What to Do with Old License Plates

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I recently came across some old license plates that we’ve accumulated over the years. While license plates can be recycled, ours have lived in a box. Curious about other options for them, I began to look up ideas for what to do with old license plates.

Fun fact: New York became the first state to require license plates in 1901.

Upcycling Your Old License Plates

As I started to search, I was surprised by how many useful things can be made by upcycling old license plates. Here are just a few of the ideas I found for what to do with old license plates:

License Plate Box

This project I found at TheCavenderDiary.com looks simple — with only a few cuts and folds required. I envision a bunch of these sweet license plate boxes lining a shelf in a craft room, playroom or family room. They could be filled with craft supplies, matchbox cars or other small toys. The folks at The Cavender Diary used their boxes to serve pistachios and peanuts on their patio.

Old License Plate Snack Box. Photo: TheCavenderDiary.com

To see all the steps involved so you can craft your own license plate box, click HERE.

Wall Sconces

This next idea for what to do with old license plates, from GreenCricketSalvage.com, is adorable. I can picture these wall sconces hanging on the fence in our backyard with citronella candles perched on them. It would be a cute and durable way to add color for a backyard entertainment space.

Old License Plate Wall Sconces. Photo courtesy of GreenCricketSalvage.com.

This project doesn’t require any cutting or drilling. Figure out where you would like your fold to be, and then use something like a wooden block to fold the metal.

Clipboards

I’m constantly on the lookout for unique teacher gifts, especially for male teachers, who seem to be tougher to shop for. This repurposed license plate clipboard would be a perfect gift, I think. Clip on a gift card to a favorite restaurant and it becomes even better.

First, find clipboard hardware online or at a local craft store.

Then attach the hardware to your old license plate, according to the instructions included with the hardware you purchased.

Old License Plate Clipboards. Photo courtesy of Hometalk.com.

According to Hometalk.com user GadgetSponge.com, it’s preferable to use stiffer licenses plates for the clipboards because the tension of the clips will bend plates that aren’t as stiff.

Recycling Your Old License Plates

If you just want to get rid of your old license plates, it’s always a good idea to recycle them. Our license plates are now made from aluminum, so they are a highly recyclable material. Check with your local recycling program to see what to do with old license plates before dropping them in your curbside recycling bin — not all programs allow you to put your aluminum license plates in the recycling bin for curbside collection. If they’re not accepted curbside in your area, visit our Recycling Locator to find a recycling location near you.

Every state has a different law regulating if and how the plates should be treated when they are no longer being used on a car.

For example, in Florida, you dispose of a license plate by:

“Submitting or mailing the license plate to any local Florida county tax collector’s office or license plate agency along with a request to cancel and recycle the license plate.”

In Washington, there are a number of ways to dispose of old plates. If you want to keep them, you must “remove or invalidate the month and year tabs,” and they can’t be displayed on a vehicle. There is also a list of license plate types in the state that must be returned to a vehicle licensing office when you’re replacing them. For example, disabled parking plates and commercial plates must be returned.

As mentioned, check with your local municipality to find out the regulations in your area.

Buying or Selling Old License Plates

If you have a box of old license plates in your attic and would like to see if they’re worth something, there are many places that buy and sell old license plates. Antique shops, thrift stores and many online shops carry a variety of old license plates.

There’s even the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association if you’re really interested in becoming an avid collector.

Since 1954, this organization has been “dedicated to the promotion of license plate collecting and research, the exchange of information and plates, and the fraternal benefits of sharing a common interest with others throughout the world.”

If you’ve ever wondered what to do with old license plates, I hope you are now inspired to upcycle some of your own.

Feature image courtesy of Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

Read More:
10 Things You Can Recycle Through the Mail
8 Downright Awesome Upcycle Shops

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Wendy Gabriel

Wendy Gabriel

Wendy Gabriel is a freelance eco-writer based in California. Wendy's work has been featured in numerous publications and websites, including the Chicago Sun-Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fox Business News and Mashable.com. For nearly six years, she was a weekly contributor on a popular radio talk show in the Upper Midwest with a segment titled “Simple Tips for Green Living.”
Wendy Gabriel

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