It’s a party at the post office
Dillon Valley resident Laura Champe went to pick up her mail Friday afternoon to find a sanctioned government party at the Dillon Post Office.
U.S. Rep. Mark Udall and U.S. Postal Service officials were sipping punch in suits and ties and munching on baked goods with Dillon and Silverthorne town council members, Summit County commissioners and recycling leaders.
They were all celebrating the cooperative effort of the past several months that resulted in Colorado’s pilot program for recycling unwanted mail at post offices. On Friday, officials unveiled new recycling bins designed to help citizens recycle flyers and prevent identity theft.
When Champe learned that the lobby full of people included the government officials who instituted a statewide post office recycling program, she smiled.
“It’s wonderful. It makes perfect sense to have those recycling barrels at the post office,” Champe said. “Whatever the government can do to make recycling even easier for everyone, it’s a good thing.”
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Champe estimates about half of her mail goes directly into the recycling bin – after she looks at it of course.
That’s a little more than postal spokesman Al DeSarro said is the average volume of direct mail flowing through the postal recycling system at any given time. About 43 percent of the U.S. Postal Service business comes from advertisers who pay a hefty portion of USPS revenues to tap into millions of postal customers’ mailboxes, he said.
With the Postal Service’s growing, $7 billion debt, mailed flyers and advertisements help subsidize the U.S. mail service.
“It’s just a perception that the mail is not valuable if it’s recycled,” said Marjie Griek, executive director of the Colorado Association for Recycling. “Recycled mail is actually twice as valuable as mail in the trash, or up to six times, depending on how many times it’s been recycled.”
Last year the local postal service took away recycling bins.
The public outcry in Summit County was so great that Udall heard about it back in Washington, D.C. Udall and local officials and the Postal Service’s Colorado/Wyoming district manager, Ellis Burgoyne, worked out a way to recycle at post offices again.
The Postal Service this week invested several thousand dollars to buy recycling bins and educational posters for dozens of Colorado post offices, where the program will be tested during the next year, DeSarro said. To prevent identity theft, the bins remain locked until recyclers come around to empty them.
Colorado communities that have effective recycling programs under way – such as the Summit Recycling Project – will be able to participate.
It’s up to post office customers to help assure that the year-long pilot program is successful and continues into the future, DeSarro said. Customers are asked to only throw unwanted paper items they receive at the post office into the bins.
Plastic and cardboard items will not be recycled at the post office. Nor will materials from home, DeSarro said.
“Sometimes people tell me, “Why recycle? It’s not going to help anything,'” said Carly Wier, executive director of the Summit Recycling Project. “I disagree. You are definitely making a difference here in Summit County.
“Last year Summit County P.O. box users recycled 438 tons of paper. Your efforts saved enough energy to heat 43 households for one year,” Wier said. “That’s 508 tons of carbon dioxide kept out of the atmosphere and 10,000 trees that weren’t cut down.”
“Recycling isn’t frivolous. As one of the most affluent nations in the world, we have an obligation to show others how to create sustainable communities,” he said. “Summit County residents stood up for the right thing.”