USPS says Priority Mail boxes cannot be reused

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.

USPS response letter


Comments 1-13 of 13 to “USPS says Priority Mail boxes cannot be reused”

  1. 1 · Dazy says:

    One way to get around the rule is to wrap the box in brown mailing paperafter sealing it up. I buy and sell on ebay, and this makes it so I can re-use boxes, saving myself money, saving the buyers money on shipping(I have noticed these boxes are a little lighter than most), and helping eliminate trash. Today I mailed some baby clothes to someone in Latvia in an inside out Priority mail box with the markings sharpied out. The worker who rang me up did not notice, but when I asked he told me that if the person that sorts the boxes notices it will be mailed back to me and no refund will be issued. Regretfully, he told me this after I had already paid for the box to be shipped. Wish me luck!

  2. 2 · Mikey says:

    They know by the size of the box. Even if you wrap it in brown paper the recipient will still get charged the difference.

    Don’t reuse them! Big Brother knows 🙂

  3. 3 · Bill says:

    Absolutely ridiculous!!

    Just happened to us also. Charged us $8.00+ for inverted Priority mail box without warning us of policy… Box was returned to us SAME DAY slit open to see whether it was one of their boxes. We used a box we had received from someone else, so box had already been paid for, and we were sending paperback books. Note attached said contents were acceptable (YEAH!) but package was not. We had planned to argue the issue at Post Office today, but found these postings so will be giving up. So much for recycling!!

  4. 4 · Egg Head says:

    I reuse Priority Mail boxes all the time. I receive items similiar to what I sell So the boxes are completely reused. It just has to be used as intended, as a Priority Mail container. I pay the Priority Mail fee and I don’t have to pay for a box. If you buy a box and pay regular postage it runs about the same so get a free box and pay a little more for quicker delivery. It works for me. Although I ship items that must arrive in 2 to 3 days. The cheaper penny pincher me saves regular boxes and gets the lowest postage possible. I even cut and reshape boxes from stuff I buy to make shipping boxes.

  5. 5 · USPS IS RETARDED says:

    I just experienced the same issue. My box was wrapped in a paper bag so if any one else is thinking this will circumvent the issue, it won’t. What is even more upsetting is how long it took USPS to ship my item back, the box most likely never left the state possibly even the post office it was dropped off at, yet took 8 days to be returned to my residence.

    This is just unbelievable, in 8 days this package could have gone around the world, yet didn’t even manage to leave the state. I was under the impression the recipient would be charged in situations like this, at least that way the package still arrives in a timely manner and the sender can refund the receiver.

  6. 6 · Rain says:

    I normally avoid the USPS at all costs but my international packages need to go through the Post Office.

    I used a Priority Mail box marked with the addresses then wrapped the box with brown paper. The clerk gave me a stare at the counter and said. ‘this is a priority mail box. I have to charge you the priority mail rate.’ Needless to say, however upset I was, it wasn’t the extra charge of $19.

    Fast forward to today, I reused the envelopes inside out. I was turned back for the same ‘reason’. A quick call to the customer service to rant yielded no simpathy.

    I ended up wasting my time. The Postal Service wasted their cost of labor in processing the same transaction twice for less money. They paid the clerk to ‘deal’ with the customer twice all because of packaging.

    The reason given over the phone was because the packaging was given to the public for free so it should not be reused. I fail to understand the business reason, let alone the logic.

  7. 7 · Anonymous says:

    Just happened to me. I turned older USPS Priority envelope inside out(It was used) and sent it to Russia. It came back 2 days later and it looked like someone opened it on one end. (it never left my town).

    I was so angry, I complained to two Post Office that I deal with about it (One in the town I live the other where my rural mail is dispached when picked up at my home.

    Both offices said I can not reuse a tyvek again. I said it was paid for once and now I want to reuse it for First Class international. Nope you can’t do that I was told.

    I explained what about going green, those of us who do not want to throw all these bags away. I am not trying to defraud the PS I am trying to be Environmentally Correct.

    I was told to all the Post Office 1 800 and make my case. Okay so I did. Talked with a Laura in La and she said” Yes you can reuse the boxes and envelopes if you turn them inside out!

    She was contacting my regional PS Center for them to write to the Offices that gave me problems. She aske dif it looked like the envelope was opened. I said I can say 100% but one ends tape was pulled off enough so someone could look inside.

    She said they was illegal that the Postal Workers can loose their job over that.

    She was going to sent be a letter saying I can reuse the boxes so I can wave in in the face of my small town Post Office Employees but what good will that be.

    went back and told the one office Postmaster what the 1-800 Customer Service person said and she argued with me that it was not correct information. I said Okay well she said you getting a letter from Harrisburg, Pa. she said fine but we do follow what they say we are Union.

  8. 8 · Anonymous says:

    Everyone should just start taking all their empty boxes and envelopes back to the post office and leaving them there. When the lobby is full of used boxes and envelopes and the workers are having to spend their time cleaning them up maybe they’ll change their mind. I mean it’s only right to give them their property back.

  9. 9 · Mattie says:

    This was very helpful! Thank you, though I think it’s not right!
    And as many have stated, so much for recycling! Booo

  10. 10 · Anonymous says:

    I just experienced this in receiving a recycled flat rate priority box (flat rate shipping had previously been paid) that was wrapped in brown paper. The package was shipped priority mail and postage paid as such, however, since the box was a flat rate I had to pay $10 (on top of the $7 paid by the shipper) to receive the gift. The USPS tore the package to confirm it was a priority box. I don’t understand this policy. Once the free box has been used paying the full flat rate amount, USPS has received their money and the box paid for. USPS is encouraging customers to not recycle, what a great example to us all.

  11. 11 · Answer says:

    Priority Mail boxes are included in the cost of sending a Priority Mail item. If you use wrap one with paper or turn it inside out in order to use a lower mail then you are technically stealing the box from the USPS. That is the objection.

    In regards to the issue Anonymous brings up above, the USPS handles 554 million pieces of mail each day. The inspectors do not have time to evaluate as to whether your particular box was properly paid for previously. Many people try to cheat the system and unfortuantely, people who are trying to do the right thing by recycling are the extreme minority.

  12. 12 · Di says:

    You are so correct in not allowing boxes to be reused, There are lots of people out there that try to use them as regular boxes by putting paper on them or cutting them up to use as filler or using the bubble envelopes to wrap stuff in so it dont break.
    Yes there are some who will only use recycled boxes and envelopes to do it. But there are a lot that dont care if there new they will still use them. As I see in a lot of posts online, well why should anyone care if I use it inside Im helping the package to get there safe. I always tell them read the dang package people it tells you, you are to use it for one purpose, for mailing items.
    People these item go thru these post office’s so fast they can not in no way stop for every package to check an see if it looks re-used or new. I have known some that said they try to make the inside one looks used so if it gets opened they wont get in trouble.
    Its just sad we get free boxes and people still dont appreciate it, Sure nothing in life is free, they give them to us to be used a certain way. So if you dont want to use them like they say you have to “Dont get them”. It is a law to not use as they intend you to use.
    Go find you some boxes at Wal-mart or dollar stores if you want to do whatever you want to do with them.
    People grow up an do what your suppose to do. Geeze I never heard so much whining over something thats been giving to you. Come on!!

  13. 13 · James says:

    I have received far too many items where people use new usps priority mail materials as stuffing and padding. I think those people are criminal and will be reporting them from now on.

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