I wrote a letter to the Postmaster General asking, ‘Why are we not allowed to reuse Priority Mail boxes?’ I’ve known several people that have had their boxes opened and were not allowed to mail them, because they were Priority Mail boxes flipped inside out. If you are familiar with the boxes that are approximately the size of a VCR, those boxes can be flipped inside out easily so they won’t show anything on the outside (they brown on the inside). However over the last 3 or 4 years, they have been printing “USPS” or “Priority Mail” all over the inside of the boxes in black ink, so you can’t flip them inside out and reuse them.
Priority Mail boxes are free as long as you send your package priority mail, but I don’t see the harm done in simply reusing a box. After all, reusing an item as much as you can should come before recycling it.
Apparently some law was passed in 1999 regarding this. The USPS replied to my letter with the following information:
Effective September 9, 1999, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) C010.6.2 and E120.1.4 was amended to clarify standards for items mailed in United States Postal Service Express Mail and Priority Mail packaging. This revision states specifically that items mailed in Express Mail and Priority Mail packaging provided by the United States Postal Service must be charged the appropriate Express Mail or Priority Mail rate, regardless of how the packaging is reconfigured or how markings may be obliterated.
To this day I’ve never used a new Priority Mail box to mail something and don’t plan to. I keep old boxes and packaging around, often peeling off mailing labels or slicing the edge to flip it inside out. Even manila envelopes with bubbles can be reused, if not just for the bubbles. Of course you probably don’t want the packaging to look too sloppy when you sell something on eBay, but you can take a little time to make it look nice and help out the environment.