Florida Attempts Recycling of Campaign Signs

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, October 20, 2008 (ENS) - As early voting begins in Florida for the November 4 general election, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is encouraging candidates for political office and citizens to recycle campaign signs at the end of the election process. Recycling paper materials like campaign signs keeps waste out of landfills and allows for the reuse of materials.

Recycling campaign signs is one way citizens can help Florida achieve its new statewide recycling goal of 75 percent by the year 2020, which was passed into law earlier this year.

The Florida Energy, Climate Change, and Economic Security Act of 2008 directs the DEP to develop a program designed to achieve the 75 percent goal and submit it to the Legislature for approval by January 1, 2010.

DEP is encouraging the public to assist in developing this plan and has created a public forum where interested persons can share thoughts, suggestions and comments, as well as view the contributions of other participants.

"Achieving the new statewide recycling goal of 75 percent by 2020 will require innovative strategies by all Floridians," said Mary Jean Yon, DEP's director of waste management.

"Changing old habits - like recycling a political campaign sign instead of tossing it in the dumpster - is just one of many ideas to help reduce the waste stream and increase Florida's recycling rate," she said.

During an election year, campaign signs line the streets of Florida. Because many local governments have ordinances regarding the removal of campaign signs within a specific time after the election, campaign signs and materials can end up filling landfills around the state.

Recycling campaign signs not only saves space at landfills, each ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water. Recycled paper also saves 60 percent energy in comparison to new paper and generates 95 percent less air pollution.

In 2006, the Florida DEP conducted a pilot program in four counties to encourage the reuse or recycling of campaign signs.

All projects incorporated radio, newspaper and public service announcements to promote and publicize the collection events.

Three of the four pilot projects established drop off locations for the county to collect the signs. The fourth project, conducted by Keep Pinellas Beautiful, contained a component where high school students would collect and dismantle the campaign signs. However, the local Code Enforcement department, because of its rules for disposition of removed signs, collected the signs before KPB or the students had a chance to pick them up. Code enforcement officials did agree to take the signs to KPB for dismantling and recycling.

"We have historically been able to recycle 100 percent of all campaign signs that we were able to obtain," said Bill Sanders with Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Inc., who engaged local high school students to participate during the pilot program.

Charlotte County was also pleased with the participation and positive feedback received from citizens during the 2006 pilot program. "Brought back by popular demand, Charlotte County will be collecting campaign signs," explained Barbara Kula, the county's recycling coordinator.

Three tons of campaign signs were collected as a result of the 2006 pilot projects. Two of the counties that participated in the pilot program, Charlotte County and Pinellas County, are offering campaign sign recycling again to their residents this election year.

But the New River Solid Waste Association said that staff hours, equipment and funds would be better utilized in other recycling efforts that yield a higher volume and return, so they do not plan to continue campaign sign recycling in this and future elections.

DEP encourages candidates and citizens to check with their local recycling coordinator for recycling campaign signs options. To find out more about DEP's campaign sign recycling pilot program, click here.

For more information on the new statewide recycling goal of 75 percent, and to share your comments on ways to achieve this goal and view comments from others on our web-based forum, visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/recyclinggoal75/.

{Photo: Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama of Illinois at Metro Park, Jacksonville, Florida by Tracey Ledebuhr}

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