Product Takeback Initiatives
Through partnerships with business and government, mail is being used to properly dispose of products that might otherwise be harmful to the environment including computer equipment, printer supplies, cell phones, rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and prescription drugs. For example, one state has partnered with the Postal Service to provide the nation’s first program to help consumers dispose of excess medicines by mail. Consumers will be able to put unused prescriptions or unwanted over-the-counter drugs in pre-addressed, postage-paid pouches available at many pharmacies. The pouches are mailed to the state’s Drug Enforcement Agency for proper disposal.
Pollution Prevention And Recycling
Each year the Postal Service recycles one million tons of paper, plastic, and other material, resulting in millions of dollars in revenues and cost avoidance. In 2007, $7.5 million was generated through recycling and waste prevention. The Postal Service also purchases more than $200 million in products with recycled content, including envelopes, packaging, and mail containers. New water-based inks used to print stamps are made from soybeans and contain no heavy metals. Stamps are produced with gum-free pressure sensitive adhesive to ease recycling. By switching to linerless labels on stamp coils, 700 tons of scrap paper was eliminated and disposal costs cut.
The Solid and Hazardous Waste Program ensures that potentially hazardous and toxic wastes are handled in a way that safeguards public health and the environment and meets legal mandates. The Postal Service is reducing municipal solid waste and industrial waste through its partnership with EPA’s WasteWise program, which challenges organizations to cut waste in innovative ways. The Alabama District won the EPA 2007 WasteWise Partner of the Year Award, the program’s highest honor. This marked the eighth year in a row that the Postal Service has received this honor. The Total Solid Waste Management effort was also recognized with a White House Closing the Circle Award.
Environmental Footprint of Mail
The Postal Service has sponsored several initiatives to quantify the impacts of mail, including the 2007 Environmental Impact of Mail study. This study showed that advertising mail, through the elimination of shopping trips, harmful emissions, and traffic accidents, results in an annual $553 million net benefit to the American economy. The Postal Service also reinstated the Greening of the Mail Task Force, originally formed in 1995. Participants include mailers, industry groups, suppliers, regulators (Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Office of the Federal Environmental Executive) and the National Recycling Coalition. This task force will drive a multi-year effort to improve mailpiece design, improve address and list quality, expand recycling and waste-disposal practices related to mail, and improve communication on the impacts of mail on the economy and society.
Supporting the Greening of the Mail Task Force is a life-cycle inventory model, prototyped by the Postal Service to identify the environmental impacts of different classes of mail. The model covers mailpiece production through disposal, and identifies the most significant environmental impacts in the process. The Task Force will help refine the data and will use the model results to prioritize initiatives.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Strategy And Management
A greenhouse gas emissions inventory was developed and a request for data was issued. The greenhouse gas emissions inventory will account for all postal facilities, operations and fleet. This inventory adheres to the California Climate Action Registry protocol, which has been adopted by approximately 34 states and may become the national standard.
This initiative will baseline the organization’s carbon footprint in advance of expected state and federal regulations on reporting and restricting carbon emissions. Participating in the greenhouse gas inventory now has many benefits to the organization, including:
- The Postal Service can be more responsive to business customers who have made their own greenhouse gas reduction commitments.
- The inventory will support internal decision-making on carbon strategy and climate change, and address implications from energy acquisition and use, purchasing, construction, and contracted mail transport services.
- The inventory enables the Postal Service to establish and protect baseline emission levels, allowing the organization to take credit for early emission reductions.
Environmental Management System
The Postal Service continued to upgrade and streamline the Environmental Management System. The Postal Service has initiated the E-PEG (Environmental Program Evaluation Guide) to measure performance with environmental and operational best management practices. In 2007, 18 facilities earned National Performance Track recognition . EPA’s standard for excellence for Environmental Management Systems. The Postal Service is the federal leader in National Performance Track and ranks in the top three.