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Properly Marking Re-Used Boxes That Contained Hazardous Materials

To protect the health and safety of Postal ServiceTM employees and the general public, the Postal Service has procedures for the safe acceptance, handling, and delivery of hazardous materials. Postal Service employees must prevent packages containing hazardous materials from entering the mailstream unless the package meets all Postal Service requirements for mailing. Employees are instructed to remove nonmailable items from the mail and isolate them for retrieval by the customer. Employees at processing facilities assume that the markings and labels on the outside of a package indicate the actual contents of the package.

We all need to be aware of the items we are accepting from customers. We can become aware by asking the HAZMAT question and by examining the package closely to look for nonmailable markings and labels.

Re-used Boxes

For mailing packages, customers often use boxes that originally contained common hazardous or nonmailable materials (e.g., bleach, cosmetics, household cleaners, and liquor). It is acceptable for customers to re-use such boxes for mailing provided that all original markings and labels on the box have either been removed or are completely obliterated (see images below). If any of the box's former markings or labels of nonmailable contents are visible, the Postal Service cannot accept the box for mailing.

image of unacceptable box and acceptable box

Postal Service employees may not remove, cross out, or obliterate markings or labels on a mailpiece, even if directed to do so by a mailer. Preparing a box for mailing may only be performed by the mailer or the mailer's authorized representative. By correctly packaging mail at initial acceptance, customers avoid the inconvenience of having to retrieve a nonmailable parcel.

Remember to closely inspect each mailpiece and ask customers about markings or labels that indicate potential hazardous materials.

— Mail Aviation Security, Network Operations Management, 12-8-05