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Mail customers angry over recycling decision

Jane Stebbins

SUMMIT COUNTY – Into the trash.

That’s what the majority of people at the Frisco post office said they will do with their junk mail after Summit Recycling Project (SRP) workers removed recycling bins from all Summit County post offices Thursday.

“It’ll just hit the trash can or the first Dumpster I see on the way home,” said Pam Scott of Frisco. “I’m not taking it home.”

Many Summit County citizens were outraged Thursday when they learned that regional post office operations manager Sheryl Wilson sent a memo to the post offices in her district telling employees to remove the recycling bins.

“We’re in the business of delivering the mail, not helping customers discard it,” Wilson said, adding that the no-

recycling policy hasn’t been enforced in the past, and she’s just trying to abide by the rules. “It’s really defeating the purpose when we turn around and provide additional spots for them to throw it out.”

Wilson also said the recycling decision concerns issues of customers’ security and privacy.

Still, customers have come to expect the recycling service.

“I’ll just throw it out,” said Brian Holt of Frisco of his junk mail. “I don’t want it. I didn’t ask for it in my box. I just recycled five pounds of paper. They’re going to have to put a Dumpster in here.”

Brian Miller of Breckenridge agrees.

“Not having that opportunity is a huge bummer. This is just wrong,” the Breckenridge man said. “Ninety percent of the people are just going to throw it (their mass mailers) away.”

Postmasters throughout the county disagree, saying that by removing the recycling option, people might be more inclined to take their mass mailers home and read them.

The mass mailer industry provides the postal service with about 85 percent of its revenue, and with increasing numbers of people signing up on “no-call” lists for telemarketers, companies have fewer options to capture the eyes of consumers.

Frisco Postmaster Terry McGeehan expects a backlash.

“She’s not doing this to harass people or make hardships,” he said Thursday of Wilson’s decision. “I’m just doing what I’m told. She thinks people can do it themselves. We’ve been taking a bit of abuse here today.”

Marianne Gold of Frisco said she feels sorry for the local postal workers, but quickly added that she, too, will probably throw her mass mailers away rather than recycle them.

Jim Lamb, a Green Party council member in Breckenridge, remembers the days before the recycling bins were available and people would toss their junk mail in the trash – often to the point of overflowing.

He noted that, in the intervening years, people have become more aware of the importance of recycling, but acknowledges, too, that the pace of life has increased and people might be less inclined to recycle when a trash can is readily available.

He plans to bring up the issue at the next town council meeting, Aug. 26.

“Leave it to the federal government to come up with something this stupid,” he said. “I will take my junk mail home, but I still won’t read it. If they think I’m going to read it because I take it home, they are sadly mistaken. This is absolutely ridiculous. This is a huge step in the wrong direction for an environmentally friendly town.”

Justin McCarthy of Breckenridge, an environmental activist, feels the same way, citing the number of trees that are cut to make the mailers. According to various sources on the Internet, an estimated 100 million trees are cut down each year to supply companies with the paper needed to send mass mailers.

Summit County Landfill manager Ric Pocius estimates that 70 percent of the mail he receives is junk mail – catalogs, credit card applications, insurance solicitations, big-box retailer ads and solicitations for various organizations.

“I throw it in the recycle bins,” he said. “Their comment about taking it home and reading it is naive. I don’t even bother opening it. Now, I’ll probably end up throwing it in the trash – and the post office is going to have to pay to cart that trash away. My suggestion is that everyone put their mail in the trash to make them pay for it. And everyone should start using e-mail. This brings stupidity to a new high level.”

“If there’s a trash can, and you don’t want to hold on to something, you toss it,” McCarthy said. “This is definitely a step backward. It’s disappointing.”

The towns have no say – and, if past letters to the postal service are any indication, little sway – in how the post office is managed.

But Colorado legislators at the federal level are already hearing from scores of constituents regarding the change.

In response, Rep. Mark Udall, D-

Boulder, has sent a letter to the postmaster general in Washington, D.C., urging him to reconsider any policy that discourages recycling in post offices. Udall represents Summit County and the 2nd District.

“People are very upset about this decision,” said Udall’s press secretary Lawrence Pacheco. “If it’s a choice between protecting junk mail versus protecting the environment, Congressman Udall hopes post offices choose the latter. It doesn’t make sense. This is an example of how government can be out of touch with what the local community wants.”

Kevin Berg, operations manager for the Summit Recycling Project, said he’s received numerous calls about the edict. People are telling him they plan to toss their unwanted mail on the floor where the recycling bins used to be, push it back through their post office box onto the floor in the inner office or put the mail in the delivery boxes.

Beginning at 11 this morning, Berg and his coworkers plan to take to the streets with their large recycling carts and encourage people leaving the Dillon, Frisco and Breckenridge post offices to recycle their junk mail.

“I’m outraged,” said David Cunningham, who sits on the SRP board. “I really hope that they make an exception in Summit County. We’re a very unique area. We do not have home delivery, we don’t have curbside pickup.”


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