Product, Service & Design Innovation
‘Get Your Hands Dirty:’ How a Small Print Company Diverted 2,500 Lbs Waste from the US Open

Diverting waste from landfills and the innovative reuse of textiles are becoming higher priorities for businesses large and small. From pro baseball teams to grocery stores, partnerships are helping companies send less waste to the dump. Some of the most innovative collaborations have focused on would-be clothing waste: This year, Avery Dennison partnered with The Sustainable Angle and designer Christopher Raeburn to create unique, sustainable looks; and social enterprise Space Between partnered with New Zealand Post Group and its uniform provider, Booker Spalding, to upcycle end-of-life uniforms into fashion students’ designs.

But not all fabrics are used in clothing – so what happens to items such as old banners and other large print materials? Some can be recycled and reused – and partnerships can help there, as well: United Airlines, for example, recently partnered with a college fashion department and the Re:new Project to turn old banners into carry-on bags.

Venice, Calif.-based entrepreneur Lindsey Kurowski, who runs two print companies, had the opportunity to work with snowboard and apparel company Burton to provide a portion of the signage for the 2015 US Open and found innovative ways to cut way back on the event’s waste. We caught up with Kurowski to learn more.

Tell us more about your two printing companies.

Knotty Pine Print is focused on retail display and event signage. Our capabilities range from fabric banners and wood/metal printing to trade show build & promotion/corporate gifting products. What separates us in the display industry is our dedication to decreasing waste and sourcing better materials for campaigns and product signage.

The Blocksmith is our sister company, where you can upload your photos and we print them for you on wood - great holiday gift!

What are some of the challenges associated with providing eco-friendly materials for a large outdoor event like the 2015 US Open?

Durability, color-matching and budget are very common themes we deal with often. Many amazing eco materials cannot hold up in conditions with high wind and rain/snow. Vinyls are cheap and durable so it’s not surprising we see it at outdoor events. I always push to work with dye-sublimated fabrics for outdoor signage. The print process is water-based and non-toxic, the color is vibrant and the materials often have the opportunity to be recycled or sold into the second-use market.

I needed to see all the materials needed to produce this event to understand where we could make improvements. Burton was very dedicated to recycling/reusing everything we could and considering best material options for the future. We were responsible for producing probably 15 percent of the signage for the event, but I decided to act as if it was all made by Knotty Pine to reach the larger goal of reducing waste at such a large-scale event. This meant flying to Vail, Colorado, spending hours in the bone yard sorting materials on pallets based on their destination, cutting grommets out of all the textiles, and streamlining logistics of what was going where.

Prior to the event I had reached out to several organizations with the materials we'd be dealing with. I had found textile recycling for all cotton/polyesters, and I found a third-party vendor that was able to take all materials that could not be recycled and put them into a repurpose market. For example, all of the plastic coroplast signage that lined the half pipes was sold into the construction market and used for laying concrete and lining marble countertops. Mesh signage was sold into the farming industry to be used as shade; coated canvas was sold into construction markets as tarp and also animal shelters to be used as bedding; vinyl banners produced were sent to a third party to seam into bags and phone cases that will be used as promotional giveaway for the 2016 US Open. … Being in Colorado we had a lot of resources focused on recycling/repurposing.

What was the result of all that work?

We diverted nine large pallets of material, weighing about 2,500 pounds, away from a landfill! Not a bad first attempt. There are plans already for next year about swapping out some materials for more non-toxic fabric signage that can be recycled.

Get in over your head! Get into that scrap yard and see what you find. To offer solutions, you need to truly understand all the elements and you need to get your hands dirty - this would not have been possible without the support from Burton and their genuine passion to reduce waste. Also hugely important: working on a local level. I would never have imagined that I would find these repurposing companies that were HQ'd right in Denver! Ask a lot of questions and remember that every "no" is getting you closer to a "yes."

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