Perhaps you bought a new car this year, or moved to a different state. Maybe you were looking for a new way to show support for your favorite sports team, animal species, children’s program or national park. There are many reasons people end up with spare license plates at home, and there are many good ways to recycle them or reuse them in craft projects. We share some of our favorite ideas below.
What are license plates made of?Modern license plates are made of aluminum, which is easy to recycle. Manufacturers simply melt the metal down and cast it into new items. Hundreds of products are made of aluminum — everything from silverware to cars — so there is no shortage of demand for it. There is a very good reason to recycle aluminum as well. Manufacturing the metal from virgin materials takes a tremendous amount of energy. On the other hand, aluminum producers estimate that they can reduce their carbon emissions by 95% when they use recycled aluminum in their products. In many states, license plates are made by prison inmates who stamp them out in special workshops designed to teach basic job skills. Besides giving prisoners a source of income and something to do, the practice lowers the cost of manufacturing license plates for states. License plates first came into being in 1903 as a way to register cars and tax drivers. At various times throughout history they were made of steel, tin, porcelain, even soy-based fiberboard during World War II. Until the 1940s, drivers got a new set of license plates with the date stamped into the metal every year. Georgia was the first state to add decals with the year so plates could be used over and over again.
How to recycle license platesYour state’s vehicle licensing department (often called a DMV) should provide specific instructions on acceptable ways to recycle license plates. Generally, drivers have several options to choose from:
- Return old license plates to a vehicle licensing office in person. The downside to doing this is it can mean a long wait to see someone at the counter. We all know how fun the DMV is!
- Mail them to a vehicle licensing office. Each state should have a mailing address for returning old license plates on its website.
- Put them in an aluminum recycling bin at your local recycling center. If you choose this option, it is very important to remove all the month and year decals from the license plate and destroy it by bending it, scratching it up, or cutting it into pieces. If someone steals a valid plate and puts it on his or her car, the police will contact you if a crime is committed with that vehicle.