Postal service relents; recycling returns
SUMMIT COUNTY – The bins are back – for good this time.
Summit Recycling Project (SRP) officials met Wednesday with U.S. Postal Service representatives and reached an agreement that will allow SRP to place its bins back in Summit County post offices.
“We’re back in action,” said Carly Wier, executive director of SRP. “It’s quite exciting. In the end, this is exactly what we wanted.”
Regional postal service officials told SRP to remove their bins almost two months ago, saying the federal agency is not in the business of recycling.
They also noted that the mass mailing industry – the folks who provide unsolicited, or “junk” mail – don’t like postal patrons recycling their unwanted mail. The postal service receives about 85 percent of its revenue from mass mailings. According to regional operations manager Sheryl Wilson, the mass mailing industry believes that if postal patrons don’t have the opportunity to recycle their unwanted mail, they’re more likely to take it home and read it.
Postal officials limited the number of recycling bins in each post office to three – down from the original 12 – and required that they be emptied daily. Additionally, SRP had to provide slotted lids on the bins to deter identity theft.
Wilson also cited Americans with Disabilities Act and OSHA regulations, saying the recycling bins could make it difficult for people to negotiate the hallways. She could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In the past eight weeks, both the SRP bins and the post office’s trash bins have filled to overflowing, in many cases, on a daily basis. Wilson had required SRP to pick up recycleables every day, but a limited staff and other recycling commitments made that virtually impossible.
“It wasn’t good,” Dillon and Silverthorne postmaster Rick Sprague said of the past two months. “But apparently everyone’s happy now.”
According to Wier, the nonprofit can now reinstate recycling bins based on the volume of material each post office receives, and it will resume its thrice-weekly pickup schedule. SRP will also adjust the number of bins during the holiday season so they can deal with increased volume. In some post offices, the holiday season results in up to three times as much waste compared to other times of the year.
Wier attributes the postal agency’s change of heart to citizen phone calls and pressure county commissioners and Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder, put on the agency. A representative from Wilson’s office called Wier to set up a meeting to come to a compromise, even though Wilson had repeatedly said the agency would not compromise on the issue.
“We are so happy to be able to provide convenient recycling services to local post office patrons again,” Wier said. “We believe it’s a program that will work for everyone, including post office patrons, the post office staff and Summit Recycling Project. I’m glad there’s been some resolution.”
County Commissioner Bill Wallace said the agreement was more a matter of each side understanding where the other had issues.
“It’s one of those crazy things that when people sit down and talk about their problems, the problem can get solved,” he said. “Whatever issue we had with the post office, it turned 180 degrees.”
Breck will still represent a challenge, Wier said, because the aisles are narrower than those in the other facilities. SRP hopes to accommodate that by placing a larger collection bin in the breezeway outside the office.
The post office recycling bins are for mixed paper generated from post office boxes only, and not for outside recycling from homes or businesses.
Summit Recycling Project is a nonprofit whose mission is to minimize waste in Summit County. The organization provides free recycling collection in post offices, the Community and Senior Center, the elementary and middle schools and some town halls.
For the nearest recycling drop-off center, contact SRP at (970) 668-5703.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at
(970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or
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