Yesterday I put a notice in each of almost 1,000 letter boxes. I would say that about 90% of them sported a sign, “No Junk Mail”. Some added a polite “Please”. A small percentage asked for other favours such as “Only Posted Mail” or “No Newspapers or Catalogues”.

This immediately posed a quandary. I was certainly not walking around the streets disposing of my unwanted rubbish in other people’s roomy letter boxes. I have never received others’ out worn items in mine either. So what do people mean when they use the word “junk”?

I turned for help to the much revered Shorter Oxford.

Surely they do not expect people are going to put Chinese boats, or even small models of these boats in their letter boxes? I don’t think that broken up lumps of material or twine or rope would be another expectation for letter boxes but it is the primary meaning of the word according to the Oxford. It finally mentioned something “unwanted”.

Doing a more modern search using the wordsmith “Google” I took the step of actually asking for the definition of “junk mail”, an option that was not in the trusty Oxford. Silly me! Of course Google, being a modern wordsmith, thought I was talking about electronic junk mail! However it kindly directed me to an Australia Post site.

Meanwhile, as I research, there are people walking around, as I was yesterday, looking at the eager, open mouths of letter boxes and wondering if their precious offerings are junk or not. By definition one would not be walking around making an effort to share something you think is not valuable but, in fact, needs to be disposed of?

I would not and I am sure you would not.

Do those depositing in those eager mouths have to consider whether the person who is the owner of the letter box would think it is junk using this notion of “unwanted”? How could they possibly know what is unwanted by someone they do not know?

Australia Post, in their wisdom, agree to leave only personally addressed mail to those displaying a notice. Of course this does not apply to those of us walking the streets with handfuls of information for these gaping maws, but not connected to Australia Post. But there is an interesting rider on this Australia Post definition. Their definition does not include items that are political, educational, religious or charitable. Clearly these categories are not “junk mail” to Australia Post.

Phew! My pamphlets were pseudo political so will probably past muster. That does not, of course, mean that each individual recipient will find them acceptable.

But that is life. If one wants to cut oneself off from the world and live in a silo, an echo chamber, do not have that yawning, inviting mouth in the front of your house. Get a box at a post office.

But if you want to be part of the community in which you live then take your insulting “No Junk Mail” off your box. No one is going to deliberately give you something they know you will find “junk”. You are being offered something in which to share, even if it is an advertisement for a local amenity.

I would find no personal use for one of the Australian Post offerings “religious information”. But I would not ever call that “junk”. Someone thinks it is very important. I respect that view from my fellow community member even as I, in an environmentally friendly way, dispose of the notice.

You can do the same with mine.


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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1 Response to JUNK MAIL

  1. Jo says:

    I agree with most of what you say. My problem is when i get the advertizing buddle it goes straight into the recycling bin. So if they didnt print all those endless pages of advertising for all that “junk” I dont need then I wouldnt ne filling my recyclung bin with it and everyone else who dont read that “junk”. I do like the little card announcung a new local resturant or business though. What can i say? Junk is selective as you say!

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