Finland’s postal service is to begin opening household mail and sending scanned copies of letters by email to cut down on costs and pollution. Not even the most intimate love letters, payslips, overdue bills and other personal messages will be spared under the controversial scheme.

The service, aimed at cutting the number of postmen and reducing CO2 emissions in the sparsely-populated country, is being offered on a voluntary basis initially. Volunteers will receive an email or a mobile phone text message as soon as their paper mail has been opened, scanned and sent as an electronic image to a secure digital mailbox, to which only the intended recipient has access.

The “highly automated” process of converting of letters into electronic documents will be conducted in “special, secured premises” where staff are bound by strict confidentiality obligations…

 “This is totally different from email. It is comparable to web banking,” said Tommi Tikka, a director at Itella, the state-owned company which runs the Nordic country’s postal system.

Mr Tikka insisted that the service complied with laws protecting the sanctity of the mail and promised that Itella would not keep copies of letters. “Our workers do not read the mail. How could love letters be filtered out?,” he said.

“We want to find out what kind of content clients want to start receiving electronically. Are personal letters among those that are not wanted in a digital form? We will find out.” So far, 126 households and 20 businesses in Anttila, an area of scattered settlement in the southern Finnish town of Porvoo, have volunteered to join the trial, which starts on April 12 and runs until the end of the year.