Calls for rule change to end flood of junk mail in Germany

Calls for rule change to end flood of junk mail in Germany

Every day, households across Germany receive unwanted free newspapers and advertising leaflets through their letterboxes. This not only causes annoyance and creates waste, but also has a significant environmental impact. Climate advocates are now calling for a rule change. 

Unwanted free papers and brochures have large carbon footprint

Unsolicited mailbox advertising is responsible for more than half a million tonnes of carbon emissions every year, according to calculations by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Environmental Action Germany - DUH). They estimate that up to 535.000 tonnes of the greenhouse gas could be saved in paper production every year if advertising mail was sent only to households who actually want to receive it. 

According to estimates from the Federal Environment Agency, each household in Germany receives around 500 to 700 grams of unwanted free newspapers, leaflets and brochures in the post every week. But the DUH argues this is because households currently have to explicitly refuse junk mail, for example with a sticker on their letterbox, in order to not receive anything. DUH is calling for this rule to be turned on its head, so that people opt in, rather than opt out, of advertising. 

Currently, only around 28 percent of people use stickers to indicate they do not want to receive advertising, according to the DUH. However, the organisation estimates that around three quarters of households would no longer receive advertising if the opt-in rule applied. 

German government still examining possible rule change

At the end of last year, the DUH submitted a petition to the Federal Ministry of Justice, with 100.000 signatures in favour, but the desired change in the law has not yet taken place. The ministry has said it is still examining possible regulatory options, but is concerned not to disadvantage local companies, for whom advertising mail can be an important sales instrument. 

There are also concerns that an opt-in rule could affect the freedom of the press if, for example, advertising papers with an editorial section were covered by the ban. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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