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Recycling Old License Plates in Johnson County

   The Johnson County Treasurer’s Office, the Iowa City Federation of Labor, and the Carpenters’ Union Apprenticeship facility in Cedar Rapids are ensuring that old license plates are being recycled at no cost to taxpayers. Keeping the aluminum out of the landfill is benefiting both the environment and area charities.
   A new drop-off box for collecting the plates will make the effort even more convenient for drivers, said Tom Kriz, Johnson County treasurer and elected official, who helped organize the effort.
   The collection box is located in the public parking lot at the Johnson County Administration Building, 913 S. Dubuque Street in Iowa City. The secure box, which was made by participants in the union’s apprentice program, is available for use 24 hours a day.
   “We collect the aluminum plates and the Iowa Federation of Labor delivers the plates to a salvage yard, which turns the plates into scrap,” Kriz said. “Proceeds are donated to charities primarily in or serving Johnson County, including the Iowa City Crisis Center, United Way, Iowa Shares, and Special Olympics.”
   Since the recycling effort started in the late 1990s, an estimated $20,000 worth of plates have been recycled. The program was based on a Hawkeye Labor Council, AFL-CIO, program in Linn County.
    Kriz credits Patrick Hughes, president of the Iowa City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, for bringing the idea to Johnson County. “Patrick recognized that aluminum has a lot of value, and that we could help both people and places by recycling old plates,” Kriz said.
   “Keeping the license plates out of the landfill is an important goal, and we didn’t want them getting into others’ hands,” Kriz added. “The Iowa Department of Transportation will pick up the plates, but by recycling them in the area, we can keep transportation costs down and benefit the community.”
   With the launch of a statewide license plate replacement program in 2012, thousands of old plates are being replaced in the county each year, Kriz said. In recent years, the volume of plates recycled from Johnson County, coupled with the price of aluminum, has generated nearly $2,000 annually.
   The last time the State of Iowa re-issued vehicle plates on a mass basis was in 1997. The new mass replacement effort is slated to last until 2020. Vehicles originally registered between 1998 and 2003 are now due for plate replacement in 2013.
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