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Earth Day 2019: Recycle for America

Sustainability is all about balancing the needs of people, planet, and profit to ensure a viable United States Postal Service® that provides affordable, universal service for current and future generations. Some people refer to this idea as the triple bottom line of sustainability. Postal Service employees are working hard to ensure sustainability. For Earth Day 2019, here are several examples of how the USPS® is putting its stamp on a greener tomorrow:

New Recycling Management Instruction

Effective February 2019, the Postal Service issued Management Instruction EL-890-2019-4, Recycling Standards for Paper, Cardboard, and Plastic for Mail Processing and Delivery Operations, to provide important recycling policy updates and clarify roles and responsibilities. The Postal Service generates significant quantities of recyclable paper (primarily undeliverable marketing mail), cardboard, and plastics that impact our business. To support our recycling efforts, the Postal Service continues to:

n Establish hub recycling facilities to increase backhaul recycling participation, and

n Require paper, cardboard, and plastic recycling at Processing and Delivery unit operations.

Learn more about USPS recycling operations at

Backhaul Recycling

Backhaul recycling is a process where Delivery and Retail units return their paper recyclables, such as undeliverable marketing mail and office paper, in empty mail transportation equipment to their consolidating hub recycling facility.

Did you know that the Postal Service recycled over 268,000 tons of paper in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 by backhaul recycling? That is equivalent to filling 100,000 orange hampers with paper every month.

The Postal Service installed 270 dumpers and compactors for recycling paper at over 170 hub sites across the country. By diverting paper from landfills in FY 2018, the Postal Service:

n Saved over $14 million in landfill costs.

n Recycled 40,000 tons of cardboard.

n Recycled 4,000 tons of clear plastic wrap.

Recycling equipment handler.


Nationally-installed recycling equipment handles undeliverable mail.

Facility Database System Recycling Module

Most Post Offices update their Facility Database (FDB) information annually. The FDB serves as a centralized, complete, and accurate source of Postal Service facility information. A module was recently added to the FDB for recycling data. Recycling data is closely monitored to improve existing support services and develop new services. FY 2018 FDB results reported that nearly 17,000 Post Offices, branches, and stations participated in backhaul recycling, while over 17,000 sites recycled batteries.

Delivery and Retail Units Recycling Toolkit

The Office of Sustainability updated the National Recycling Operation (NRO) website to make it easier for facilities to find the recycling information they need. Post Offices and plants now have direct links to recycling procedures and training resources on the NRO site. Postal Service employees can use the interactive Recycling Toolkit to:

n Learn about their servicing hub facility’s specific backhaul recycling procedures,

n Receive guidance on recycling performance and recycling equipment, and

n Manage recycling contracts.

Find the Recycling Toolkit at, or by clicking the Recycling Toolkit/National Recycling Operation link from the Sustainability website (

Recycling Discarded Lobby Mail

Post Offices that participate in backhaul recycling can also recycle their discarded lobby mail (DLM) using USPS-approved containers. DLM must be collected from approved lobby recycling collection containers following standard procedures, as customers sometimes also discard First-Class Mail® pieces into the recycling containers. These procedures help identify DLM and avoid accidentally mixing the DLM with live mail at the hub recycling facility.

DLM recycling container.

USPS-approved DLM recycling container

Used Battery and Lamp Recycling Requirements

Used batteries and lamps may be regulated waste and must never be thrown in the trash. Use the battery and lamp recycling services available in eBuy2 to order Cleanlites mailback containers or arrange for on-site pickup by a local Cleanlites representative:

n Waste Batteries. Most batteries must be managed as Universal Waste, with some exceptions (see The Postal Service uses many different battery types and sizes, including lithium, lithium-ion, nickel-cadmium, and lead-acid. Lithium and lithium-ion batteries from handheld scanners and portable electronic devices are the most common regulated battery type generated at USPS sites.

n Waste Lamps: Manage lamps containing hazardous materials as Universal Waste (see Common regulated lamps include, but are not limited to, 4- and 8-foot fluorescent bulbs.

Note: The Postal Service canceled the internal battery mailback programs. Do not send waste batteries through the mail or return spent batteries to the Topeka Asset Recovery Center.


Electronic Waste Recycling

In FY 2018, the Postal Service recycled almost 2,000 tons of electronic waste (commonly known as E-waste). E–waste includes a variety of items such as:

n Power tools,

n Small electronic components,

n Surge protectors and cords, and

n Obsolete or broken electronic devices.

Most E-waste is regulated and must be handled properly to protect the environment as well as confidential information. USPS Maintenance Management Order MMO–042-12 provides instruction for proper handling and shipping of E-waste for recycling at the Topeka Material Distribution Center (TMDC). E-waste must be handled in an environmentally responsible manner. Information Technology (IT) has specific requirements for ACE hardware and mobile electronic devices. Please contact your local IT department for specific instructions on recycling E-waste. Here are some E-waste policy documents:

n MMO-014-12, Parts Harvesting Information for Excessed Mail Processing Equipment.

n MMO-015-12, Inventory Stockroom Excessing Policy.

n MMO-016-12, Asset Management for Excess Mail Processing Equipment.

Printer and Toner Cartridge Recycling

The Postal Service sponsors a printer and toner cartridge recycling program through the mail that provides revenue. This initiative, known as the Federal Recycling Program, is available to all federal agencies. In FY 2018, the Postal Service led all Federal agencies by collecting over 179,000 used cartridges, which generated over $328,000 in revenue. Instructions for shipping and printing out unique tracking labels to recycle toner and ink cartridges are available at

Plastic Bucket and Tray Recycling

In FY 2018, the TMDC began accepting spent, plastic buckets and trays from flat sorting machines. The buckets and trays are used to move magazines and flats through the flat-sorting machine process and to the carriers at Flats Sequencing System sites. Before TMDC accepted these items, processing facilities disposed of the trays and buckets locally, which increased landfill waste and trash costs. The Postal Service has collected over 170,000 pounds of plastic material through this operation. Visit for information about the resources at TMDC.