Banners to bags

discarded banners: do they just end up at the tip?

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) coated polyester fabric is an extremely durable, weather resistant material, perfect for the banners and billboards installed on construction hoardings. Yet, banners are often only required for a specific purpose and short periods.

What happens when they are taken down? A resourceful business might store them away for potential reuse – perhaps even inventively repurpose them as weather proofing. Sadly, though, this valuable material often ends up in landfill.

For UpShop Industries, banners are not waste, but a durable and flexible material printed with colour and pattern just waiting to be creatively upcycled. As a designer, Mario knew bags would work. In 2019, UpShop agreed with Metro Tunnel Creative Program to test out his ideas.

By prototyping, analysing the material (such as tensile strength), and sampling, UpShop has produced bags with three different designs: the tote/beach bag, the fashion tote, and the record bag.

The process. The first, critical stage is washing banners that have been subject to the elements. We use citrus-based, eco-friendly detergents and elbow grease to remove what is usually some undesirable combination of grime, graffiti, bird poo… The material is then hand-dried and polished.

Layout involves matching the artwork on the banners to the bag designs. We select areas based on making the best use of colour and pattern for the particular design; and repurposing the most material. Our target is to use 90% of each banner.
The material is hand-cut with scissors so that every possible centimetre is used. The bags are stitched using industrial sewing machines, making sure they are sturdy and take full advantage of the PVC fabric strength.

Laying out the design for cutting in UpShop's workshop

Turning the bags out is quite a laborious process – also done by hand as it requires a certain level of finessing to form them into their final shape.

Creative collaboration. The banners are produced for Metro Tunnel Creative Program, who have commissioned artists to create works to be displayed on their construction hoardings. Once de-installed they are upcycled by UpShop Industries, and then returned to the client as new ‘second life’ products.

Working together, we have successfully implemented an upcycling model based on circular economy principles and sustainable business practices. Our collaboration produces a new creative work that pays homage to the creativity of the artists – and the creativity of collaboratively transforming what might have ended up at the tip into something unique and beautiful.

A typical transformation. A 2 metre x 109 metre banner printed with Evan Whittington’s artwork REJ and installed at Barry Street, Parkville, now upcycled into fashion totes.

Finally. What’s most important. Our careful attention to design means that 90% of each banner is re-purposed into bags – diverting thousands of square metres of PVC textile from landfill.

Finished bags ready for delivery

UpShop’s answer:
create unique, useful and beautiful bags

But… banners can become more than beautiful bags. We have other ideas. Here’s a sneak peek at our panniers.

Prototype of panniers in development