The United States Postal Service uses over one million pounds of rubber bands in the field to bundle letters for bulk mail. The USPS requires a bundle of letters to be less than 6 inches thick so that it can be held in one hand. The quintessential postal band is ideally sized for this purpose, with 3 1/2” x 1/4" dimensions. The rubber used to make bands for the post office is designed to be strong enough to handle the rigors of industrial mail handling, but soft enough that repeated manual application does not overly strain the hands over the course of a career.
Twine was a traditional method of bundling letters, but bands had been used as early as 1907. The Postmaster General officially adopted rubber bands for use by the USPS in 1967. The Boston Globe declared the USPS would become the world’s biggest user of rubber bands in September of that year. For decades, the USPS was the nation’s largest purchaser of rubber bands.
Up until the 1990’s, the USPS purchased bands from overseas at cut-rate pricing. But the quality of the product was questioned. You get what you pay for, and the USPS was paying, and getting, a lot of bands, but were they worth paying for? How can the quality of a rubber band be defined?
What makes a postal band a POSTAL BAND? How can we say that we make the definitive Postal Band?
The General Services Administration, Federal Supply Service issued Commercial Item Description A-A-131B for rubber bands, and in 1997, Alliance Rubber Company helped to establish the version still in use today, 22 years later. This document set the acceptable industrial sizes and associated dimensions as well as established the minimum count per pound of each band for each size.
This was a critical development.
Quick science lesson: rubber bands are necessarily not 100% rubber. Additives are necessary for vulcanization and the curing process to make change latex from a liquid into a solid. The s-t-r-e-t-c-h of a rubber band is inversely proportional to the percentage of additives, i.e. the more additives, the less stretch. All those additives weigh more than rubber, too. So, the less rubber in a pound of bands means fewer bands. A minimum count per pound ensures that a minimum amount of rubber is used, and a higher rubber content is what makes postal bands soft and stretchy.
For mail handlers and anyone that must bundle letters day in and day out, soft and stretchy bands are a gift to the hands.
For more information about approved postal bands visit our Postal Bands-Industrial page. Want to learn more? Fill out our contact form at the bottom of this page and someone will be in touch soon!