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Billboards Into Bags

Giving New Life to Discarded Vinyl

by Deena Kloss

CivitasNow Forager BagBillboards can be helpful to travelers looking for restaurant options, places to spend the night, or notable attractions, but behind the large messages shouting from just beyond the roadside lurks a cringe-worthy story that is troubling for the eco-conscious.

While outdoor billboard advertising is historically known as an effective form of media, it is also one of the most wasteful and environmentally negligent. The majority of billboards in the U.S. are 14’ x 48’, meaning one piece of standard billboard vinyl covers 672 square feet. The material stretching across the billboard face is made of PVC, a non-biodegradable substance that becomes toxic when left to sit in a landfill. There is a significant lack of programs designed to close this loop in the life cycle of vinyl material, and each year advertisers produce about 600,000 tons of billboard vinyl waste.

When an advertiser signs off on initiating a campaign, a large format printer produces the billboard. The vinyl is then shipped to an outdoor advertising company, who owns the billboards, and the ad is displayed until the campaign is over. Most billboard campaigns last anywhere from one month to a year, and once the campaigns end the vinyl either sits in storage or is shipped to a landfill.

In keeping with their core business focus to source waste-neutral forms of alternative advertising, local media agency CivitasNow developed a way to divert this landfill waste by initiating a program that salvages expired billboards. After stockpiling thousands of square feet of this material, CivitasNow approached local handmade goods manufacturer Seagull Bags about prototyping a reusable tote bag that is constructed from the repurposed vinyl.

Once the tote, which is now known as The Forager Bag, was stress-tested and evaluated, the agency set out to find a like-minded venue partner that would stock the bag. The Hills Market, a local specialty grocer that recently opened a new location in downtown Columbus, agreed to sell the reusable tote. They incentivize patrons who pick up The Forager Bag by offering discounts on groceries while shopping with the bag. This encourages reuse, which in turn saves money on the store’s plastic bag inventory while maximizing the overall benefit of cutting back on the waste generated from disposable plastic shopping bags.

CivitasNow, Seagull Bags and The Hills Market are all located within a one-mile radius of each other in downtown Columbus, making the entire project’s scope hyper-local.

Locations: 7860 Olentangy River Rd., Worthington, and 95 N. Grant Ave., Columbus, or visit CivitasMarketBag.com.

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