Recycling has become an increasingly important issue in todays environmentally conscious society.  Environmental risks from outdated and improperly discarded electronics, fluorescent light bulbs and pharmaceuticals range from ground water and soil contamination, to chemical exposure, to other challenges surrounding the management of physical waste. Now environmentally responsible manufacturers are partnering with the U.S. Postal Service to take action.

Without proper handling, end-of-life issues present risks to brand perception and, ultimately, the customer relationship. Recognizing this, manufacturers are embracing a philosophy of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and taking ownership of what happens to their products at end-of-life. That means finding ways to provide convenient, low-cost solutions for their customers to discard used products, while ensuring the items are disposed of in the most environmentally responsible way. Manufacturers like Dell and Sprint have turned to the Postal Service as part of the solution.

Using the Postal Services returns solutions, customers are able to send items like ink cartridges, cell phones and other electronics through the mail to be recycled at no charge, with all mailing costs funded by the manufacturer via a Merchandise Return Service (MRS) or Parcel Return Service (PRS) permit. With 290,000 letter carriers delivering mail and picking up packages at 146 million addresses across America, customers can ship ink cartridges or cell phones back without leaving their doorsteps. They can also mail their items in one of 300,000 collection boxes or at one of 37,000 neighborhood post offices.

Sprint, a leader in the wireless communications industry, has worked with the Postal Service for several years to recycle its devices, using MRS and Business Reply for the return of used phones and accessories. We were drawn to the Postal Service as a strategic partner because of its connection to the consumers and small businesses. USPS has an unmatched ability to make it convenient for customers to do the right thing, says Darren Beck, Manager, Community Relations. Sprint includes a postage-paid recycling envelope with every new wireless phone it sells, and generates awareness and adoption of its program through a number of charitable partnerships.

Similarly, Dell has launched a program designed to take back empty ink cartridges through the Postal Service. Using the mail took our program right to the door and made it so much easier for our customers to return their Dell products, says Mike Watson, Senior Compliance Manager, Global Asset Recovery. The Postal Service has truly helped us demonstrate our commitment to responsible and sustainable business practices. Like Sprint, Dell also includes an envelope for customer returns inside the box with the ink cartridges it sells.

Convenient and free to the end customer these are the attributes that have made MRS and PRS the perfect solutions for end-of-life returns. With a heightened awareness of environmental issues among todays customers, its a great time to get started. 

The Postal Service owns and operates the worlds largest fleet of alternative fuel capable vehicles and has received over 70 environmental awards during the last decade, including EPA Waste Wise Partner of the Year. It is the only shipping company to achieve Cradle to Cradle Certification for packaging supplies. For more information about the environmental efforts of the Postal Service, please visit

For more information, contact Dan Barrett, Manager, Business Development at Dan serves as principal point of contact for the Postal Services product take-back efforts.