Recycling Q&A: What Should I Do About Junk Mail?

Recycling Q&A: What Should I Do About Junk Mail?

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of recycling Q&A tips from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

With more people spending time at home these days, we’re around to observe and maybe even question some of those routine practices that we might not otherwise think about. Which leads us to this week’s Q&A …

Q: What About Junk Mail?

I’ve read many of the recycling articles, including the dirty dozen, but haven’t seen an answer to a question I’ve had for a while.

What about sale flyers that arrive in the mail that are on a heavier stock of paper and sometimes slightly glossy?

Things like Kohl’s ads with the peel off sticker revealing your percentage off, Norwegian Cruise line and ACE Hardware promo’s, Val-Pak, Chicago Tribune/Retail Me Not (previously Red Plum) type ads including the Jewel-Osco, Burger King and Wendy’s coupons inside.

Just curious.


— A Loyal KC Connects Reader

A: Reducing Junk Mail Is Recycling Right!

Firstly, thank you for reaching out, and for your commitment to recycling right!

Glossy paper like these pictured are fine to recycle; they’re like magazines.

A lot of junk mail is on really hard cardstock with glossy finish, but it is still paper and still recyclable. The rule is basically, if you can rip it then recycle it.

Some of the election cards or other junk mail are sometimes printed on cardstock with plastic coating or are made of thin plastic card. Those are different. If it is covered in or made of plastic and you cannot rip it, then do not recycle it.

If it is sticker paper, like address labels, that is also not recyclable due to the plastic content. If it is just a section of plastic backing but the rest is just paper then you can remove the plastic piece and recycle the rest.

Further I would encourage you to actively reduce or eliminate the junk mail you receive. (I have mine down to about 1 or 2 pieces a year at this point). Follow the suggestions on this Stop Junk Mail for Good page of the Kane County Recycles webpage.

Reduce your junk mail by half almost immediately, by unsubscribing from the National Direct Mailing Lists and from phonebook and catalog distribution lists via the links below.

To eliminate the remainder, call directly any distributers of junk mail as you receive each piece, and ask to be removed from their mailing list and stop junk mail for good!

For free removal from​ lists, unsubscribe online at the following:

Stop Credit Card Offers

Opt Out of Phone Books

Stop Catalog Mailings

Most of these sites allow you to select preferences, so you can continue to receive the offers you want and eliminate the ones you do not.

It takes a bit of effort upfront but it will have a substantial impact on how much waste you make. The less we make (and take) the less we waste!

Read More Recycling Q&A Stories!

Read The Dirty Dozen Series