Recycling gets stamp of approval

Deal allows post office to recycle undeliverable mail

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— The piles of undeliverable mail that stack up at Steamboat Springs' downtown post office usually end up in the trash bin.

But for the past month, through a deal between Waste Management and the post office -- with help from Yampa Valley Recycles -- that mail has found its way into a 4-cubic-yard recycling container.

The post office's pilot recycling program is off to a fast start -- Waste Management picks up approximately one ton of paper every week, Postmaster Bill Butler said.

According to Yampa Valley Recycles, one ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 6,953 gallons of water, 463 gallons of oil, 587 pounds of air pollution and 4,077 kilowatt hours of energy.

"This is a very positive step," Yampa Valley Recycles chairwoman Barb Hughes said.

Previous attempts to institute recycling at the post office were rejected by former postmasters, largely because of United States Postal Service regulations, Hughes said. With Butler at the helm, Yampa Valley Recycles wanted to make another pitch, she said.

Yampa Valley Recycles set up a meeting with Butler and Waste Management. At the meeting, a tour of the post office's back room revealed the extent to which recycling was needed.

"It's unbelievable how much mail there is that's undeliverable," Hughes said. "We were amazed."

However, USPS recycling regulations stipulate a post office recycling program cannot cost any money. Because much of the post office's trash is recyclable paper, a recycling program would result in significantly less trash pick up, Hughes said.

Waste Management and Butler arrived at a deal whereby the recycling program does not cost any more than what the post office was already paying for trash service.

"So far it hasn't cost us any money," Butler said.

The program is limited to recycling only undeliverable mail, which must be determined by postal workers. At this time, customers cannot use the recycling bin. Hughes and Butler hope the program can be expanded to include recycling bins in the post office lobby for customers to dump junk mail and other recyclable paper products that arrive in post office boxes daily.

"We're just in the baby stages of it," Butler said. "We hope to work up to where we can do it in the lobby, too. Then, I suspect we will double the volume (of recycled materials)."

Butler also encouraged residents to stop by the post office to check whether they live in areas where mail is deliverable. Mail that can be delivered to home addresses or cluster boxes cuts down on the air pollution generated by postal customers making daily car trips to the post office and decreases the volume of undeliverable mail, Butler said.

Some residents have illegally dumped trash into the new recycling container. If the contamination continues, the recycling program could be jeopardized, Hughes said.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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