Most people don't give a second thought to tossing junk mail in the recycling bin. But with more than 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. Here is a list of some creative and useful things to do with 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.
Burn in place of wood: Stay warm in the winter by a fire using junk mail made of newsprint. Just throwing it in the fireplace won't be too effective, but by using a product like the Newspaper Brick Maker (about $30, lehmans.com) you can make paper bricks that will burn like real wood.
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.
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.
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.
For these gardening projects, make sure there are no toxic adhesives or inks on the paper goods you use.
Make seedling pots: Another clever product is The PotMaker ($20, burpee.com). 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).
Garden mulch: You can literally place 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 more easily.
Arts and crafts
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.
Bookmark: Sure, you can just grab a piece of junk mail and use it as a bookmark. 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 it on the corner of the page you're marking. That's a little more graceful than sticking your whole preapproved credit card offer envelope in there.