Some years ago, the U.S. Postal Service recognized it could spin trash into gold, so to speak. It could save money by reducing trash disposal costs and generate revenues by turning trash into recyclables. With its economies of scale, it could maximize benefits by investing in capital equipment and best practices to achieve productivity gains that reduce material handling costs.
In fiscal year (FY) 2014, the Postal Service approved $33 million for the National Recycling Program (NRP) to standardize its recycling activities, minimize costs, and maximize value throughout the network by negotiating better recycling and trash removal contracts. The money would purchase necessary equipment, such as compactors and dumpsters, and meet the related expenses of implementing the program nationally over a five-year rollout period.
As of September 2017, the Postal Service has implemented the NRP at 149 of 178 planned sites, with full site implementation set for March 2019. Our recent audit report assessed 12 sites as well as headquarters oversight and found the Postal Service did not effectively manage the NRP to ensure it met its goals and objectives. Notably, trash reduction savings were only $5.1 million of the projected $32.8 million, or 16 percent of the goal. And recycling revenue generated only $3.4 million of the projected $14.3 million, or 24 percent of the goal.
We also found that facility employees did not accurately record recycling revenues and expenses within proper accounts. We determined these issues occurred because of a lack of effective monitoring at the HQ level. Another factor was that the program execution plan was not fully rolled out and there were no controls to ensure accurate recording of revenue/cost activity.
We recommended management strengthen controls over program operations and reassess and adjust program goals as necessary. We also recommended improvements in communications and additional training around recording entries into accounts.
As a postal employee, what ideas do you have to improve the Postal Service’s National Recycling Program?
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