Wyoming Department of Transportation

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Department encourages reuse, recycling of old plates

September 7, 2017

Over the course of the eight-year license plate design for the state of Wyoming, the Wyoming Department of Transportation will produce between 3.5-4.5 million sets of plates.

This amounts to more than 1 million pounds of aluminum every eight years that WYDOT Tag Plant Manager Steve Lund said WYDOT hopes will be reused or recycled.

The initial run of the new license plates was 1.2 million sets of plates. By January 2019, all vehicles on Wyoming roadways should bear the new plate. After the initial run to get ready to distribute the new plates, the department produces between 350,000-475,000 sets of plates each year, Lund said. And each plate weighs roughly 2.5 ounces.

The department does what it can to see to it that plates don’t end up in the landfill.

Many people simply return their plates to the county. When they do, WYDOT recollects the plates to sell them at the scrap aluminum market price.

There are a number of other things people do with the plates, Lund said.

“They own them,” he said. “They can keep them if they want.”

Lund added people sometimes collect, sell and trade their plates. People sell plates online, and he said that he’s heard of swap meets in Colorado. Lund said some collectors even collect the stickers to update registration.

License plates on eBay sell from a few dollars for a newer plate, to $100 or more for a plate from 1940s or 1950s.

“Embossed plates sell best,” he said.

Others recycle the plates themselves, keep them as decorations or make things with them. Lund said a store in Gillette was selling boxes made from old license plates, an attempt by a local high-schooler to start his own business.

The young man was not the only one with that idea.

Lund said that WYDOT no longer sells the returned plates through surplus because of a program through the Wyoming Department of Corrections. Corrections now buys all the plates WYDOT has to offer so inmates can produce a number of products with the material.

WY Brand Industries, a branch of WDOC, sells products made by inmates, including products made with old license plates. Inmates make simple products like pencil cups, business card holders, file organizers and paper stands. They also make lunch boxes, barn stars, bird houses and even airplanes out of the recycled material.

The effort helps inmates learn job skills and positive attitudes and work habits to help them in re-entering the workforce after incarceration, as well as reduce the tax burden on Wyoming taxpayers.

The products are sold by small businesses throughout the state.

While some advise people to deface or destroy the plates because they believe that it could lead to identity theft, Lund said that is not the case.

“You can’t do anything (malicious) with it,” he said. Neither the county nor the state will release the information they keep on past license plate owners, so it is safe for the plates to be reused as a craft project or recycled.

“We want people to give them to the county treasurers’ offices,” he said, so the plates can serve another purpose.

For more information, contact WYDOT Senior Public Affairs Specialist J.L. O’Brien at 307-777-4439.