Election's over. So what happens to all those campaign signs? It's complicated.
Election Day may be behind us, but plenty of leftover campaign signs linger.
It typically falls to campaigns or political parties to collect their signs, though local governments will often help with cleanup. While some counties are offered recycling drop-off days for the plastic and cardboard signs, they aren't recyclable curbside.
That means most of the signs either get reused or head to the landfill.
In Arlington Heights, Public Works and Engineering Director Cris Papierniak said the village tends to keep any leftover signs for a week or so before throwing them away.
"Once we do a sweep, when we get a call and we do pickup, we'll keep them for 10 days in the hopes that someone picks them up," he said. "Because again, we want them reused. We'd rather have them reused than thrown away."
Papierniak said campaigns are generally pretty diligent about collection and that cleanup after the election typically isn't a huge problem -- this year, there were only about a dozen or so stragglers.
He said it's during the actual election cycle where the village ends up doing the most legwork.
Despite signs not being legally allowed on public property -- including parkways -- they inevitably crop up at busy intersections. The public works department will take action if it receives multiple complaint calls or the signs present an issue with driving sightlines, Papierniak said.
"We're very reluctant to pick them up because then we're criticized for picking up the specific candidate. We have no personal or political opinions, obviously, as public servants," he said. "We do let it get to a heavy use, where it's almost littering at times, before we respond."
While campaign signs don't belong in the curbside recycling bin, some recycling haulers are able to take them. Both DuPage and Kane counties offered special drop-off events for any leftover signs over the weekend.
Sheila Rutledge, DuPage County Board member and chair of the county's environmental committee, said the events are extremely popular with municipalities.
After the last fall election, the committee offered the recycling service for the first time with help from Lakeshore Recycling Systems. The event was such a hit that the committee worked to put it on the county budget permanently.
"The goal is to keep things out of a landfill," she said. "You look around at the landscape during an election cycle -- I would love to see another option besides all of these plastic signs. They're an eyesore and too many of them don't get picked up. We thought that this was a good step to keep all of that out of the landfill."
Rutledge said the recycling events aren't limited to political signs. Graduation signs or other academic signs are also accepted.
"We'll invite anybody to recycle any signs that they have because I think a lot of people end up just housing them in their garage, because they don't want to put them out with the trash and they don't know what else to do with them," she said. "I'm happy to provide the opportunity."
• Jenny Whidden is a Report For America corps member covering climate change and the environment for the Daily Herald. To help support her work, click here to make a tax-deductible donation.