Vinyl Billboards And The Environment
Most modern billboards are made of printed vinyl. In the past, large pieces of paper were used and glued together to form a single image or message, but nowadays large, intact sheets of vinyl can be printed with special machines. The type of vinyl that is most commonly used is called PVC, and because this consists basically of plastic, people tend to consider it environmentally unfriendly. While digital billboards are starting to surface on the market and are considered more environmentally safe, the components going into digital billboards can actually be quite difficult to dispose of because they contain toxins that can leach into groundwater and soil – the same way that all electronic equipment can be dangerous to dispose of. Vinyl, however, can be repurposed for different things and the demand for vinyl scrap from billboards is getting increasingly higher.
How Are Billboards Made?
But, before we talk about repurposing vinyl it helps to know how billboards are made. Billboards (regardless of size) are usually constructed with a frame and a permanent backing that sits within the frame. The image sheets are then usually screen printed – a process that prints only one layer of colour at a time. Screen printing is very cost effective when it comes to large sheets, especially if multiple copies of the same image have to be made for different billboards. Digital printing is also used, and this is more expensive than screen printing. The beauty of digital printing is that the ink used in this process is specifically designed to be weatherproof, which means that colours don’t fade and that the billboard remains intact and highly visible for long periods of time. The vinyl on which the image is printed is made up of two layers that are covered with a nylon finish which is UV resistant and water resistant, and stops the vinyl from ripping. This means that the vinyl itself also has quite an impressive lifespan – around 3 years, even in harsh weather conditions.
Re-using And Repurposing Billboard Vinyl
Because vinyl is a practical and flexible material, it can be used for many different things, and there are several companies that specialise in creating art pieces and reusable items from billboard vinyl. From shopping bags, tarpaulins, slip & slides, waterproof sleeping bags for the homeless to tent liners, tents and woven mats are all created from the leftovers once the billboard poster is taken down. The businesses and individuals that recycle or upcycle billboard vinyl in this manner not only benefit the environment, but also provide employment and teach new skills. This means that, if you are worried about the environmental impact your vinyl billboard will have, you can stop worrying! Billboard vinyl is usually recycled and is a very environmentally friendly way of advertising.