Recycling & Conservation

We take seriously our commitment to recycling and source reduction. From solving new challenges to raising the bar for our industry and gracing the bottom line in the process, UPS is constantly looking for new ways to reduce packaging and limit waste.  During 2012, UPS continued or expanded numerous initiatives aimed at reducing energy consumption and emissions from facilities while conserving natural resources.  


Lighting is one of major stationary sources of energy use and emissions, in part because our distribution centers are large facilities that remain in operation overnight.  In 2011, UPS substantially completed its multi-year lighting upgrade program, replacing or upgrading approximately 100,000 light fixtures with more energy efficient lamps.  In 2012, UPS began to focus on new lighting technologies.

Waste Management

In 2012, our solid waste disposal total was 130,679 tons, which included 55,419 tons being recycled.  Hazardous and non-hazardous waste from aircraft, vehicles and facility operations accounted for another 11,717 tons, which included 10,207 tons being recycled or recovered.  These waste include spent antifreeze, used oil, batteries, e-waste, includes desktop computers, laptops, servers, hard drives, cables, keyboards, telephones, cell phones, routers, switches printers and media such as CDs. Since 2000, the program has recycled 35.4 million pounds. In 2012, we recycled 35,500 pounds of batteries.

Responsible Packaging

We introduced the industry's first Reusable Next Day Air envelope in 1998, which is bleach free and 100 percent recycled fiber (80 percent post-consumer). While it cuts down on waste by allowing one envelope to be used twice, the Reusable Envelope also provides convenience to customers, like mortgage brokers and attorneys, who have to ship documents for their clients to sign and return.

In 1998, UPS accepted the challenge from The Alliance for Environmental Innovation to improve the environmental profile of packaging in the transportation industry. Our express packaging was redesigned to eliminate bleached paper and increase the use of post-consumer recycled content - changes that not only reduced paper usage, but also reduced the amount of energy used in the manufacturing process by 12 percent.  Among the packaging items:

  • UPS Express Envelope: 100 percent recycled fiber (80 percent post-consumer content)
  • UPS Express Pak: 15 percent post-consumer content
  • UPS Express Box: 100 percent recycled fiber (90 percent post-consumer content)
  • UPS Express Tube: 100 percent recycled fiber (90 percent post-consumer content)
  • UPS 10 KG Box and UPS 25 KG Box: 30 percent post-consumer content

Additionally, The UPS Store® locations have an ongoing effort to encourage consumers to bring in foam packing peanuts to be reused and recycled.

UPS also offers customers their expertise through the UPS Eco-Responsible Packaging program. Customers receive an assessment of their shipment packaging processes in three areas: damage prevention, right-sizing, and materials content.

Water Conservation

The efficient use of water is essential to future commerce and quality of life. Due to its cost and scarcity in many locations, there is also a direct bottom-line benefit to reducing water use. We are committed to researching and implementing conservation initiatives such as the following: 

  • Vehicle Washing Policy: In 1995, we changed our policy for washing delivery vehicles, saving 365 million gallons of water annually. Instead of washing them every day, we wash them as needed to maintain their appearance.
  • Water reclamation systems: many UPS facilities have wash tunnels equipped with active systems to reclaim water for reuse.
  • Vehicle Wash Agent (VWA): UPS uses an environmentally friendly enzyme wash agent
  • Dry-wash airplanes
  • Upgrade new facilities with low-flow water fixtures

From 2007-2011 in our U.S. domestic segment (our largest segment), we have cut normalized water consumption by 27 percent.