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Cracking the code

St. Louis plant addresses cardboard crunch

Mail Handler Ernest Carter sorts cardboard boxes at the St. Louis Network Distribution Center, which has saved $100,000 a year by streamlining its recycling process.

Like Postal Service plants across the nation, the St. Louis Network Distribution Center is handling more packages than ever.

That means more cardboard, too.

Many parcels arrive at the center in large cardboard boxes. Once the boxes are emptied, the center must spend time and money disposing of the cardboard.

These costs used to add up — until a team studied the problem and recommended a better approach, helping managers crack the cardboard code.

Now when the big boxes arrive at the center, employees separate “good” cardboard boxes from “bad” ones as soon as they’re emptied instead of waiting to sort them at the facility’s compactor.

“By streamlining the process, we were able to eliminate double handling and reduce our clerk hours,” said Ronda Lipscomb-Palm, the center’s in-plant support manager. “We also reduced the amount of money spent on purchasing new cardboard [boxes] by re-using our good ones.”

This process saved the center $100,000 a year in time and labor costs — and helped the facility earn a Postmaster General Sustainability Excellence Award for its efforts.

Chief Sustainability Officer Tom Day, who encourages other plants to consider innovative approaches to dealing with waste, highlighted the National Recycling Operation (NRO), which aims to expand and standardize postal recycling efforts.

“Much like what we saw in St. Louis, the NRO gives facilities around the nation the opportunity to reduce waste and the associated costs,” Day said. “Through this initiative, we can recycle and generate revenue — providing a financial benefit to the Postal Service, while reducing our impact upon the environment.”

The Sustainability Blue page has more information about the St. Louis plant’s award, along with details on the other winners. Nominations for the next round of awards are being accepted through Friday, March 23.

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