General Question

LadyMmaLover's avatar

Can we make a recycling program that will help increase patronage of the US Postal Service?

Asked by LadyMmaLover (40points) May 1st, 2010

Will it help if a bill was passed that gave tax breaks to companies that participated in the “postal package system”. The Postal Package System (something I just made up) is a process for companies that ship products to increase recycling and patronage of the US Postal Service. If when one ordered a package from company X, company X included a return label for just the packing materials and the box (taking into consideration that those items are sufficient and do not need to be returned). The return label would be for use through the US Postal Service. This would increase recycling of boxes and packing materials. It would save money and save natural resources. It would also increase patronage of the postal service because all these light weight/empty packages are being shipped back. It will also give people an opportunity to feel like they are making a positive contribution.

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19 Answers

Kraigmo's avatar

It’s a great idea and they should offer such an option. I don’t know if it will be hugely successful, but that doesn’t matter since there is no risk involved. They should do it.

marinelife's avatar

I think it’s a great idea. hen you set up your website promoting it, let me know where to sign up to support it.

wundayatta's avatar

How willl it be paid for?

laureth's avatar

Would it save more gasoline and air pollution to recycle the box in your local neighborhood recycling facility (where such exists), or to mail that box across the country to be recycled?

If you have a compost pile, it doesn’t have to go very far at all.

iam2smart99037's avatar

Why don’t we get mail trucks to do other things than deliver mail? Such as pick up a bin full of paper that a resident leaves at the curb to be recycled? Some places already have curbside recycling, but here in Oklahoma, we do not. I have no idea about the cubic footage of cargo space in mail trucks, but I reckon they could be used for something. They’re already going through every neighborhood, to nearly every house. They could charge a small fee, and in turn balance the post office’s budget (since they refuse to run a government agency as efficiently as a business) while recycling paper.

iam2smart99037's avatar

…back to your topic, I think the idea is a good one. Recycling is great and that’s a crafty way to keep those boxes from going into the trash.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

It’s a good idea, but also think about what would be wasted with a product like that. Say you are from California and ordered a package from Maine. After all the fuel it took to ship that package across the country, would it really save resources to ship the box back? And would the money that would have to be paid for the shipping process actually save more money than buying new boxes? These are all things you should consider when designing a program like that.

augustlan's avatar

Good for you for thinking about this! I think your idea is good, but not really practical (fuel costs and pollution, etc). What about this: The mail trucks will take back the packaging materials when left out at the mail box, and recycle them locally. Either by reselling the goods to local shippers or taking them to the local recycling plant.

laureth's avatar

@iam2smart99037 – Interestingly, the USPS is probably the most businesslike governmental agency.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

You seem to have this idea (a mistaken idea, by the way) that “recycling” is worth paying extra for. Generally, packaging is worth less… a whole lot less… than the cost of transporting it from place to place.

In this case, let’s assume that there’s also a “disposal cost” that the recipient bears. If the combined cost of packaging (assuming it could be reused—let’s stipulate that) + disposal cost is greater than or at least equal to the cost of returning it to the sender (and we also need to stipulate here that the sender wants and can use the now-empty packing materials) then this idea makes sense. Maybe.

Some of the problems that arise with this are:
How many cycles will the packing materials last for? If the packing has to be made sturdier (read: ‘heavier’) than normal one-time-use packing, then the shipping and return costs have just been raised. Is it still economically worthwhile?

If the packing materials are made in such a way that they are reusable and sturdy, then consumers may elect to just retain them anyway for their own use. (A lot of people do this already with ‘disposable’ packaging.) All of a sudden shippers have to raise the prices they charge to cover the cost of more expensive cartons in the first place—plus the replacement costs for the ones that don’t come back. Deposits paid on cartons at ship time increase costs to consumers directly, cutting into sales.

@augustlan‘s twist on the idea has some merit, but even then: the cost of pickup and distribution of the packing materials is not insignificant. (In addition there’s a problem there with shipping labels and identity / privacy issues.) In my neighborhood the mail carrier walks with a pretty well loaded bag; he doesn’t have a place to stash random cartons for return. The union would have something to say about all of this, I’m sure, since it would be enough added work to employ more people and raise costs.

But do keep thinking… um… outside the box. Sorry. That just slipped out.

gailcalled's avatar

I usually get dozens of unwanted glossy catalogues (some duplicated) that go straight from the PO to the recycling center. Even after trying to stop them, every time I buy something from LLBean, I am put right back on everyone’s mailing list.

I do break down cardboard and recycle them. Many companies are no longer using that styrofoam popcorn but crumpled newspaper. That I can use to wash windows and start fires in the stove.

iam2smart99037's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – so you suggest that we do not make attempts at recycling because it’s uneconomical? The opinion of what recycling is “worth” is up to the person and how much they care about the environment.

@laureth – Just because the post office has the power to sue and build it’s own buildings doesn’t make its horrid inefficiency any more acceptable. The keyword was that it doesn’t RUN like a business, with its biggest investors (taxpayers) in mind. It hemorrhages money, like a typical government agency.

laureth's avatar

@iam2smart99037 – Currently, the USPS receives no tax dollars, although if they don’t become fiscally sound, they might in the future.

iam2smart99037's avatar

@laureth – “The USPS does get some taxpayer support. Around $96 million is budgeted annually by Congress for the “Postal Service Fund.”

That was a direct quote from the link you posted earlier.

laureth's avatar

@iam2smart99037 – The rest of the quotation that you didn’t include reads, ”...These funds are used to compensate USPS for postage-free mailing for all legally blind persons and for mail-in election ballots sent from US citizens living overseas. A portion of the funds also pays USPS for providing address information to state and local child support enforcement agencies, and for keeping some rural posts offices in operation.”

Sounds like a fee for service to me, not unlike someone buying stamps. One can argue whether it’s worth paying for that service, but it is not pure taxpayer subsidy for regular operations as you seem to imply.

iam2smart99037's avatar

The fee is in the postage stamp that we have to buy to use the service. The USPS has to have that 96 million because they are so inefficient. A regular, private business has to pay federal taxes and is not compensated by the taxpayers because it has competition.

iam2smart99037's avatar

…..unless you’re GM or Chrysler

laureth's avatar

You are correct, when you and I buy a postage stamp, that is a fee for service. And that $96m is in exchange for services, such as “providing address information to state and local child support enforcement agencies” or moving election ballots “from US citizens living overseas” as a service to the government. If the $96m were just dumped in to cover inefficiency, the government would not be getting those services in exchange.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@iam2smart99037 of course. Any time that an action is uneconomical it is, by definition, “a waste”. I didn’t say that all recycling is uneconomical, did I?

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