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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about the U.S. mail. In 1775, the United States Postal Service was born. Despite the increase in computer-based communication, the post office still delivers 600 million pieces of mail every day.


TOOMEY: It's Living on Earth. I'm Diane Toomey

(Music up and under: "Mister Postman")

TOOMEY: Two hundred twenty five years ago, and long before the Marvelettes implored their letter carrier to "wait a minute," Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first head of the Postal Service with the famous motto, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Letter carriers have a hefty load to bear: 600 million pieces of mail are delivered each working day, and each citizen receives a tree and a half worth of junk mail over the course of a year. Often those catalogues and credit card offers use dyes and glues tat make them impossible to recycle. But the Post Office has developed new environmentally benign adhesives that will eventually prevent much of that mail from ending up in the landfill. Meanwhile, successful experiments have converted spent junk mail into compost, pencils, even ethanol for fuel. Of course, you could avoid the Postal Service altogether by sending that note to grandma via e-mail. A spokesman for the Postal Service says e-mail has slowed the rate of increase in the volume of snail mail. If current rates of e-mail use continue to rise, the Post Office, he says, may lose about $17 billion in revenue by the end of this decade. And the postman's bag may be a bit lighter, too. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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