Washington University Mail Services collects, processes and distributes nearly five million pieces of incoming United States Postal Service (USPS) mail each year.  Of that five million, about a third, or 1.67 million pieces, is undeliverable due to staff or students no longer at the University and/or unwanted commercial mail.

How is waste being reduced?

Mail Services has been collaborating with Intra-Mail Network, parent company of Waste-Free Mail, to reduce a significant amount of mail waste — the majority of which is immediately placed in recycling bins.  In 2017, IMN’s patented process of address hygiene resulted in a total of 2,290 fewer publications s being mailed.   In addition, address correction/formatting on another 4,565 pieces transformed them from undeliverable to deliverable.  These efforts impacted roughly 14,942 pounds of paper (the equivalent of 7.47 tons) being suppressed from the printing process by eliminating or correcting names on mailing lists as verified by WU Mail Services and its delivery requirements.

What is Waste-Free Mail?

Washington University Mail Services recognizes that some commercial mail is wanted and necessary.  Waste-Free Mail (www.wastefreemail.com) is a resource for companies, associations and organizations that produce mail (e.g., journals, periodicals, catalogs, unsolicited materials) to have their address lists cleaned and certified, enabling campus distribution.  The Waste Free Mail system also provides the option for University faculty/staff to unsubscribe or request a digital version (when available), saving money for both the University and the mailer.

What’s Next?

In the coming months Mail Services will continue to collaborate with Intra-Mail Network and begin to strategize the inclusion of Waste-Free Mail best practices on the campus, to include a guideline addressing waste in the mail stream.  Please consider supporting Mail Services as it undertakes this important initiative to save time, money, and natural resources, while ensuring information continues to be delivered in a timely and efficient manner.  If you would like to get involved or have any questions, contact peggy_smith@wustl.edu.

The environmental impact of waste reduction in 2017 (7.47 tons) at Washington University can be broken down in the following list.  Estimates were made using the Environmental  Paper Network Paper Calculator.

  1. Wood Use (21 tons) − EQUALS    135 Trees
  2. Net Energy (237 mil BTUs) − POWERS   homes/year
  3. Greenhouse Gases (43,794 lbs CO2 equivalents) − EQUALS   emissions of 4 cars/year
  4. Water Consumption (146,151 gal) − FILLS   ZERO Swimming pools
  5. Solid Waste (16,723 lbs) − EQUALS  weight of 1 garbage truck
  6. Nitrogen Oxides (76 lbs) − EQUALS emissions of ZERO 18-wheelers/year
  7. Sulfur Dioxide (219 lbs) − EQUALS emissions of 40 18-wheelers/year
  8. Particulates (41 lbs) − EQUALS emissions of 4 buses/year