Udall works to restore post office recycling
SUMMIT COUNTY – U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder, penned a letter to the U.S. Postal Service’s district manager in Denver Tuesday asking the agency to use common sense and fully restore recycling in its Summit County post offices.
The issue arose last month when regional manager Sheryl Wilson instructed postmasters in Summit County’s four post offices to remove recycling bins from their lobbies.
Postmasters said the bins make it too easy for people to recycle their junk mail, which accounts for 85 percent of the postal service’s revenue.
Udall and numerous local residents appealed to the postal service and, within three days, the bins were back – on a limited basis. Under the new rules outlined by Wilson, Summit Recycling Project (SRP) could only install three bins, not 12 as before, in each post office, and they must empty the bins six days a week.
That, however, isn’t working, said Carly Wier, executive director of SRP. The bins fill quickly and people throw what’s left into the trash, Wier said. Additionally, SRP’s limited staff – including one staff member who recently suffered a broken leg – makes it almost impossible to get to all the post offices every day and still get other work done.
“Some people see the blue bins and think it’s solved,” she said. “People aware of the program know there’s something wrong. The trash is overflowing. It’s a lot fuller than it ever has been. “
The 2nd District congressman, who represents Summit County, agreed.
“I am concerned about new rules and regulations that have been imposed by the local postal service officials – rules and regulations that are now making recycling very difficult and seem to have as their objective an end to effective junk mail recycling,” Udall wrote to district manager Ellis Burgoyne.
“I must say that I find this attitude very disturbing, especially given the postal service’s policy supporting recycling.”
Wier agreed, saying the changes have made her staff’s job that much harder.
“We are way behind on everything,” she said. “School has just started, and normally by this time, we’re running smoothly. We’re still getting bins to the schools and developing the pickup program. We haven’t had time. It’s frustrating.”
Last month, Udall told postal officials that recycling bins are needed in some rural post offices, particularly those areas where home delivery is limited or nonexistent.
Postal officials said that by eliminating the opportunity to recycle in the post offices, customers might be more likely to take their junk mail home and read it, rather than toss it out.
Udall said this week that the controversy the policy has brought about isn’t worth the effort.
“It creates a public impression that the postal service is wed to rules that have little, if anything, to do with efficient mail delivery and are more about punishing a local government for successfully challenging a local post office official’s decision,” he wrote. “If we are to make recycling effective, we need to make it easy and accessible to the public.”
He then asked Burgoyne to review the recycling policy and consider restoring the program in full.
“This program has been in place for over five years and it served both the community and the post offices very well,” Udall said. “Essentially what we are talking about here is trash. Post office customers are either going to throw this unwanted material in the trash or they are going to recycle it.”
Udall also said the postal service’s argument that the open recycling bins don’t provide privacy for customers who toss their junk mail away doesn’t hold water, either.
“The rules ought to be the same for trash and recycled materials,” he said. “If there is concern over privacy regarding discarded mail in recycling bins, this concern also applies to discarded mail in trash cans, yet I am not aware of any requirement that the trash cans at post offices be so covered.”
Wier has yet to hear from Burgoyne, but is holding out hopes that the problem will be rectified.
“I really want the old system back in place,” she said. “It was easy for users, and it was easy for the recycling staff.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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