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US Post Offices in San Francisco improve dismal recycling rates

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An employee operates the recycling separator at the U.S. Postal Service’s recycling hub on Evans Street in San Francisco on Monday. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

The U.S. Post Offices in San Francisco are stepping up efforts to recycle after the agency was found to have among the worst waste rates among post offices nationwide.

An internal 2014 audit found more than half of the agency’s garbage that went to the landfill was recyclable, triggering an intervention by city officials with the Department of the Environment. But two years later, San Francisco’s postal service’s boost in recycling is drawing praise.

The Environment Commission is expected to vote today on a resolution commending the U.S. Postal Service San Francisco District for collaborating with The City to improve the recycling rate in 2015.

The 2014 audit was troublesome for a city striving to have no waste go into the landfill — and instead be recycled or composted — after 2020. San Francisco also requires businesses and residents to properly sort their trash, though that law doesn’t apply to federal or state agencies.

But since the Inspector General audit was released, the Department of Environment has worked with the U.S. Post Office to improve the recycling rates. The agency has decreased landfill service by an average of 70 percent in its 31 Post Office locations in San Francisco, saving more than $200,000 annually, according to the department.

This was achieved through training 3,500 postal workers, relocating or adding some 300 new recycling and compostable containers in all locations, and improved signage.

“It’s a great turnaround story,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Department of Environment.

He said the department was “just as surprised” as anyone over the audit’s findings.
“The City has a zero waste goal by 2020,” Rodriguez said. “It takes everyone participating.”

The audit found that “an average of 65 percent of the trash in San Francisco District dumpsters was recyclable because management did not make recycling a priority and did not implement procedures to backhaul at all designated hubs.” The recyclable material was mostly waste mail, discarded lobby mail, and office paper, cardboard and plastic.

“From fiscal years 2012 to 2013, the San Francisco District was among the highest in average monthly waste disposal costs ($112,049) and among the lowest in average monthly recycling revenue ($3,312),” the audit said.

Bay Area Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz said the agency has “been pushing sustainability for many years now” and is “very pleased” to be part to be a part of The City’s Zero Waste efforts.

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  • goodmaab

    As long as we keep getting piles of junk mail when we have a sign saying specifically no junk mail, the USPS is ignoring the rights of the individual.

  • dd808

    apparently you didn’t read the article. It has nothing to do with the mail you get at your home.

  • JY

    Having a sign is NOT going to stop the mail from coming. You have to contact EACH individual company in order for it to stop. The letter carrier has to deliver what’s received for the day; if not, they could lose their job.

  • goodmaab

    That’s why the Laws have to change.

  • goodmaab

    We can pat ourselves on the back for saving a few trees, it’s the Forrest that is the bigger concern. The main problem is the laws that serve corporations and not the environment

  • grannybunny

    In any mailing transaction, there are 2 customers: the mailer and the recipient. It would be absolutely wrong for the Postal Service to refuse to provide service to one of those customers, or to favor one over the other.

  • goodmaab

    It’s like privacy laws u have them or u don’t. Environmental laws are in the same vein, we enforce urban growth boundaries or recycling or we don’t.

    People pay the USPS lots to deliver ads flyers and thousands of pages of junk so that business interests keep their money flow. But if we do not begin to look at the junk piles and enforce some semblance of recycling or restrictive mailings we are
    Ignoring the limited supply of the planet and allowing some to profit while others get inundated and lose any world worth living in. Granny bunny for your grandkids sake think more than just their inheritance and think about the waste we see daily in the trash and Mail junk we receive daily

  • grannybunny

    Advertising mail is an important part of our economic system and is popular with mailers because it has a great return on investment. If recipients were not responding positively to that mail, mailers would quit sending it. A strong economy benefits all of us, including our grandchildren. Personally, I recycle my mail after reading it and encourage others to do the same. The Postal Service also recycles undeliverable bulk mail, and many post offices have recycling containers into which customers can deposit their mail after reading it. The Postal Service also uses recycled — and recyclable — materials in the mailing containers it provides its customers. Studies have shown that mail constitutes an infinitesimally small portion of the waste that ends up in landfills. All that being said, you are certainly free to request to get off the mailing lists of entities from which you do not wish to receive mail, as I — and many others — have done.

  • Mark Soyer

    You think your letter carrier is going to sort through your mail and remove whatever he considers to be “junk”, just because you have a sign up?

    The post office is obligated to deliver all your mail. If you don’t want it, take it up with the sender. Almost all companies will remove you from their mailing list if you ask.

  • goodmaab

    Already have done that, the issue is that the USPS is paid to deliver it whether u have asked for its removal or not catch 22 so regardless of my efforts to call and get off lists we receive tons of junk mail and regardless of my personal attempts (time consuming and costly postage and call email wise to get off lists) the junk mail does not stop. They do not respond and stopping it is like stopping a waterfall the source has to be stopped with a serious measure or law. I’m Germany it’s called “bitte keine werbung” and u place the sticker on the mailbox and u do not receive the junk mail and it’s simple. I have a no solicitation sign on my mailbox usually the junk flyers are grabbed as a second item from the mail carriers bag and shoveled in with the rest. If we are going to change recycling and waste issues we need to do it at its source and stop the USPS from delivering the junk incessantly.

  • Mark Soyer

    Sure, but how do you expect USPS to decide what is junk? If you get mail from Bank of America, how does USPS know if you actually have an account with them or if they are trying to sell you something? This isn’t USPS’s responsibility at all.

  • goodmaab

    They carry mail in one area and flyers in another and usually can easily initially seperate junk mail from normal mail. bulk flyers and catalogs in addition to political flyers are also deepest able and usually bundled at the slot either prior to route or on the road. So it’s not an impossible feat. Some flyers are deceptive and those require opt-out calls and emails but some corporations re install your junk mail status and so you have to make a solid effort.