Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: What should be done with political signs after the election? Can the plastic and metal be recycled?

My answer: I vote for fashioning them into small condos and selling them for $500,000 each. Plastic is waterproof, you know, and these signs are considerably more useful than most politicians.

Real answer: I learned something here myself, as I always just assumed these placards could be easily recycled. They can be, but not so easily.

More on that in a sec.

But first, let’s go to Nancy Lawson, co-owner of Curbside Management Inc., which processes most of the recycling in our region.

“Unfortunately, real estate and election signs should never be placed in your normal recycling at the curb,” Lawson said via email. “Both materials may be recycled, however, they cannot be placed in the recycling bin. They will not properly advance through our system, and this is not on any of the municipalities’ accepted recycling lists.”

Fortunately, a “Hard 2 Recycle” event is coming up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19, at T.C. Roberson High School.

“We will have a dedicated box to place the plastic sign in and another for the metal stand,” Lawson said. “They would need to be separated.”

Asheville GreenWorks, the environmental nonprofit, hosts these events. Acceptable items for a Hard 2 Recycle event in Buncombe include an array of items, running from Styrofoam to electronics.

So check here for more details:

By the way, the political signs should be gone by the time you read this, although I bet many of them won’t be. Every year some of them just become litter.

Corinne Duncan, director of elections for Buncombe County, told me via email that by state law, “candidates have 36 hours after the polls close to retrieve their signs from polling locations. Any signs that are not picked up can be removed by the property owner.”

Friday morning in the Fletcher/Arden area, I spotted a few political sign stragglers, so I suspect a good number remain elsewhere, too.

Duncan and Buncombe County also noted the difficulty in recycling the signs, because they’re often made from several materials, including corrugated cardboard coated in plastic.

The county notes that the metal has to be separated from the rest of the sign, but it can be taken to the Buncombe County Landfill or a metal recycler for recycling, or the Hard 2 Recycle event.

Question: What do you think about adding the questioner’s name to Answer Man? Example: “Today’s question: What do you think about adding the questioner’s name or some other identifier to Answer Man questions? — Pete Lewis, Asheville.”

My answer: You see what Pete Lewis did there? Got himself named in the Answer Man column. Hey, he’s the editor here. I had no choice!

Real answer: In 20-plus years of writing Answer Man, this issue has come up several times over the years. It’s a great question, because some readers do associate anonymity with journalists making stuff up.

Sadly, journalism has had some very high profile cases of high-profile reporters making stuff up.

But I think I have some solid reasons for not requiring questioners to give their names.

Over the years I’ve had a lot of people express concern about being identified in any way when asking a question. I’ve gotten questions from lawmakers, judges, high-ranking law enforcement officials, front-line cops, politicians, teachers, CEOs — you name it. None of them wanted to be identified publicly because it would’ve hurt them professionally, caused retaliation, or even in some cases the loss of their job.

In some cases, they might be asking about something seemingly trivial, and they feel the public may upbraid them for wasting their time on something perceived as inconsequential.

Also, I think if we start identifying questioners, even with their consent, naturally folks are going to assume you have to provide a name with these Answer Man questions, and that’s likely to squelch the number of questions we get.

The questioner being anonymous frees folks up to ask what they really want to ask, without worrying about repercussions. 

Sometimes even neighbors asking questions about a junky house or a jerk nearby shooting guns all day long don’t want to be identified, for fear of retaliation. Or they don’t want to tick off a service company or a restaurant and get even worse service in the future.

Also, I do take questions from pretty much anyone, as honestly, anyone who reads the column is a reader. I’ve taken questions from editors, reporters, my wife, etc., as long as they’re good questions that Google is unlikely to answer, and the queries have a respectably wide interest.

Or they’re just suitably weird.

On a practical note, I’ve had people ask me questions in the YMCA locker room or in the pool, when getting a name would be a little awkward (nowhere to write it down!). People I’ve just met have asked me questions at the grocery store or brewpubs, and some leave voicemails without their names, from anonymous phone numbers.

So, it gets more complicated than you think. Typically, the only time I identify a question-asker is when they want to be identified for some practical reason (say they want to get the word out about an important upcoming event), or it’s my own question.

Also, I don’t take questions that will potentially libel someone or seem overtly vindictive or mean-spirited. I also reserve the right to edit questions for clarity and length, and sometimes I will ask for additional information I know readers are going to want.

I think that’s fair. What are your thoughts?

Also, thanks Pete. Great question!

Got a question? Reach out to Asheville Watchdog Answer Man John Boyle at (828) 337-0941 or email him at

2 replies on “Are political signs recyclable? Why doesn’t Answer Man name the questioners?”

  1. Even if the Answer Man gives his questioners anonymity, does he himself know their names and gets some kind of verification?

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