Fort Worth Star-Telegram

With more than 60 candidates vying for council seats and the mayor’s office last month, there was no shortage of campaign signs dotting yards and roadways in Fort Worth. Mountains of signs were left behind at polling centers after voting ended on May 1, and many still linger as campaigns prepared for runoff elections on Saturday. State law requires candidates to pick up signs within 10 days of Election Day, and Fort Worth’s code compliance department works with campaign offices to ensure that they are removed, said department spokesperson Diane Covey. In recent years, code enforcement officials have not issued any citations, she said. But where will all that plastic and metal end up after voting concludes June 5? Because campaign signs are made of several materials, including a type of plastic called polypropylene, they are not easily recyclable, Covey said. None of the four largest cities in North Texas — Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and Plano — accept the plastic or wire parts of political yard signs for recycling, according to GreenSourceDFW. But that doesn’t mean North Texans can’t recycle them at a specialty recycling center, said John MacFarlane, the chairman of the Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group. “You can’t put them in the blue (recycling) bins, so people just trash them because they don’t know about where they can go, and there’s just one place essentially that you can go locally,” he said. “It just adds to our trash and the volume of trash that goes to the landfill.” In the week after Election Day, MacFarlane headed out to two polling centers and collected signs for candidates who did not make the runoff elections. He drove dozens of signs to AP&J Recycling, which grinds up new and used plastic to sell to manufacturers who can turn the material into a new product. During a tour of the facility, MacFarlane was told the signs will be turned into one-gallon paint bottles. The family-owned business, located at 990 Haltom Road in east Fort Worth, already takes in polypropylene plastics from other sources, making it a “no-brainer” to accept signs at no charge, said Jeanette Socket-Barrett, a managing partner at AP&J Recycling. “We haven’t had a mad rush of people bringing them in, but we’re happy to receive them,” Socket-Barrett said. “I’d much rather see them turned into a different product than for the signs to go to a landfill because it’s definitely a good plastic that can be recycled and reused.” Socket-Barrett said the company will take the signs in from anyone, including campaigns, individuals or organizations like the Sierra Club. Before residents drive out to AP&J’s facility, they should remove the metal or wooden stakes from the signs and call 817-987-8943 to give the company time to prepare for dropoff, she added. “If they’re brought in to us with the stakes removed, they’re fairly easy to manage,” Socket-Barrett said. “We also recycle the metal, so we put that into a separate container and then we go ahead and process the campaign signs to get turned into a new product.” To MacFarlane’s knowledge, AP&J is the only Fort Worth business that accepts campaign signs for recycling. In Dallas, Recycle Revolution can take the plastic parts of signs and does not charge individuals for dropping off a small number of signs, though organizations donating larger quantities are required to pay a fee. Currently, the city does not work with organizations like the Sierra Club or AP&J Recycling to recycle more political signs, Covey said. While there is no established partnership on campaign sign recycling, Socket-Barrett has worked closely with Fort Worth officials on industrial recycling initiatives. Republican and Democratic party headquarters often accept signs for reuse or recycling. Last year, Tarrant County Republican Party executive director Jeremy Bradford told GreenSource DFW that undated signs and wire stands are often saved for future campaigns, while dated signs are sent to recycling. MacFarlane and the Sierra Club hope to see more campaigns urge their supporters to recycle signs or reuse them for other purposes. After the runoffs conclude, MacFarlane expects to be back at AP&J to donate another batch of “feral” signs left behind from campaigning. “If there’s still signs out there a week after, we’ll probably do some more reconnaissance,” MacFarlane said. “We don’t want them to all end up at the landfill, especially when there’s so many candidates running like in this last election.” HALEY SAMSEL 817-390-7112

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