If you’re anything like the average person, a trip to the mailbox yields more junk than personal letters. Each U.S. household receives an estimated 848 pieces of junk mail a year.

Sure, you can send it straight to the recycling bin, but that feels wasteful, particularly when you consider that a huge portion of that mail is never even opened. Instead of reflexively tossing the piles of unwanted offers and catalogs, consider these suggestions to help you nix the annoyance of junk mail.

5 Cool Uses for Junk Mail

1. Put one of those return envelopes you receive to good use by cutting off a corner in a triangular shape, then snipping off a tiny portion of the point to make a funnel that works well for tasks like refilling salt and pepper shakers.

Getting spilled sprinkles back into the container is no sweat with a funnel crafted out of a return envelope. Photo: Chelsea Harrington

2. Follow the lead of Junk Mail Gems and craft a tiny gift bag that can hold gift cards and small presents.

3. Shred your mail into tiny strips, then take it to your workplace to use as packing material for any packages that need a little extra padding.

4. Throwing paper outside is usually littering, but not when you shred it and use it as mulch in your garden. (Just skip the envelopes with cellophane windows.) Water it well, add a layer of topsoil or traditional mulch to the top, and voilà — you’ve found a use for junk mail that also helps keep weeds at bay.

5. Make paper beads out of the catalog pages you receive. Spruce Crafts explains how to take triangular-shaped strips and turn them into colorful beads, perfect for a pretty necklace or bracelet.

Stop Junk Mail at Its Source

While getting creative with your junk mail is a great way to turn a bad situation good, the best thing you can do is reduce the amount you get in the first place. Directly contact the companies that are sending you unwanted mail, or visit CatalogChoice.org to get your name on a do-not-mail list. You’re unlikely to ever completely eliminate the junk mail you receive, but getting less is a step in the right direction.

Originally published on May 29, 2018, this article was updated in December 2021.

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.