The moment the polls closed Tuesday, millions of dollars' worth of campaign signs morphed into unwieldy trash.

Signs of varying sizes and shapes, pigmented with dyes and mounted on pointy lawn spikes, are hard to fit in trash cans and need to be broken down before they can be recycled in most facilities.

So Montgomery County's Recycling Office is offering free drop-off sites and working with recycling companies to take the waste away.

The seed for the innovative program was sown a couple of years ago in Upper Dublin, which is "sort of the poster child for recycling and environmentally friendly stuff," said Mary Anne Fennell, the township's recycling coordinator.

Last year, Montgomery County recycling coordinator Chris Kaasmann picked up the idea and ran with it. He collected signs from drop-off sites around the county and started dismantling them in a warehouse.

"I sorted about 25 percent of them, then I was like, 'This is ridiculous,' and got some community service people to help," he said.

Kaasmann's crew fielded eight tons of campaign scrap - six tons of it metal.

"Scrap-metal sorting systems are set up to handle [mostly] cans," Kaasmann said. "So when you throw something in that's pointy and bendy and oblong, it doesn't work."

The signs are also problematic, he said, because of the pigments and the variation in materials - from corrugated cardboard to waxy paper and the "plastic bag" signs that dominated the presidential campaign.

This year, Kaasmann has enlisted a bit more assistance.

There are 11 drop-off sites across the county, including at the Democratic and Republican Parties' headquarters in Norristown. Several campaigns have agreed to collect their signs, and county inmates will unload the cargo and break down the components.

Three regional recycling companies have teamed with the county to take in the raw materials.

There was an unforeseen side effect in last year's sign collection. Kaasmann said several residents commented on how quickly the signs were taken down compared with previous elections.

"It's common courtesy - if you put it up, you take it down. But we know from experience that's not the case," Kaasmann said. "If people know what to do with something, they're more likely to do it quickly."

Fennell said the campaigns were able to tell people in advance where they could dispose of the signs. "They were in the door Wednesday morning," she said. "I didn't even have the bins set up yet."

Drop-offs will be accepted through Nov. 21. For locations, visit www2.montcopa.org/montco/cwp/view,A,11,Q,88439.asp.