Although green awareness is growing in South Africa, PVC (flex face) billboards remain a major concern as an industrial waste material in our landfills. Because of their exceptional durability and UV resistance the banners don't degrade, but these same properties make them ideal for re-use. Abroad PVC billboards have been used to line landfills to prevent the contamination of ground water and closer to home they're used to line dams.
The gases released by burning PVC are toxic to people trapped in an enclosed space and for this reason there's a concern about using them to line walls and roofs of homes, especially in poorer communities where fires are a common problem. There are however numerous other uses for this product which we started investigating and promoting in 2009.
Emakhazeni Development Trust (click header)
The Emakhazeni Development Trust runs various rural community upliftment projects, including The African Decor Centre in Dullstroom which provides a space for local suppliers to sell their handmade items at the prices they set. It also creates opportunities for small business enterprises to develop and one of these initiatives is converting billboard banners into fishing bags, aprons, durable shopping bags, art canvases and covers for outdoor furniture, amongst other things.
Wildlands Conservation Trust (click header)
The Wildlands Conservation Trust is a community-conservation NGO, based in Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal. Wildlands works on the premise that biodiversity conservation in South Africa and sustainable livelihoods go hand-in-hand, and the success of each is dependent on the other. Wildlands also believes that every person and every business has the ability, and therefore the responsibility, to do whatever is in their power to do to reduce their impact on the environment. Wanting to lead by example, Wildlands started by trying to think of ways to recycle their own branding materials.
Some of the goods Wildlands create are purchased back by their donors to use as corporate gifts, raising more awareness amongst their staff and clients and putting funds back into growing the initiative. The Wildlands team are collecting virtually anything 'sew-able' from in and around the Durban area, mostly PVC and material banners and their bags, but they'll experiment with other materials. Anything that can't be re-used to create something functional is given to the rest of the Midlands Meander creative committee to see what they can come up with. .
Soil for Life
Soil for Life is a Cape Town based NGO which gives people from diverse communities the skills to grow their own food. This is done through training programs focused on organic food gardening using water-wise, low-cost, environment-friendly technologies.
In March 2010, Soil for Life took second place at the Climate Change Leadership Awards in the Community Sector category and in 2007 they won the Cape Times and Vodacom Environmental Award.
Donations of billboard material would be used as nursary roofing, lining for nursary ponds and compost covers and would be greatly appreciated.
Art of Billboard Recycling
Estelle from the Emakhazeni Development Trust discovered that just one coat of paint is sufficent to hide the original design and provide a fresh and inexpensive canvas for aspiring artists. Subsequently we came across a non-profit organisation in America (Eco-LogicalARTGallery)which does something similar.
Peter Schulberg, owner of the LA-based art gallery, had the idea in 2004 of converting the billboard material into canvases and advertised for artists to paint on his free canvases in exchange for exposure on billboards. Even in extreme weather conditions the artwork showed no signs of fading or damage and the pieces fetch between $200 and $15,000 at exhibitions in California and LA.
"I used to be a billboard"
"A society is defined not only by what it creates, but by what it refuses to destroy." [John Sawhill]
Dullstroom's Local News
Xuma Media assists in community project
The Billboard Earthbag Project
The Billboard Earthbag Project envisions using billboard vinyl as an alternative material for earthbags.