The acrimonious 2016 election season might be history, but its legacy might be coming soon to a park bench near you.
At least some of those miniature partisan billboards for Hillary and Donald, and Katie and Pat, are being recycled and repurposed into synthetic lumber to make things such as park benches, composite decking material, and fencing.
In a program similar to those in Arizona and Texas, Montgomery County has been collecting those political remnants for the last five years in an effort to give them new life while also getting them off the streets. It is the only program of its kind in the region; neither Philadelphia nor its neighboring counties have formal programs.
The costs are minimal. A county employee gathers the signs from the dozen drop-off points around the county and takes them to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Eagleville, where they are hand- sorted by work-release prisoners.
The metal frames become scrap metal. The flimsy plastic film signs are sold to Cougle's Recycling in Hamburg, Berks County, where they are converted to synthetic lumber and other materials. The sturdier, corrugated plastic signs are sold to ReCommunity Recycling in Montgomeryville, a sorter and baler, and out of that political scrapple reborn as lawn chairs, toys, trash bins, and the like.
The results could be viewed as consolation prizes for those disappointed in the election outcome, said Veronica Harris, the Montgomery County recycling manager.
"So even if you feel at the end of the campaign that you're not happy with the result," Harris said, "you can be happy knowing where your sign is going to end up."
She did not have figures on the actual volume of material gathered at the 12 sites throughout the county, but prodigious piles were evident at a Norristown center last week at the end of the collection period.
Harris said the locations were spread out enough that a drop-off point would be convenient to most county residents.
"People who are concerned about recycling in their normal day to day, both at home and the office, are happy to have the option also to be able to recycle at the end of a campaign and not have to put those materials in the trash," Harris said.
Dianna DiIllio, executive director of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee, whose office served as a drop-off location, said that this year was a lighter one signage-wise for the simple reason that fewer races were on the ballots.
But in the past, not all the signs trumpet candidates. The locations have no control over the types of signs that come in post-election, she said, and their intake has included signs advertising asphalt and roofing work.
The collection period was compressed, ending last Tuesday, just six days after the election.
"The timing seemed to be shorter because the election was later," DiIllio said. "The weather changes, and they can get blown around, and so I think that is a benefit as well."
DiIllio said the program has aesthetic and practical benefits.
"To a lot of people, they don't want to see them out there on the roads anymore," DiIllio said. "And then also, it's just a good effort. It helps save the planet, basically. You're not putting them in landfills."
Regardless of the election outcomes, the county tries to act quickly, she said.
"In past years, even in big victories," DiIllio said, "it's sort of always been our folks' mind-set that 'The election is over - let's try to get everything we put out, or at least try to, and then . . . just move on to the next cycle.' "
Expect a fresh crop of signs in the spring for the 2017 Pennsylvania primary.