Mail Recovery Center

What is a mail recovery center? Why would mail end up there? Read more below.

If you have ever heard of the Mail Recovery Center, you might be curious about what this is and what purpose it serves – particularly if you have ended up with mail being directed there unexpectedly. This center is where USPS sends lost and undeliverable mail that cannot be returned to the sender. This center will take further steps to try and mail the items to the correct recipient, and if this is not possible, they will hold the items for a period before disposing of them. You may be able to recover mail from this center if you file a report.


What Is The Mail Recovery Center?


The Mail Recovery Center is a center used by USPS to deal with mail that cannot be delivered or returned to the original sender. All mail that is missing an address, has an incomplete address, has been refused, or otherwise cannot be delivered and does not have a return address on it will be sent to this center. At the Mail Recover Center, USPS employees will make further attempts to try and determine where the mail was supposed to go, and to send it on if they are successful. Packages will be opened and the contents will be inspected for any clues.


If the staff at the center are able to work out where a package should go, either from clues left on the envelope or from the contents of the package, they will re-address the item and send it on. However, if a piece of mail was not deliverable or they cannot work out the intended address, they will log the contents of the envelope. This will go into a database which can then be cross referenced with missing mail requests. If you can detail the contents of a missing package clearly and a missing package that contains those contents turns up, the mail may be recovered from the sorting pile and directed to the intended recipient. The more overlap there is between the two contents lists, the more likely the mail is to be found, so if you are submitting a claim, add as much detail as you can to increase the chances of the mail being found.


Why Does Mail Get Sent To The Mail Recovery Center?


Mail commonly gets sent to the Mail Recovery Center because the address label has come off and there is no return address on the package. This is the most standard reason for an item to be directed there, because USPS will be unable to direct the package to the correct destination or return it to the sender. Other things may also result in mail being sent there, such as the recipient refusing to accept delivery, or repeated failed deliveries. Again, if a return address is available, USPS will generally simply return the item to the person who mailed it so that they can keep the item or try again, but if there is no return address, the company cannot do this.


Damage to the label resulting in an illegible address may also cause problems, and if the item is missing crucial information (such as the house number or zip code), the package may end up at the Mail Recovery Center. USPS does make major efforts to try and avoid packages going to the Recovery Center, as this costs them money and results in them having to ship mail around the country, but in some cases, the company has no alternative but to send it there.


mail being delivered at the door


What Does The Mail Recovery Center Do If They Cannot Identify A Recipient?


If the Mail Recovery Center cannot identify the recipient, the next action will depend on how valuable the item is. The inventory sheet that details the package’s contents will help with this. Packages that contain items that could be sentimental, or those with a value of higher than $25 (or $20 if the item is cash) will be held for at least thirty days. This gives the intended recipient or the sender enough time to file a Missing Mail Claim form and get the contents of the package added to the missing mail database. This may lead to the Mail Recovery Center being able to direct the items to the recipient or back to the sender, solving the problem.


However, for mail that is not claimed or for mail that is of no value, the Mail Recovery Center will take one of three actions. They will destroy the item, recycle it, or auction it off – and this is done in conjunction with the US government. You can purchase a wide variety of items that have been lost in the mail from a website called GovDeals, and the funds will go to the government. Unfortunately, if you do not claim your mail quickly enough, this is likely what will happen to it, as USPS has no obligation to hold it for longer than thirty days, and limited storage space may mean that it is disposed of.


How Can I Get Mail Back From The Mail Recovery Center?


If you have lost a package or envelope, the best thing to do is to fill in a Missing Mail Search claim, which can be done via USPS’s website or at your local post office.


Before this occurs, you will need to fill in a Help Request Form. This will prompt the mail handlers who would have dealt with your package en route to look for it and attempt to locate it based on the last scans and its probable route. However, if this fails, it’s time to move on to the Missing Mail Search claim. This form allows you to fill in as many details as you can about the package that has gone missing. You will need to try and write things about the color, whether it was an envelope or a box, what it looked like, what was in it, how it was packed, and any distinguishing features.


The more detail you can include, the more likely you are to get the package back, as the USPS employees will do the same, and this helps to narrow down the search in the database. If you cannot include much detail, try asking the sender to help you. It is worth submitting a claim even if you cannot describe the packaging much; you may manage to get a package back just based on the contents, particularly if they are unusual or personal. However, the more detail you can provide, the greater your chances of recovering the item are.


atlanta on the map


Where Is The Mail Recovery Center?


The Mail Recovery Center is located in Atlanta, Georgia, but its actual address is kept secret, and the building is intended to be kept anonymous. This is presumably to discourage people from breaking into the center or turning up and expecting to be able to collect their mail from it. You cannot just go to the Mail Recovery Center and ask for your package, even if you happen to live right next door to the facility. The area is very secure and there is little information about it. Members of the public are not allowed on site.


Even if you can describe the package in detail and you are sure it has been lost, you will need to use the Missing Mail Search claim, rather than going to the center in person. You will not gain access to the center; this would be considered a serious security risk. It’s important to remember that the mail service is designed to be private and it handles a lot of confidential information. Financial, legal, and medical paperwork are often sent via USPS, and the Mail Recovery Center is not open to members of the public.


How Long Will The Mail Recovery Center Hold Mail?


This depends, but the Mail Recovery Center should hold all mail of financial or sentimental value for thirty days at least. USPS suggests waiting for two weeks before you file a Missing Mail Search claim, so the window is quite narrow. It is therefore important to be prompt about filing this claim as soon as you can, allowing enough time for the employees at the center to start looking for the item once your claim has been entered into the system. If you do not do this, the item may have been disposed of before you have even claimed.


It might seem odd for there to be such a big discrepancy between the recommended claim time and the hold time for items, but remember that mail will often get delayed because it has been lost, misdirected, fallen off a cart and got pushed under something, or sorted into the wrong pile. It will frequently turn up late, rather than ending up at the Mail Recovery Center.


Waiting two weeks to claim increases the chances that the item is actually lost, rather than just delayed, and saves work for USPS. If everyone tried to claim as soon as a package was late, the Mail Recovery Center would be flooded with requests for items that were sitting on trucks or in dispatch centers across the country. Be patient and only claim when a reasonable amount of time has passed – but do claim at this point, or the item may be disposed of.


usps truck in front of building


What If A Package Mistakenly Ends Up At The Mail Recovery Center?


Occasionally, packages get misdirected to the Mail Recovery Center when they are actually deliverable. If this occurs, the staff at the Mail Recovery Center should send the item straight back out again. This may cause a delay, but should ultimately result in the item being delivered to the correct address. As long as the shipping label is intact, mail will not stay at the Mail Recovery Center for long, unless it was undeliverable because the recipient refused to take it.


Can I Prevent Mail From Going To The Mail Recovery Center?


You probably can’t prevent mail from going to the Mail Recovery Center, no – this only happens if something has gone wrong. However, you can increase the chances of it being redirected to the right place if this happens. If you are the person sending a package, the best way to ensure that mail at the Mail Recovery Center gets sent to the correct person is to include a secondary address label inside the package. This should contain the full name and address of your intended recipient, and your return address as well.


USPS employees can then use this information to send the package to the correct place, or to return it to you if they cannot do that for some reason (an error in the address, or the recipient refusing to accept the package). You should also make sure you write your return address on the outside of the envelope, as this will further help to ensure that mail comes back to you if it does get lost.


Is The Mail Recovery Center The Same As The Dead Mail Center?


Yes, the facility was formerly known as the Dead Mail Center, but the name was changed sometime in the 1990s to more accurately reflect the purpose of the center – to recover lost mail. You may still occasionally see the term “dead mail” on your tracking information, but it should more commonly be shown as “sent to MRC” now.


virtual mailbox on a computer and mobile device




The Mail Recovery Center is USPS’s attempt to ensure that mail that cannot be delivered does eventually reach the intended recipient by redirecting lost mail to a central sorting facility. Of course, a lot of things can go wrong on a package’s journey, but one of the big problems is often with the delivery of the item.


If you are away from home a lot, getting packages delivered may prove really challenging, especially if they require a signature and you don’t have suitable neighbors or family at home. In such cases, you might benefit from getting a Virtual Mailbox from US Global Mail. This will allow you to have packages delivered securely at any time, and reduces the risk of them ending up at the Mail Recovery Center for being undeliverable!

Virtual Mailbox for your Postal Mail

Access mail & packages online 24/7. Try it free.

A better way to manage mail.

Why pickup your mail in person, when you can get it on your phone? Try it free. Cancel anytime!
Contact us



No contract. No hidden fees. 100% satisfaction guarantee

  • 1 name on the account
  • Unlimited mail scans
  • Free check deposit

All our plans come with

100% Guarantee

Don't love it? Cancel within 30 days for a full refund.

location on the map
Permanent Street Address

Get a PO box online while maintaining a real street address.

computer devices
Smart Mailbox

Read all your mail virtually. No paper mess and a greener planet.

No limits

Get mail from all your homes and business(es) or both in the same app.

security symbol
Free Check Deposit

Deposit bank checks virtually... with the click of a button.

flexible plans
Flexible Plans

Upgrade, downgrade, cancel anytime.

Tree on the top of the world globe

We want to leave a greener Earth for our children

We plant a tree for every new member sign up

Recent blog posts

travel technology including a laptop, smart phone and a vintage camera

Get the Best Technology for Your Adventure Before You Travel Outside of the US!

Expats and globetrotters know the best quality and most affordable technology products  are only available in the US. You can check out our recommendations for digital nomads, travelers, and expats here.

Read more
Man working from the bed in his RV

How to Land a Remote Job So You Can Become a Digital Nomad

Thinking about becoming a digital nomad? Here’s everything you need to know to find remote jobs or start a small business overseas – so you can live the glamorous lifestyle of the American expat.

Read more
door with sign reading No Junk Mail

Say Goodbye to Junk Mail: Tips and Tricks that Work

Say goodbye to unwanted mail for good with these proven methods to stop junk mail from flooding your mailbox. Get started today!

Read more