What goes up, must come down. This is an old adage that typically refers to gravity or the effects of a sugar crash, but it is also one we have found at play within traditional advertising (of all things).

Beginning in the fall of 2019, the West Virginia Lottery requested to reframe some of their traditional billboard advertising, a move intended to put up a general message that could translate across campaign efforts while also saving some money.

It began with the typical creative process: the boards were designed, reviewed and approved by the partner. They were printed and put up within a few months of the initial concept. So, nothing out of the ordinary. 

But, no one knew that six months later the landscape of advertising, our daily lives and the world as a whole would change due to a global pandemic.

In the time since COVID-19 hit, advertising for multiple partners has stopped, been temporarily paused, pivoted or entirely revamped to showcase a new message addressing the current times we’re living in and translating that new message toward positive consumer actions. But, that also meant the billboards that barely had time to get sunburnt had to be replaced.

What first felt somewhat like a defeat became a huge opportunity. Through communications with our billboard vendors, we learned that recycling the old vinyl was standard practice. This was some welcome good news during a time in which good news is sorely needed.

The organization that tops our list of used vinyl recycling is One Louisiana Now, a nonprofit founded by LSU researchers. They are using former Lamar billboard materials to create reusable gowns and face shields for health care professionals responding to COVID-19. Their team has created clinically acceptable prototype designs of gowns, face shields, masks and replacement ventilator parts from the vinyl materials used for billboards. All can be sterilized and reused.

On the lighter side of things, RareForm, a company out of California, takes old vinyl and recycles them into purses, bags, wallets and various other accessory items. They’ve also allowed corporations to use their specific recycled vinyl and add their own branding to the product for promotional purposes.

These forms of recycling are only scratching the surface of what can be done. Billboard vinyl can be used in natural disaster relief, assist in crop growth and even used in boat construction. 

By continuing to think creatively about reducing, reusing and recycling, we are being mindful of our planet and our communities. It’s important now, more than ever, to find the positive and look for ways to be inspired.