Give me a billboard and I will build you a shed
Published in Jan-Feb 2019
The environmental benefits of upcycling (the process of transforming by-products, waste, useless or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or of better environmental value) are enormous. Apart from the reduction in volume of discarded materials and waste, upcycling reduces the need to use new raw materials and therefore, translates into a reduction in air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and often in the conservation of resources. Upcycling is a form of reuse, where an item created to serve a specific purpose is used for another purpose – usually with little or no modification.
On a large scale, there have been no formal attempts to upcycle waste in order to create new products for the benefit of the community. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Pakistan usually involves companies spending large sums of money to help flood survivors or schools and sending out news highlighting their magnanimity. Now, the CSR team at Haleeb Foods Limited (HFL) have taken an initiative which may help Pakistan on many levels by developing an idea to prevent the vinyl skins of billboards from ending up in landfills by upcycling them into large sheds for dairy farmers in Jhang.
Although upcycling billboards was virtually non-existent in Pakistan, companies in other countries are known to have repurposed their billboard skins for a variety of uses. Air France turned their billboard skins into a limited edition series of bags and accessories. Sony created a buzz when they held a fashion show displaying a limited edition series of jeans made from their billboard banners.
Out-of-Home (OOH) has historically been one of the oldest forms of communication and despite the fact that the global media landscape has undergone rapid change, the medium has held its own because of its ability to reach massive audiences.
Throw an old banner over the firewood to shield the wood from the elements and use them to protect the floors when you paint or cover your plants when the weather is bad. Local artists and schools can use the material for projects such as recycled guitar cases, wallets, clothes and tabletops. Since the only limit to reusing vinyl banners is your imagination, the possibilities are endless.
It is pertinent to mention here that the spending by clients on OOH runs into millions, if not billions, of rupees every month. It is therefore apposite to consider the sheer amount of waste produced once the billboards are taken down. These billboard skins are manufactured using resilient and durable plastic vinyls, which have undergone surface treatment aimed at limiting sun damage. Billboard vinyls are usually 20 millimetres thick and this makes them more durable and better suited to heavy-duty or outdoor uses. Billboard banners can last for 10 years or more.
Under their pilot programme, HFL have repurposed the billboard skins used for their Asli milk campaign in order to build sheds for dairy farmers over a total area of 4,000 square feet in Jhang. The purpose of these sheds is to provide farmers much needed relief from the scorching heat. HFL’s Milk Collection and Dairy Services Division (MCDS) will also use these structures to conduct trainings for dairy farmers with respect to teaching them how to increase the yield of the milk they supply.
Turning the billboard tarps into large sheds for dairy farmers is only one of many applications. The vinyls can be repurposed in a variety of ways. Studies into developing cost-effective by-products of billboard skins have identified several residential and commercial applications ranging from bags to safety floor mats, watering containers and roof tiles. The great thing about using old banners for tarps is that one doesn’t have to do anything. Throw an old banner over the firewood to shield the wood from the elements and use them to protect the floors when you paint or cover your plants when the weather is bad. Local artists and schools can use the material for projects such as recycled guitar cases, wallets, clothes and tabletops. Since the only limit to reusing vinyl banners is your imagination, the possibilities are endless.
HFL has appealed to all brands, advertising agencies, vendors and market players to donate their used billboard skins to them so that instead of ending up in a landfill, they will be upcycled by HFL to create sheds, tents and overhead coverings for the benefit of Pakistan’s dairy farmers.
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