Most people don't give a second thought to tossing junk mail in the recycling bin. But with over 100 billion pieces delivered annually, some savvy recipients are seeing it differently. Instead of seeing junk mail as junk, they see it as a gold mine. As the saying goes, one man's junk is another man's treasure.
For this reason, some people order as much junk mail as they can. I once read about a man who burned his junk mail. He received enough of it to keep his house warm all winter. In another vein, JunkMailGems.com strictly sells products made from re-purposed junk mail.
Here is a list of creative and useful things you can do with your junk mail. Of course, take into consideration the different types of paper used in junk mailings and chemicals that may be in adhesives or inks.:
1. Burn in Place of Wood
Yep, you can do it too. Stay warm in the winter by a fire made of all that junk mail. Just throwing it in the fireplace won't be too effective, but by using a product like the Newspaper Brick Maker (about $30) you can make paper bricks that will burn like real wood.
2. Use as Packing Material
Sure, dehydrated mushroom mycelia and plastic pillows filled with air are both good green packing material options, but why not use your bounty of junk mail? Just run it through the shredder and use to ship or store fragile objects.
3. Use as Animal Bedding
Avoid the cost of buying bedding for your small rodent friends by shredding your junk mail. It might also come in handy as bedding for your urban chickens.
4. Use as a Funnel
This works best with those return envelopes you get in the mail. Simply cut a small section of one corner of an envelope (for the bottom of the funnel) and a larger portion from its opposite corner (the mouth of the funnel). Use this to conveniently refill salt and pepper shakers. This idea is one of the useful ideas from JunkMailGems.com.
For these gardening projects, make sure there are no toxic adhesives or inks on the paper goods you use.
4. Make Seedling Pots
Another clever product is The PotMaker (about $15). You can use paper to make seedling pots, which can then be planted directly into the soil and will decompose on their own. This way, you don't have to buy plastic pots (which saves money and resources).
5. Garden Mulch
You can literally lay out junk mail or old newspapers on your garden as a mulch. This makes an excellent weed barrier and will have all the benefits of traditional mulch. But since this is a little aesthetically displeasing, you might also want to cover with a layer of leaves or other traditional mulch.
Alternatively, you can also shred junk mail or old newspapers first and then lay them as mulch. This will break down easier.
Arts and Crafts
6. Handmade Recycled Paper
Instructions for how to make your own recycled paper from junk mail or old newspapers abound on the internet. It is a fun art project and a relatively easy way to make some really pretty paper.
7. Make Mosaic Portraits
Artist Sandhi Schimmel Gold is another individual who has found a way to make money from her junk mail. She creates colorful portraits in a sort of mosaic style from bits she cuts from junk mail and other paper waste. It's easy to do this yourself. Just take a picture you'd like to use, cut out colored bits from your junk mail and magazines, and paste them onto the picture. Then either hang on the refrigerator or sell for $2,000.
8. Festive Decorations
The classic elementary school paper chain, useful as a decoration or for visually representing how many days until the school year ends, can be made from junk mail instead of the more traditional construction paper.
Sure, you can just grab a piece of junk mail and use it as a book mark. I do that sometimes. But another clever idea from JunkMailGems.com is to cut the corner from a junk mail envelope and use that corner as a bookmark by placing on the corner of the page you're marking. That's a little more graceful than sticking your whole pre-approved credit card envelope in there.