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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Campaigns Elect to Recycle Signs

Recyclable campaign signs! What a novel idea!

BY SHAWN A. HESSINGER, Republican Herald

It’s a sign of the times — campaign signs that dotted the landscape leading up to Tuesday’s General Election are now finding their way into the county recycling system.

“So there are people that recycle them; however, we haven’t seen any as of yet,” said county solid waste and resource manager Dan Grow.

He said drivers picking up recyclables from county dropoff points have told him they routinely see campaign signs made of tearable, laminated parcel board in both the cardboard and paper bins. Metal frames used to stick the signs into the ground have routinely been folded and placed in the steel and aluminum bin after other elections, Grow said.

By contrast, Jonas Kreitzer, general manager of Kreitzer Sanitation Inc., Frackville, said the company rarely comes across signs in its waste stream.

“I can’t say I ever see a large amount of them in one spot,” Kreitzer said.

He added that if the signs are put up and retrieved in small numbers by volunteers, haulers would be unlikely to spot them mixed with other garbage. He said the company’s recyclable hauling contracts are limited to co-mingled materials and newspaper, so campaign signs would be unlikely to be mixed in.

But not all signs can be easily recycled.For example, campaign signs made of plastic slightly heavier and thicker than plastic garbage bags cannot be reclaimed by local facilities, Grow said. Neither can signs laminated with plastic, according to a Berks County recycler.

“Laminated with plastic is just basically junk,” said Bob Cougle, president of Cougle Recycling Inc., Hamburg.

However, Cougle said he rarely sees campaign materials at his recycling facility unless they are printer overruns of pamphlets or other election related material. Grow said residents should not place plastic signs in county recycling bins but encouraged ongoing recycling of cardboard and metal. He said the metal recyclables make the county $105 per ton and the cardboard $62.50 per ton. Grow also said landfills dislike dealing with the signs because they are caught up easily by gusts of wind.

A call the Commonwealth Environmental Systems landfill in Foster, Reilly and Frailey townships was not returned Thursday.

Sgt. Chris Blugis of state police at Frackville said no specifics in the state crime code dictate when signs must be taken down after an election.

“I’ve actually seen people taking them down right after election,” Trooper Alex Douglass said.He said that’s early compared to what he has seen in other elections.

Leslie Amoros, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said no state election law governs when signs must be removed following an election, but said such regulations were usually part of local ordinances.

County election bureau director Betty Dries said she always encourages supporters and candidates to remove signs early but added that she had been unable to find any county ordinance that specified a time frame for removing them.“My theory is after election they’re litter,” Dries said.

County solicitor Paul Datte said he was unaware of any county rules on when campaign signs must be removed.“Normally you might see that on a local level. There may be some on a local level, but personally I’m not aware of any,” Datte said.

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