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Recycling yanked from Eagle post office

Matt Zalaznick/ City Editor

Recycling bins stood ready for junk mail at the Eagle post office for just about a day.

Shortly after the bins were installed by resident John Gitchell, who was also funding the program, they were apparently removed on orders from regional headquarters.

“I’m disappointed,” Gitchell said. “I was really excited about providing that service and getting something going with recycling.”



Recycling bins will remain at the Vail post office and at some branches in Summit County. But the postal service wants to study its policies further before any more recycling bins are placed in any of its other 38,000 branches nationwide, said Jon Hummel, a Post Office operations manager based in Grand Junction.

“At this point in time, we are not expanding work-room or lobby recycling any further,” Hummel said. “It’s not that we’re not ever going to do it, but we want to make sure it’s the right decision.”

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The bins in the Vail post office are popular with residents who’ve said in interviews that they like to deposit junk mail and other things they’ve received right away.

Adam Palmer, director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability –a conservation group – said the postal service’s arguments against recycling bins are flimsy.

“The two arguments against recycling in post office lobbies that have come up are that there is potential for identity fraud if someone were to rifle through the recycling looking for personal information,” Palmer said, “and mass-mailing companies don’t like lobby recycling because they feel that people are less likely to read their propaganda.”



Mass-mailing companies are estimated to generate 85 percent of post office revenue. –

“If either held any water whatsoever, we would not see trash cans in post office lobbies,” Palmer said. “If you provide a trash can, why not a recycling bin?-

“Also, if you were a responsible company sending out mass mailings, wouldn’t you want unwanted items to be recycled rather than adding to our solid waste?” he added.

Recycling at the post office diverts paper from the Eagle County landfill. Paper represents 24 percent of the waste in the landfill, making it the No. 1 component, according to the Vail and Eagle County Solid Waste Study from 1999, Palmer said.

“Amidst local support, there seems to be lack of support for recycling from the upper level post office decision makers for whatever reason,” Palmer said.-

But stubbornness may be the real reason behind the resistance to recycling bins, he added.

“I think the real reason just comes down to resistance to change for change’s sake,” Palmer said.

The dispute has even attracted the attention of Eagle County’s congressman, Boulder Democrat Mark Udall, who has drafted legislation allowing the postal service to put recycling bins in its branches.

“Essentially what we are talking about here is trash,” Udall wrote in a letter to U.S. Postal Service District Manager Ellis Burgoyne. “Post office customers are either going to throw this unwanted material in the trash or they are going to recycle it.”-

Hummel, meanwhile, said recycling is under review.

“We have issues with our business mailers. It’s something they’re spending a lot of money on,” he said. “Is it our responsible to provide recycling to our customers or our customers responsible for doing their own recycling?

“We’re just gonna take a look at the whole system,” he said.

But Gitchell, who owns ECO products, a shop in Eagle, said he put some money and effort into the short-lived recycling program at the Eagle post office. He was planning to spend his advertising budget for the shop on the recycling program.

“They pulled the plug on me,” Gitchell said.

He has another solution, however, he said.

“I try to eliminate junk mail in the first place – I try not get on mailing lists and if I get on them, I try to get off, if I can,” he said.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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