You’ve seen them crowded together on street corners, thrusting their messages at you like brokers in the New York Stock Exchange. Nothing says election like the ostentatious array of campaign signs dotting Austin’s landscape.

But after the election is over, and the lines at the primaries have vanished, we hope that these old signs get put to some good use.

The city of Austin is planning a pilot program called Campaign Recycle that encourages candidates to recycle their signs after the May 10 City Council elections. Candidates who participate in the program get to put a recycling logo on their signs, and after the election, they may drop off their signs - stakes and all - to be recycled by Cycled Plastics, a local company.

We commend the city’s effort, and we hope that this program can grow to include campaign signs from other elections. With roughly 2,000 campaign signs already in Austin after Tuesday’s primary, a recycling program could save a lot of plastic, paper and metal otherwise doomed to landfills.

American-Statesman writer Asher Price reported on the recycling efforts that campaigns are planning for their signs, bumper stickers, pamphlets and buttons - sometimes called “chum” - after the primary election. Several groups working on national campaigns have been sending presidential candidate materials from state to state, hoping to save money and materials.

This is a fine idea for national elections, but Pennsylvania won’t have any use for the Texas Railroad Commissioner signs. And come Nov. 5, all of those materials - national and local - will be yesterday’s leftovers.

Some Austinites may wax nostalgic and save Noriega or Cornyn signs for the kids. Maybe a candidate or two will repaper their bathroom walls with 2008 campaign memorabilia. Maybe some gets cut up as confetti for Election Day.

Another option is for optimistic candidates to stop putting the year on their signs. When the next election comes around, there will be a stack of signs ready to be planted.

Some signs could be reused as early as March 31, when early voting begins for the primary runoff elections. Williamson County Republicans Bryan Daniel and Dee Hobbs will vie for the District 52 state representative nomination, while Democrats Rosemary Lehmberg and Mindy Montford seek to be Travis County district attorney. A sliver of District 52 is in the Austin city limits.

We vote for all candidates to follow the city of Austin’s lead and recycle their campaign materials.

-Austin American-Statesman