Over the next three years, Washington State road signs needing to be replaced will be refurbished and reused, thanks to a partnership between the Washington State DOT and Northwest Sign Recycling of Prineville, Ore.

The contractor's hydrostripping technology uses only water to remove old laminates without harming the integrity of the aluminum or corrosion-resistant coatings. The water is recycled for future use. Blank aluminum signs are returned in prime condition and ready for new, high-intensity prismatic laminates as required by the federal government.

"We had a choice between managing the sale of scrap aluminum and buying new signs or choosing a vendor that could handle the reclamation process,” says DOT Sign Shop Manager Dave Fernald. “Recycling provides a cost savings, it’s a process that minimizes harm to the environment, and it just makes good business sense."

The agency shapes an average 7,000 square feet of aluminum every month into signs. Recently, it sent 37,000 square feet of sign material to the company to be processed, which will be stripped clean and ready to reface.

Operating since 2004, Northwest Sign Recycling also manages aluminum sign refurbishing for the Oregon DOT.

“States that choose to refurbish aluminum signs are saving thousands of dollars,” says Co-owner Wendie Every. “This also gives municipalities the opportunity to comply with federal retroreflectivity standards. Refurbishing is simply the responsible thing to do. ”