I use Priority mail pouches and boxes whenever possible. (Priority packaging materials and labels are free from the post office, and delivery is generally within 2 or 3 days.) But this week, I had a few larger items that exceeded the capacity of any standard priority mail box.
For these instances, I’ve saved old boxes from moving or box lots I’ve won at auction. This was the case with one of the packages I brought to the post office recently.
I had been up pretty late the night before, preparing all of my orders from a week of eBay sales for mailing. My final item to wrap up was a ceramic base for a table lamp. I buried it deep within layers of cushy bubble wrap, securely taped it all around, and then rolled that inside cardboard made flat from a different box for further protection. It was all carefully positioned within a nest of crinkled newspaper.
(For those less creative types, here’s a great recycling tip: Outdated Norwich Bulletin issues DO have valuable uses beyond lining your puppy’s crate!)
The nest of crinkled paper was housed inside one of those recycled boxes. I slapped on the priority mail label, carried all of the packages downstairs and placed them by the back door, so that I would remember to take them out to my car in the morning. I was relieved to be done with that job so I could finally climb into my cozy bed. Whew!
Out the door early the next morning — with a four-year-old in tow — I loaded my car’s trunk. Upon my arrival at the post office, I made two trips bringing in arms-full of boxes and pouches over to the clerk’s counter. Box-by-box, everything went along in a routine fashion — until we reached the big white box.
The mail clerk stopped and looked at me. “We can’t take this one.”
I’m sure I had that weird, puzzled look on my face.
“What do you mean... why??” my enquiring mind wanted to know.
“You can’t send anything in a box for alcoholic beverages.” he replied matter-of-factly.
“Oh... Okay.” I carried the package back to my car.
I was dumbstruck. You’d think after selling on eBay for 10 years, I might have been aware of this... Well, I was... somewhat. Although I knew not to re-use beer crates, and those boxes with labels or graphics referencing explosives or hazardous chemicals, this specific issue was something I hadn’t dealt with before. Truth is, I hadn’t even taken note of the graphics on the side of that box.
But, really, what’s the problem with re-using a nice, clean, solid and sturdy white box that previously carried bottles?
Upon getting my big white carton home, I focused my energies on covering up all graphics and lettering on that box. I accomplished that with priority tape. (While you can no longer order Priority mail packaging tape free-of-charge online, you can still get it from your post office at no charge if you ask nicely.)
Back to the post office.
There! The clerk weighed it and gave me a shipping price of $26. I was shocked. It wasn’t THAT heavy, and the destination is within the continental USA.
I quickly figured out what I wasn’t informed of during my previous post office visit with that package. Being somewhat larger than most of my packages, it carried a balloon charge. Ugh!!
I asked the clerk who was helping me this time, “If I send this by parcel post rather than Priority mail, will the balloon charge apply?”
I was told, it will not.
Here I go again! This time, I’ll wrap my previously white box — that’s now red, white and blue — in plain brown paper. And, I’ll stick on a plain white mailing label. I hope it makes it through.
In case you didn’t know...
Here are some guidelines and restrictionson the use of recycled boxes for USPS mailing.
-- United States postal regulations prohibit shipping alcoholic beverages through the mail.
-- However, you CAN reuse a cardboard box.
Exceptions include those with any kind of hazardous material graphics or lettering on the exterior of the box. For example, you cannot reuse a box that has a brand of liquor or toxic chemical on the outside of it.
Reusing Priority Mail Boxes
Even though USPS supplied Priority mail boxes feature a ‘recyclable’ graphic and even have “Please Recycle” printed on them, I guess that means you can place once-used boxes in with your old newspapers on pick-up day for the garbage man.
The USPS has a policy prohibiting the re-use of Priority mail boxes for any other method of mailing — unless it’s at the Priority rate. You cannot turn a priority mail box inside out and use it for mailing an item at the parcel post or first class rate.
Additionally, a flat rate Priority mail box can only be used to mail an item at the flat rate price. You cannot cover the flat rate insignia and send it at the regular Priority rate based upon its weight.
If you want to recycle a flat rate box in which something was mailed to you, you can not reuse it or modify the box to mail anything in it at a lower rate. If you use or reuse a flat rate box, you must pay to send it at the flat rate price. Yup... that’s right... even if you are recycling the box!