A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

About those plastic campaign signs...recyclable? reusable?

Are you tired yet of those roadside campaign signs? We all will be by November 4th and they are all supposed to disappear by November 25. But what exactly does "disappear" imply? Some politicians have ambiguous signs that can be collected, stored and re-used in another campaign. Yet for many of us they are basically a disposal problem.While some are coated cardboard and others are basically plastic bags stretched over a wire frame, the vast majority are now made of a tough, lightweight polypropylene plastic called Coroplast. I was initially leery of the stuff because it is plastic and rumored to be non-recyclable. But the manufacturer makes a case for its environmental credentials. It turns out it is recyclable -- its a number 5 polypropylene, but unfortunately most local recycling centers don't accept number 5 plastic. Arrgh. My efforts to find a place that takes it got complicated. At stake was a recyclable product that looked like it might not be recyclable after all.

First I called the manufacturer. No help. Then I called the State Department of Environmental Protection. Not much help until I noticed a pdf file about a pilot project from 1996 to recycle political yard signs. That led to a call to Pinellas County who directed me to Jim Chapin with Recycled Plastic Factory, which is actually in Englewood. Jim is willing to take all the political campaign signs we can get him. They will undergo a transformation and re-appear as useful products. Here's a way to address a waste problem and support local green business and reduce transportation costs for finished products.

Later Suzanne Boroff with DEP called and provided more information and insight. 

I will be talking with my 19 other local Democrats about strategies to collect leftover signs. Hopefully others (Republicans? County Solid Waste?) will join in and help make it easier to do something useful with the dang things. Suzanne gave me the number for a contact person with Sarasota County. I'll pursue that tomorrow.

That's the story on RECYCLING-- at least at this point. More detailed info will follow once a strategy emerges on collecting and transporting the signs. The other angle to consider is RE-USE.

Here are two ways I use old coroplast political signs: 1) When excavating a planting hole, I pile the soil on several old yard signs -- that makes it easy to keep the dirt out of the grass and slide it back in the hole when I am refilling, 2) I throw a few signs in the trunk, then if I have to change a tire or look under the vehicle the yard signs provide a clean surface to kneel or lie on. 

Now it is your chance to get creative. I've created an email address to collect alternative uses (re-uses) for those corrugated plastic signs. Send your suggestions to reusethatsign@gmail.com and I will post all the ideas in a blog before the general election. Please mention if you have actually used the signs in the manner you are proposing or yours is (at this point) a theoretical possibility.

And if you actually like coroplast yard signs, but not the self-promoting ones you see around town, you'll be please to know artists got involved (
myyardourmessage) with yard signs and came up with some real, sometimes provocative, ones you can order online. 

Finally, if you have any great high visibility highway (commercial) locations where I can put up my 4'x4' highway signs (as seen above), please send an email to jonocampaign@gmail.com   I'm looking for sites that will be seen by a lot of people, but which aren't already crowded with other signs. Let me know.