Junk mail? Only if you really want it, Leuven says

Summary

The city council is considering an opt-in system for receiving advertising and other junk mail

Paper over

Leuven city council is considering a ban on all unsolicited junk mail, in an effort to control its impact on the waste collection system. The proposal comes alongside a new tax on unaddressed mail delivered in the city.

In Leuven, as in the rest of Flanders, householders are bombarded with unaddressed junk mail, such as magazines and flyers from supermarkets, furniture stores and other retailers. Their only hope of escape is to put a sticker on their mailbox indicating they do not want to receive advertising, which has mixed results.

“We want to reverse the logic,” said Thomas Van Oppens, Leuven city councillor responsible for waste policy. “Every mailbox in Leuven becomes ad-free, unless the resident explicitly states on his or her mailbox that he or she wants to receive advertising material.”

If implemented, this opt-in system would be a novelty in Flanders, although it already operates in some Dutch cities. Leuven is also encouraging people who love junk mail to get their fix online, and so save the city the cost of collecting and processing the waste.

Delivery tax

Plans to introduce a tax on junk mail delivery – which already exists in many Flemish towns and cities – will be put to the vote on 24 June.

“Until now the advertising sector has contributed to the cost of processing waste paper, but not to the cost of collection,” said Van Oppens. “This tax will allow us to recover part of the cost and encourage the advertising sector to think more consciously about the amount of material it distributes.”

Paper and cardboard made up 15.9% of the waste collected in Leuven in 2018, amounting to 58kg per inhabitant. Some 29 drivers and loaders take to the streets every day to collect the waste.