The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently announced changes to shipping hazardous materials, also called HAZMAT. The new HAZMAT regulations are in effect as of June 6, 2022. 

Understanding HAZMAT and how to correctly handle and ship hazardous materials through USPS can be confusing, especially when you’re trying to manage simple tasks like determining which USPS shipping methods to use. So we’re here to update you on the new HAZMAT standards. Let’s unpack how USPS wants these shipments handled.

What is Considered HAZMAT Shipping?

According to USPS, the general definition for hazardous materials, or HAZMAT, is “any substances that can pose a significant risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce.” USPS shipping methods allow you to ship some hazardous materials, about 15 – 20% of the total within the United States.

What products are classified as HAZMAT by the USPS?

This is a partial list of HAZMAT materials according to the USPS:

  • Any Article Containing Liquid Mercury: Thermometers, barometers, thermostats, and blood pressure equipment may contain liquid mercury. If visible amounts of mercury are present, these items are prohibited in the mail.
  • Lithium Batteries: Lithium batteries are rapidly replacing other types of batteries. They contain larger amounts of energy and are shipped as HAZMAT because they represent a more significant fire risk.
  • Aerosols: Pressurized sprays like household cleaners, disinfectants, hairspray, spray paint, and insecticides may be restricted.
  • Fragrances: Fragrances containing alcohol, such as perfumes, colognes, body sprays, and aftershaves, may be classified as HAZMAT.
  • Dry Ice: Whether used to flash freeze fish, preserve perishables or transport medical supplies, this solid form of carbon dioxide is classified as HAZMAT.
  • Paints, Paint Thinners, and Removers: Many paints, wood stains, and adhesives, as well as thinners and removers, are flammable or combustible.
  • Nail Polish and Remover: Some nail polishes, thinners, and acetone-based removers are flammable and may be classified as HAZMAT.
  • More: In addition to the examples shown here, thousands of other items are designated as HAZMAT.

Why are HAZMAT Requirements Important?

Because HAZMAT can be dangerous, following through on all of the precautions and requirements for shipping them makes everyone safer including mail truck drivers, mail delivery personnel, package handlers and sorters, and the recipient of the shipped package.

You can find proper handling and shipping instructions on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) that accompanies the HAZMAT item you are shipping. An SDS is a standardized document that describes the occupational safety and health data of the individual material or product. The SDS lists any chemical properties, environmental and health hazards, and needed safety precautions for handling, storing, and shipping these items.

USPS’s June 2022 Hazardous Materials Announcement

Let’s take a look at the USPS shipping methods announcement that became active on June 6, 2022, specifically regarding lithium batteries.

New Mailing Standards for the Separation of Hazardous Materials

1. Mail Class Restrictions

If you are shipping pre-owned, damaged or defective electronic devices containing or packaged with lithium batteries (such as cell phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, power tools, etc.), you must send them via:

  • USPS Retail Ground
  • USPS Parcel Select
  • USPS Parcel Return Service
  • USPS Ground Return Service 

These items also require new marking. These new HAZMAT shipping requirements are being made due to increased incidents involving lithium batteries and other HAZMAT. You can read more here.

Lithium batteries are causing serious problems in the global supply chain. One issue, the potential for fires on freight and passenger airplanes, is of utmost concern. For this and other dangers, keeping HAZMAT shipments separate from others and marked appropriately is crucial. The USPS definition for “lithium battery” is:

Pre-owned, damaged, or defective electronic device means an electronic device containing or packaged with one or more lithium cells or batteries and where the electronic device:

1. is not new and contained in new, unopened packaging and/or

2. that has some form of damage or defect.

Why is this happening?

According to the USPS, “the increasing consumer use of lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries has brought a concomitant rise in fires and other dangerous incidents related to such batteries” especially in the last 12 months.

2. How to Properly Ship Lithium Batteries
  • If you’re shipping pre-owned, damaged, or defective electronic devices containing or packaged with lithium batteries, they cannot be sent by air transportation, only ground.
  • They must have specific markings on the outside of the package saying “Restricted Electronic Device” and “Surface Transportation Only.”
  • Drop shipments entered at DDU, DSCF or DNDC aren’t required to present HAZMAT separately from other mail, but other Pub 52 HAZMAT rules are still applicable.
  • The US FAA and PHMSA have safety standards for shipping lithium batteries which prohibit air transport of defective, damaged, and recalled lithium batteries.
  • Ground shipments of accepted HAZMAT items for USPS Marketing Mail, USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Select, or Parcel Return Service must be prepared under the requirements that apply to surface transportation only, not air.
  • HAZMAT shipments must be marked or labeled as:
    • Separately from non-hazardous materials or in containers separate from non-hazardous shipment containers.
    • Clearly marked on the exterior side of the shipment as “HAZMAT.”
  • Find all the rest of the guidelines here.
3. Non-Mailable Hazardous Materials

These HAZMAT items are NOT allowed to be sent by the USPS.

  • All damaged, defective, or recalled lithium batteries
  • All pre-owned, damaged, or defective electronic devices containing or packaged with lithium batteries
4. Learn More about HAZMAT Shipments via USPS

These links further explain the change in USPS HAZMAT shipping rules.

How Can Ordoro Help?

Looking for an all-in-one shipping software? Ordoro is the software that can help growing merchants run their online businesses more efficiently. You can connect all of your sales channels to make managing a blended fulfillment model with automated order routing a breeze.

Access all of the USPS shipping methods and tap into discounted USPS shipping rates through Ordoro. We offer cost-effective postage rates through every provider, including best-in-industry discounts of up to 67% through USPS!

Ordoro HAZMAT FAQ – Shipping Hazardous Materials with Ordoro

Can I ship dangerous goods or hazardous materials with Ordoro?

Yes. You can ship both dangerous goods and hazardous materials with Ordoro. You can do this using DHL eCommerce, DHL Express, FedEx, USPS, or UPS carriers.

Are You Interested in Learning More about Shipping with Ordoro?

Ordoro does a lot more than just help you with your HAZMAT shipments. It can simplify and automate your shipping, inventory, and order management for your ecommerce business. To find out how Ordoro can help your business, talk to a product expert today.