Signs of progress in recycling Australia's billboards

Australia: An ambitious research project spearheaded by the Vinyl Council of Australia has identified novel recycling applications in a bid to make use of the 1.2 million m² of PVC advertising banners sent to Australian landfills every year.

The two-year REMAKE project explored the challenges of previously difficult-to-recycle vinyl-coated polyester woven fabrics to find new uses for the billboard skins as well as grain covers and truck tarpaulins totalling around 5000 tonnes which are landfilled each year.

Studies into cost-effective reprocessing techniques and potential end products and markets for the recyclate culminated in the identification of a number of possible applications, ranging from market bags to safety floor mats, garden watering containers and roof tiles. Following prototyping, three product designs are being assessed for commercial viability.

The project has encouraged government and industry investment of more than AU$ 300 000 (Euro 190 000) in PVC recycling in Australia.

For the outdoor media industry in Australia, finding a practical recycling solution offers an opportunity to improve environmental performance and reduce waste disposal costs. The direct cost to the advertising and printing industry in New South Wales alone in sending billboard skins to landfill is claimed to be some AU$ 200 000 per year - money which, it is pointed out, could be invested in recycling.

Commenting on the REMAKE project, the Vinyl Council's chief executive Sophi MacMillan says more work is needed to find 'a long-term, market-based, viable solution.'

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