's Door-to-Door Opt-Out is the most effective junk mail opt-out scheme around. About 25 to 50% of all unaddressed junk mail is delivered by the company (depending on whether or not you count inserts in newspapers and magazines as unaddressed junk mail) and signing up to the scheme will stop more junk mail than all other opt-out schemes combined.  Yet, as at April 2009 only 0.7% UK households was registered with the Door-to-Door Opt-Out. 
Does this figure reflect the popularity of unaddressed junk mail? Well, no. Not even Royal Mail would dare making such a claim. The opt-out rate for the Mailing Preference Service - the main opt-out scheme for addressed junk mail - is about 2000% higher than the opt-out rate for the Door-to-Door Opt-Out. Clearly, there are other reasons why people are not signing up to Royal Mail's scheme.
One of the main reasons is no doubt that few people know the opt-out exists. There's a single page with information about the opt-out on the Royal Mail website , and it's not at all easy to find the page (try asking the online assistance a question about stopping junk mail). Apart from that the scheme is not being promoted at all.
There are other reasons why the scheme is failing. The opt-out process is lengthy and complicated (it's not possible to simply opt out online) and too often Royal Mail fails to process opt-out requests it receives . Another reason is that Royal Mail warns people requesting an opt-out form that "opting out will stop all unaddressed items delivered by Royal Mail" and that people therefore "may miss important information from local or national government or other publications that are sent using the service."
A couple of years ago Royal Mail was forced to add to the warning that anything to do with elections will be delivered as normal . Even people who register with the Door-to-Door Opt-Out will get those pesky 'election communications' pushed through the door. At the same time Royal Mail admitted that if local or central Government wants Royal Mail to deliver a leaflet to each and every household in a certain area the company will do so. For instance, the 'Swine Flu' leaflet produced in May 2009 by the Department of Health was delivered to each and every household in the country, including households registered with the Door-to-Door Opt-Out.
So, how much "important information" is delivered via the door-to-door scheme? How does the amount of "important information" compare to the amount of 'unimportant rubbish'? And, what's Royal Mail's definition of "important" anyway?
Logging junk mail
This blog aims to give you a fair idea of the sort of items delivered via Royal Mail's door-to-door scheme. I'm collecting all unaddressed junk mail from a single address, scan it, and stick it on this blog. Each item gets three classifications:
Delivered by Royal Mail
The Door-to-Door Opt-Out only stops unaddressed mail items delivered by Royal Mail. It's not always clear whether or not a particular piece of junk mail was delivered by the postman and it therefore makes sense to have a category indicating the likelihood that an item was delivered by Royal Mail. Items can be classified as either definitely or definitely maybe.
Nature of the item
Whether a piece of unaddressed junk mail is "important information" or "unimportant rubbish" is of course entirely subjective. However, we can make a sensible judgement about whether or not an item is primarily commercial. If it's main aim is to try to sell you a product or service it's commercial, if it's mainly aimed at giving information it's non-commercial.
I've created a third class for unaddressed mail items from charities. Strictly speaking such items should be classified as being commercial. The aim of charitable leaflets is usually to get you to make a donation and/or to support a particular cause in other ways. However, many people who take no interest whatsoever in leaflets from private companies don't mind charity appeals, and for this reason leaflets from charities are given the label charitable.
The direct marketing industry has for many years been discussing how junk mailers can make unsolicited mail more 'sustainable'. At the same time the industry is aiming to change people's perception of unsolicited mail in general and environmental impact of the junk mail in particular. It's for this reason that leaflets made of (partly) recycled paper will always proudly mention this. We can use this information to give our junk mail a 'sustainability score'. To classify individual pieces of junk mail I've created four categories:
- Sustainable mail
'Sustainable mail' is the name of Royal Mail's 'carbon neutral' door-to-door scheme. Junk mailers choosing this 'green' alternative have to make sure that a mail-out meets all sorts of environmental standards, and Royal Mail will then pay money into a carbon offset scheme to make the mail-out 'carbon neutral'.
- Almost green
Items that are almost green meet two 'sustainable mail' requirements: the item needs to be made from at least 50% recycled paper and it shouldn't use any plastic and/or window envelopes.
There's nothing green about items that are made from 50% recycled paper or less, with the remained of the paper not sourced from a more or less sustainable source.
- Unsustainable mail
Unsustainable mail will usually not include any environmental information. Given that the junk mail industry is very keen on changing people's perception of junk mail and its impact on the environment we can safely classify such items as 'unsustainable'.
 There is no publicly available data about how much unaddressed mail Royal Mail delivers. However, even if we assume that the company delivers only three items of unaddressed mail per household per week registering with the Door-to-Door Opt-Out would stop just over 150 pieces of junk mail per year. That is about double the amount of addressed junk mail the average person receives in a year; and the Mailing Preference Service will only be able to prevent part of those mailings. The third available junk mail opt-out scheme - the Your Choice Preference Service for Unaddressed Mail - is unlikely to prevent more than a handful of leaflets per year.
 See the Direct marketing material waste prevention report on industry performance for 2009.
 See www.royalmail.com