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Profiting from Recycling

(June 2009) posted on Wed Jun 03, 2009

Going green doesn’t have to be black-and-white.

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By Craig Miller

When we do a Paul Mitchell Signature Gathering, it’s a large and vibrant event. In addition to fabric, we print on a lot of black Gator substrate. When the event is over, we send our box truck to pick up all the used signage. We repurpose all of it. We did a job where we wrapped 250 Gatorfoam boards with canvas prints—all of them were done on Paul Mitchell’s repurposed boards. The Paul Mitchell people got their signs 100-percent recycled, which is consistent with their corporate culture, and our canvas customer got a break on the price. We did right for both customers, and it was good for us in an ethical and a business sense.

When Imagination did graphics work for the National Automobile Dealers Association a couple of years ago, the association used 135 sheets of blue 4 x 10-foot Sintra. Again, with the client’s help we brought the used panels back to the shop, chipping away at the pile, using the sheets whenever we could. Then, another good customer, PRG Scenic Technologies, got the contract for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Do you see the color blue coming back into the discussion? A tall, double-sided sign highlighted all the state delegations with white letters on blue. All this signage and more was made with white UV ink on recycled blue Sintra. Again, the cost/benefit ratio was a win-win.

We also do a lot of dye sublimation. We are switching some clients to fabrics that are made from 100-percent postconsumer waste and that are, in turn, 100-percent recyclable. However, most of our fabrics are 100-percent virgin polyester. We can’t hide the prints in repurposing like we do Gatorfoam. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do with the acres of fabrics when the events are over: Our sewing department makes beautiful multipurpose bags and even hats. My wife and I took three of the bags and threw them in the back of our car and now we can’t live without them. These bags carry clothes for yoga, groceries home from the store, and every imaginable item from home to work and back. We love them and they’re catching on with our customers. We now offer this as a service when we do large dye-sub jobs and simply tack it on to the square-foot price.

The real world
The important thing to note is that none of our modest green efforts cost us a dime. It’s real-world recycling and it distinguishes us from our competition. A small core of our customers will remain loyal because they are environmentally conscious. The good news is, in the long run, it also adds to our bottom line.

Craig MIller is president of Pictographics ( in Las Vegas, a large-format graphics service bureau that excels in digitally dyed textiles, wall coverings, and custom applications.