Roadside Signs: Can I Recycle That?

December 6, 2022

New Hampshire is known for the political engagement of its residents, with a first-in-the-nation Primary and the third-largest legislative body in the world - the New Hampshire House of Representatives boasting 400 members! This means that every-other year New Hampshire roadways fill with corrugated plastic signs sharing all political affiliations. (Even Bigfoot got in on the action this year!)

But what happens to all that plastic after the election is over?

First, those corrugated plastic signs are Coroplast®. On the Coroplast® website, it states:

"Coroplast® uses polypropylene copolymers which makes for easy recycling at the end of their useful life. Polypropylene, being a polyolefin, recycles in processing streams such as plastic milk cartons and detergent bottles. Contact your local plastics recycling center for local information on polypropylene recycling."

This is confusing! Polypropylene is denoted by the recycling symbol and the #5, while milk cartons and detergent bottles are made of #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene). Further, of the limited transfer stations in New Hampshire that accept #5 plastics, they generally need to be in the shape of a bottle, tub, or jug.

The reason for accepting only bottles, tubs, or jugs is that not all plastics - even plastics with the same recycling number - are made the same. This means that recycling them into a new raw material could affect the structural integrity of a new product made from that recycled material. (That's why #1 clamshells are not usually recycled with #1 bottles. Learn more about recycling symbols)

What does this mean? It means that we at NRRA are not aware of ANY outlet for recycling Coroplast® signs in New Hampshire.

Coroplast® signs end up in the landfill or incinerator. Because recycling is not an option, the alternatives are: REUSE, REDUCE, or REFUSE.

If you have a Coroplast® sign, we urge you to hold onto the sign in case your candidate runs again OR reuse your sign for future political signage. 

Not ALL political signs are made of corrugated plastic.

Signs made of stretchy plastic stretched over a metal frame CAN be recycled. The stretchy plastic should be removed and returned to a film or bag recycling location (often found at the local grocery store or big box store like Walmart or Target). The metal frame can be reused or recycled as scrap metal at the transfer station. 

Signs made out of cardboard with a metal or wood frame CAN be recycled. Again, the different materials - cardboard, metal and/or wood - must be separated prior to reuse or recycling at the transfer station.