Changing letterbox stickers from YES to NO reduces paper waste in Amsterdam

Waste of paperWaste of paper
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A recent study by the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at VU Amsterdam shows that changing letterbox stickers from a system based on refusal (NO) to a system based on permission (YES) results in a 5-10% reduction in paper waste in the Dutch capital. The change also means a significant cost saving for municipal services. Environmental economists Thijs Endendijk and Wouter Botzen are the men behind the research.

In 2018, the NO/NO letterbox sticker in Amsterdam made way for the YES/YES sticker. This meant that instead of opting out of receiving unaddressed mail by putting a NO/NO sticker on their letterbox (NO to advertising leaflets and NO to free newspapers), unaddressed mail is only delivered to households who have given permission by putting up a YES/YES sticker. Under the previous system, 55% of Amsterdam households took no action, which meant that they received unaddressed mail by default. After the YES/YES system was introduced, this percentage fell to 15%. As a result, 40% of all households in Amsterdam no longer receive unwanted advertising material. The full results of the study have been published in the scientific journal Environmental Economics and Policy.

Municipal cost savings

The reduction in paper waste has also lowered the City of Amsterdam’s costs for collecting, transporting and recycling waste paper. The study shows that this change saves the city anything from 135,000 to 285,000 euros per year. If the whole of the Netherlands switched to a YES/YES system, the annual cost reduction could be between 14 million and 30 million euros. -These savings free up money that municipalities can then spend on other things. Or they could decide to lower municipal taxes,- says lead researcher Endendijk.

Most municipalities in the Netherlands still use a NO/NO system for unaddressed advertising and free local newspapers. Unless a household puts a NO/NO sticker on its letterbox, this kind of mail is delivered by default. Flipping this system so that this kind of mail is only delivered to households who give permission by putting up a YES/YES sticker means that households without a sticker no longer receive unaddressed mail.
In other words, a small change in letterbox stickers can have a relatively large impact in terms of reducing waste paper. As Professor Botzen of VU Amsterdam observes, -The costs associated with introducing the YES/YES sticker are low, but the benefits are considerable. This is a unique opportunity for municipalities to reduce their environmental impact while saving money.