The U.S. Postal Service demands that I discard perfectly good, used Tyvek Priority and Express Mail envelopes, and I am tired of it.

Their concern seems to be that people will grab these envelopes, turn them inside-out, and use them for regular first-class or media rate mailings, which effectively costs the Post Office money. In fact, they have threatened dire consequences if I try to reuse them for media mail.

But my theory is that it is both environmentally unsound and illegitimate for the Post Office to forbid this reuse as the envelope is no longer USPS property once it is delivered to me with proper Priority or Express mail postage — the sender paid the Express or Priority postage. Once the carrier gives me the delivery, that Tyvek envelope — which is nearly indestructible and should be reused scores of times — it is mine to use as I wish, which includes the noblest reuse of this very sturdy material: mailing books at the media rate.

As I see it, if the reuse of these envelopes is truly a problem, why not simply charge a fee to cover the cost of the envelopes and then discount that back to people who do use them for Express or Priority Mail? The Post Office wouldn’t have to worry about people reusing these bulletproof envelopes, and then enforcement would be easy: If it’s right-side-out, it goes at the printed rate (Express or Priority); if it’s inside-out, it goes first-class or media rate.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Because I send a lot of books out through, a nonprofit, web-based book swapping group, I sent this inquiry to the Post Office regarding the reuse of Tyvek envelopes:

I ship a lot of books back and forth. I often get mailings in priority mail or express mail envelopes. I want to turn them inside out and reuse them for Media Rate mailings, which I know is forbidden with new ones.

I suspect that, even though I am reusing an envelope that belongs to me, you would flag this reuse as an abuse and violation of your policy, even though I am reusing an old envelope that is my property rather than using an envelope of yours …

(Your policy is:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Using Express Mail service or Priority Mail service envelopes for other mail

If any Express Mail service or Priority Mail service packaging or packaging supplies e.g., Priority Mail tape to seal a Parcel Post package, are used on any other class of mail, the applicable Express Mail or Priority Mail price will be charged.

* Misuse may be a violation of federal law.
* Turning the packaging inside out to conceal the Priority Mail / Express Mail insignia is specific misuse that is not allowed.

Any matter mailed in these free boxes is charged the appropriate Express Mail or Priority Mail price, regardless of how the packaging is reconfigured (including being turned inside out, cut, shrunk, enlarged, etc.) or how the markings are obliterated.

Mail dropped in a Collection Box receptacle using inappropriate packaging (including, for example, mailing Priority Mail items in an Express Mail box) is either:

* Sent on as insufficient postage mail
* Returned to the sender

Treatment of this mail is based on the specific case as decided by the Post Office facility handling the mailpiece.

How can we both be happy here? I do not want to discard perfectly reusable Tyvek(R) envelopes that have been used only once per your rules (i.e., with Priority or Express postage).

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.