Under 49 CFR 173.29, a container that previously held a hazardous material is considered the same as a full container of the material. A container improperly identified by content is not acceptable for mailing. Some potentially hazardous, restricted, and prohibited matter is nonmailable by statute or regulation. Because of safety concerns and in compliance with laws governing the transportation of hazardous, restricted, and prohibited materials, as well as privacy statutes, the Postal Service must assume that all markings and labels on a package identify the actual content.
Reused packaging, boxes, and containers that bear inapplicable labels or markings associated with hazardous, prohibited, or restricted materials are prohibited in the mailstream, unless the labels or markings have been removed or completely obliterated. If the labels or markings can still be read or identified, they are not sufficiently obliterated. See Exhibit 227.
If labels or markings have not been sufficiently obliterated, the package must be handled as though it contains the indicated contents. Frequently, these types of packages must be handled as nonmailable hazardous materials and must be isolated and removed from the mailstream.
Examples of commonly reused boxes include cleaning supply boxes and liquor/wine/beer boxes. Some cleaning products are hazardous materials; although most alcoholic beverages are not hazardous materials, they are prohibited from mailing. Packages containing alcoholic beverages or with alcoholic beverage markings are prohibited in the mail.
Postal Service employees may not remove, cross out, or obliterate labels or markings, even if asked to do so by a mailer. Only the mailer or mailer’s authorized representative may alter or obliterate the labels or markings.