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Summit Recycling Project asks for more recycling bins in post offices

Jane Stebbins

FRISCO – Three weeks after U.S. Postal Service officials relented and allowed Summit Recycling Project (SRP) to put only three of its recycling bins back into each local post office, workers are overwhelmed with flyers, magazines and junk mail solicitations.

Post office operations manager Sheryl Wilson told SRP Aug. 19 to remove its bins from all Summit County post offices because the postal service is not in the recycling business, nor is it in the business of helping people throw away their mail.

Most of that mail is mass mailers – junk mail – which makes up about 85 percent of postal revenue, Wilson said.

It also represents a substantial percentage of what people toss into recycling bins.

Wilson and the SRP came to a consensus: There will be three, not 12, recycling bins in each post office; they will have lids with slots on them to help deter identity theft; SRP’s signs will read “Paper Recycling” instead of “Mail Recycling” and SRP staff will collect recycling six days a week instead of three.

But Summit Countians love to recycle, and SRP workers can’t keep up with them. At the end of most days, bins are overflowing.

“It’s just not working,”said Carly Wier, SRP executive director. “This supposed solution isn’t going to last for long. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Two SRP staffers pick up recycleables at each of the town’s post offices and two postal annexes, all the elementary schools and the middle school, the community and senior center, Frisco’s town hall and public works department and a smattering of businesses that contract the work to them.

Picking up recycleables six days a week at the post offices, rather than three, is putting them behind.

“We’re already not getting everything done in a day,” Wier said. “We have to maintain sites, load appliances, haul the material to Denver, bale materials and do the pickups.”

Wier said she asked Wilson to let SRP add three more bins in each post office and reduce the number of pick-up days to four.

“We’re not going to do that,” Wilson said. “We have concerns for the post office. The (recycling) bins were quite large, they’re not cost-effective for the post office. We need to respond to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, be handicapped accessible, it’s hard to clean around them, we’re not a full recycling unit, we’re concerned about the privacy of customers.

“We’ll look at it after a while, but we just started the process and they’re complaining immediately,” Wilson continued. “Six bins in the lobby is excessive. We’re willing to work with them, but we’re not going to let our business needs go by the wayside for theirs.”

She cited damage to post office floors due to heavy equipment used to haul recycling out of the buildings and people bringing in recycleables from outside as other reasons to limit the number of bins.

Wier said SRP will continue its daily recycling pickup through the rest of the week to show postal officials that it has tried to keep up with the recycling.

“After that,” she said, “we will start more activist tactics.” That could include a mass call-in to Wilson’s office, a petition drive and asking county commissioners and town councils to pass resolutions encouraging recycling in the post offices.

Mass mailings, however, are important to those who send them – and to the U.S. Postal Service.

“It’s a revenue stream,” said Dana Arnold, chief of staff for the White House Task Force on Waste Prevention and Recycling in Washington, D.C. “You don’t want to upset your customers, but they have two different customers here: one that wants to get the mail out, and the other one that’s supposed to read it. It’s a balancing act. It’s a tough one.”

According to the agency’s Web site, “advertising mail is viewed favorably by most households that receive it. About 73 percent of households read or look at this mail, and more than 62 percent find it useful or interesting.”

David Cunningham of Frisco, who sits on the SRP board, appealed to U.S. Rep. Mark Udall to intervene, saying Summit County is unique because the postal service doesn’t offer home postal delivery.

Arnold said local or regional managers are the ones who decide whether recycling options will be available for customers.

Yet, the agency’s policy says, “It is Postal Service policy to recycle all recoverable materials to foster the sustainable use of natural resources … The United States Postal Service is committed to a national pollution prevention program that will improve environmental quality and set a positive example in every community we serve. The focus of this … is on recycling undeliverable standard mail, paperboard and mail that is discarded in the lobbies of post offices.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or

jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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