Do you like running your fingers over those fresh new license plates from the Motor Vehicle Division, reveling in the embossed numbers and letters that represent your new identity on the road? Enjoy it while you can.
Arizona is joining 21 other states in getting rid of raised print on license plates, switching to a digital process that officials say is better for the environment.
The state has already made the change for personalized plates, and regular plates will follow in January.
“As a state all of us are becoming more environmentally aware and are always seeking ways to improve processes,” said Cydney DeModica, a spokeswoman for the MVD, part of the state Department of Transportation.
Arizona’s license plates are made at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence. The facility made 1.6 million plates last year.
Officials say the outgoing process releases volatile organic compounds when the paint is machine-dried on the plates. The amount is estimated at 1,500 pounds a year, said Bill Branson, general manager at Arizona Correctional Industries.
The new process, which works like a high-tech copy machine, eliminates paint from the process, Branson said.
Branson said the new equipment is more expensive, but he added that the state is saving on paint and other inventory costs. The flat plates also cost less to ship, he said.
Matt Fraser, associate professor at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, said the change may not have an earth-shaking impact, but every step to clear the air counts.
“The key thing is to look at all sources, no matter how off-the-wall they may seem,” Fraser said.
Mark Shaffer, communications director for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said the agency is pleased with the move.
“This is one small step, but we’re happy that the process is more environmentally friendly than what was previously being done,” he said.
Officials in Nevada, which switched to the new technology in 2004, are pleased with the lower operating costs, said Tom Jacobs, a spokesman for that state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
The only unhappy group, Jacobs said, was classic car owners.
“They wanted that embossed look, just like it would be when it was made back in its days,” he said.
Classic and historic car enthusiasts in Arizona needn’t worry, DeModica said. The MVD will continue to offer those vehicles special copper license plates that are embossed.