Mail can be a sustainable choice.

By understanding its entire life cycle, we can make better, more informed decisions that can significantly reduce our impact on the planet. By taking every opportunity to regenerate, reinvent, reduce, reuse and recycle, mail can contribute to a circular economy, and be part of an effective marketing mix.

Discover how mail can be sustainable. Watch our film 'The Circular Journey'.

Reuse & Recycling

Recycled paper fibres are re-used on average 3.8 times, and this can be up to 7 times [1]. In fact, over 70% of fibres used to make paper in the UK are recycled [2]. Paper is not only recycled into new paper but also into other products from egg boxes, animal bedding or insulation material [3].

Explore Reuse & Recycling


Royal Mail is rapidly decarbonising its distribution fleet, switching to renewable energy and using more electric vehicles. Not forgetting last mile delivery by posties on foot.

Explore Reduce


Paper comes from a natural regenerative crop - trees. Using raw materials from sustainably certified forests supports tree planting and biodiversity and helps absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Explore Regenerate


Innovations are transforming the paper processing and printing industry. These include returning water used in the paper process, back to the environment, using low-impact paper mills to generate renewable energy as well creating bio-degradable inks.

Explore Reinvent

The carbon Life Cycle Assessment of mail.

Opening the aperture on the carbon emissions for each stage of the mail process.

New research carried out by environmental experts, WSP and commissioned by Marketreach has produced a full carbon Life Cycle Assessment (LCA*) of Mail. It provides for the first time an in-depth look at the environmental impact and carbon emissions for each stage in the life of mail - from forest source to end-of-life, through the processing, design, production, delivery and recycling stages.

The 5 key stages of mail’s carbon life cycle

Make your mail carbon smart with the LCA Tool

Compare formats across the life cycle of mail

Choose your format to check carbon emissions

Total emissions by class
Total carbon emissions
1st class carbon emissions per product
Product Design Materials Printing Ink Delivery End of Life Total
Postcard 0.75 5.98 9.11 1 24.77 2 43.61
Occasion Card 0.94 13.03 9.11 0.5 24.77 3.33 51.68
DL outer and letter 0.68 15.24 9.11 2.01 24.77 3.75 55.55
C5 letter: Average 0.83 22.31 9.11 2 24.77 4.98 63.99
Leaflet: Average 1.85 28.44 9.11 2.26 24.77 5.64 72.06
A4 Letter 0.6 35.58 9.11 8.03 24.77 8.25 86.34
C5 catalogue: Average 9.2 29 9.11 82.28 24.77 8.22 162.59
A4 Letter (transactional pack) 4.11 82.35 9.11 40.14 24.77 23.88 184.36
Magazine: Average 26.37 133.6 9.11 92.32 24.77 41.48 327.65
A4 or C5 large catalogue 29.82 190.79 9.11 128.44 24.77 62.36 445.29

A checklist for circular, sustainable mail.

Ensure paper is sourced from certified forests

Check the paper you’re using is certified. A well-managed forest, where trees are felled and replanted, absorbs more carbon dioxide (CO2) than a mature forest. In fact, forests represent a proven carbon capture and storage system [6].

Think about materials

Are the inks you’re using biodegradable? Biodegradable inks use natural vegetable oils, such as soy, sunseed or rapeseed oil. Is the amount of ink coverage appropriate? Consider reducing the density of ink used, and where possible use colours which use less heat and require less time to dry.

Consider size of formats

Weight, size, pagination and type of paper matters. Smaller, simpler formats involve less processing, packaging and reduce carbon footprint when it comes to delivery.

Design for many life cycles

Make decisions that maximise circularity such as the type of formats, materials and inks used. Encourage end users to change too – by making customers aware of the advantages of circularity. This can have a big impact on the circularity of mail.

Keep up to date with Royal Mail’s decarbonisation targets

Keep up to date with Royal Mail’s decarbonisation targets

12% of Royal Mail’s overall emissions are from final mile deliveries and the goal is to reduce this to zero through different initiatives including, by Spring 2024, 5,000 electric vans (EVs), which is the UK’s largest electric van delivery fleet. With just over half of our delivery routes wholly or partially on foot, around 23% of our delivery routes are now zero-emission.

In our commitment to sustainability, we have achieved several  milestones:

  • 8% lower total carbon footprint compared to 2020-21

  • Royal Mail average emissions per parcel: 200 gCO2e, industry lowest

  • 27% less waste created compared to 2020-21
  • 10 million litres of biofuel deployed in our trucks
  • 100% renewable electricity in our buildings
  • 5,000 electric vans deployed

Find out about Royal Mail’s emission targets and initiatives such as the deployment of 10 million litres of biofuel in our trucks last years [7]. For the full Royal Mail ESG 2023/2024 ESG report see here.

Make your business move faster on sustainability

We are all on a journey towards circularity. So we need to engage with our partners. It is not realistic to become 100% sustainable in a short time but if many become more sustainable, sometimes imperfectly, the impact will be huge.

For more tips on how to create more sustainable mail campaigns, download our guide.

Ready to read more?

Our Life Cycle Assessment report and Using Mail More Sustainably Guide can help you make more informed choices to reduce the environmental impact of mail and help you create more sustainable mail campaigns.

Life Cycle Assessment

Want a deep dive into the carbon life cycle of mail?  Download the full report which covers all the technical facts and figures, methodology and entire life cycle analysis of 10 common mail formats.
Download now (opens in new window)

Using Mail More Sustainably Guide

Looking to improve the sustainability of your mail packs?  Download our guide for an essential checklist and tips on producing mail more sustainably from targeting, materials, design and so much more.
Download now (opens in new window)


Only through making informed decisions can we make the right ones. Everyone on a journey toward circularity in their media mix will need to deeply understand the processes involved, as well as answer the questions their business may ask. We hope these FAQs support your journey.

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