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Open the recycling bin, and let the post-election sweep begin

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Mary Delach Leonard weighed the postcards mailed to her home in Madison County by Ill. state representative candidates Dwight Kay (R) and Katie Stuart (D), 112th district. They weigh 4 1/2 pounds.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio.
St. Louis Public Radio reporter Mary Delach Leonard weighed the political postcards mailed to her home in Madison County by Illinois state representative candidates Dwight Kay (R) and Katie Stuart (D), 112th district. They weighed in at 4 1/2 pounds.

Whether you’re in a blue state, red state, happy or fed-up state, it’s all over, except for the recycling.

Yes, it’s time to make a clean sweep of the election flyers and door hangers.

The campaign yard signs and banners.

The political postcards that stuffed your mailbox every doggone day.

More than 5 pounds of political postcards were mailed to my house in Madison County since the beginning of summer. And 4 1/2 pounds of them came from just two candidates: Republican Dwight Kay and Democrat Katie Stuart,  candidates for the Illinois House of Representatives in the 112th District. (I know this, because I got out the old baby scale and weighed them. See photo above.) Stuart defeated Kay, who was the incumbent, but it was a tie in the postcard race.

The good news is that most of this stuff is recyclable, says Brent Batliner, general manager of recycling for Republic Services in St. Louis.

And the area's waste haulers are ready to roll.

“We’re gonna happily recycle it,'' Batliner said, cheerily. "Get it out of our way.’’ 

Republic, which serves residents and municipalities on both sides of the river, recycles both paper and plastic.

“Basically, anything that tears we want,’’ Batliner said. “Any mailer, postcard — anything you got politically that’s on a piece of paper. Whether it’s glossy, plain, big, small, we don’t care. Put it all in your single-stream bin. We want it all.’’

That includes cardboard and plastic yard signs, as long as you separate the signs from their metal posts before tossing the separated pieces into the bin.

But consumers should check with their own waste haulers. Some don’t take plastic signs.

For example, in the city of St. Louis, residents can recycle much of their election collection, but no plastic signs, according to Elysia Musumeci, recycling program manager at St. Louis City Recycles.

“One of the great things about our city’s recycling system is that we accept paper in all different kinds,’’ Musumeci said. “That can be anything from flyers or door hangers, postcards, envelopes. All that can go in your city blue recycle bin. A good rule of thumb is if it tears easily, it's recyclable. If you have a yard sign that is cardboard, and you’re able to tear it like a piece of paper, then that can be recycled.’’

Although city residents can not put metal posts or plastic signs in their recycle bins, she suggests that they check out alternative recycling centers that are listed on the St. Louis City Recycles website.

This election has been good for the recycling business, said Batliner, who noted that his company now accepts printed matter that wasn’t recyclable in the past.

“Some of the paper mills used to struggle with UV inks, or paper if it had poly-coating,’’ he said. “Technology has caught up with all that.’’

Election stickers are not recyclable.
Credit Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio
Election stickers are not recyclable.

He did have one bit of bad news: Adhesives — stickers — can’t be recycled.

“So, once you’re done with your ‘I voted’ sticker, kindly place that in the trash can,’’ Batliner said.

Or, you could keep it as a souvenir — or medal — of Election 2016.

Follow Mary Leonard on Twitter @MaryDLeonard

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.