Postal Service addresses sticky situation with adhesive breakthrough

provided by US Postal Service


t the 2000 Recycling Symposium in early March, the US Postal Service announced the development of a revolutionary environmentally benign pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) that marks the beginning of a new era in recycling. This world-class technology will help make recycling more economical, help decrease costs for recycling and repulping operations, and help divert tons of valuable waste paper from our nation's landfills.

For years it has been known as the "sticky" problem: what do you do with adhesives when recycling paper? These adhesives "gum" up the works, and recycling mills have difficulty recycling paper with a high adhesive content. But through the leadership of the Postal Service and cooperation between the public and private sector, the "sticky" problem may soon be a thing of the past.

"This breakthrough in the development of environmentally safe adhesives will change the face of recycling around the world," said opening session speaker Deborah Willhite, Postal Service Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Public Policy. "Not only will it improve the environmental performance of postage stamps," she said, "it will also reach a much larger audience of adhesive users. This new technology will have a tremendous financial and environmental benefit for the Postal Service and for the American people."

Also at the symposium, Federal Environment Executive Fran McPoland announced a proposed executive order recommending that all federal agencies seek to employ the new PSA technology.

"In the near future, President Clinton is expected to sign 'Greening the Government Through Leadership in Environmental Management,' to address the economic impact of this issue," said McPoland.

The Postal Service has a long history of leadership in recycling efforts and protection of the environment, and although stamps were a very small part of the "sticky" problem, the Postal Service saw an opportunity for public policy leadership and took on the task of developing an environmentally friendly adhesive. In 1994, the Environmentally Benign Pressure Sensitive Adhesives Program was initiated as part of the Postal Service's commitment to develop stamps and stamp products that do not adversely affect the environment.

In 1995, the Postal Service hosted a conference of interested parties. In an outstanding example of cooperation between the public sector and private industry, the Postal Service formed a team of researchers from government and industry, including members of the Forest Products Laboratory (US Department of Agriculture), the adhesive industry, paper manufacturers, recyclers, printers, and testing laboratories.

This research partnership, sponsored and funded by the Postal Service, has been a tremendous success, creating an environmentally friendly adhesive that has passed a comprehensive series of tests, meeting all Postal Service stamp performance and recycling requirements.

Other notable Postal Service environmental initiatives:



  The Postal Service is one of the largest recyclers in the nation, operating more than 20,000 recycling centers, and is the largest user of recycled motor oil and retreaded tires. Stringent purchasing requirements resulted in the purchase last year of more than $200 million of products with recycled content. By recycling undeliverable mail and other materials, the Postal Service has turned a former waste disposal expense into a revenue generating business, increasing revenue from recycling by 60 percent last year.


Alternative Fuel Vehicles

  The Postal Service operates the nation's largest fleet of alternative fuel vehicles with more than 7,500 vehicles converted to compressed natural gas. Electric- , ethanol- and methanol-powered vehicles are being tested.


Sustainable Development

  The Postal Service reuses and recycles items such as used printer cartridges, old batteries and obsolete electronic equipment, rather than sending them to landfills.


"Green" Post Offices

Last year in Ft. Worth, Texas, the Postal Service opened the nation's first "green" post office, which features recycled building materials and a number of resource-efficient technologies.