2010 Sustainability Report
Leaner | greener | faster | smarter

Our network | Greener facilities

Keeping waste out of landfills

In FY 2010, USPS generated 463,000 tons of solid waste. About 48 percent of our waste stream was undeliverable Standard Mail that couldn’t be forwarded or returned. The Postal Service worked hard this year to keep 53 percent of our total solid waste out of landfills, recycling 48 percent of it and diverting 5 percent to be converted to energy.

Our recycling initiatives now extend throughout our network — 20,000 Post Offices have facility recycling programs. And 11,000 are involved in backhauling, which increases recycling revenue. More than 10,000 locations offer customers lobby mail recycling, an 81 percent increase from FY 2009.

These efforts continue to reduce our solid waste costs and our impact on local landfills across America, as well as our global carbon footprint. And while we celebrate our success, we’re still searching for better ways to measure the waste we generate, and to track our recycling performance over time and across our 33,000 facilities.

We’re also analyzing tough questions. Why did we generate 463,000 tons of waste in FY 2010? How did nearly 218,000 tons make it to landfills? Is it due to more waste generation or less recycling? This information is important to know for environmental and financial reasons.

While we’ve made progress, with a 6 percent reduction in waste to landfill from our FY 2008 baseline, achieving our goal of an additional 44 percent reduction in five years will be very challenging.

We’re going to focus on waste prevention instead of waste management, and on doing more with fewer resources. We will continue to expand our lobby mail recycling programs and engage our customers in our recycling efforts.

MATCHING ADDRESSES REDUCES WASTE

When customers move their home or business, they complete a change-of-address form at usps.com or their local Post Office. And their First-Class Mail follows them.

When it can’t be forwarded, it’s returned to the senders and becomes part of their waste stream. But processing this undeliverable-as-addressed mail still uses extra fuel and energy.

To reduce this mail and the resources and costs of dispensing of it, USPS created the “move update” standard, which requires large mailers to match their address records with USPS change-of-address records more frequently. Updating mailing lists with a customer’s current address stops it from becoming part of our undeliverable-as-addressed volume.

Standard Mail that can’t be delivered as addressed works differently. It becomes a part of our waste stream and adds to our costs. This year, about 220,000 tons of undeliverable Standard Mail added significantly to the waste produced by our operations.

In FY 2008, there were 6 billion pieces of mail treated as waste. That same year, USPS expanded the “move update” program to include Standard Mail. In FY 2010, mail waste decreased by more than 2 billion pieces, a 33 percent decrease.