Diverting waste from landfills: we’re turning vinyl banners into reusable tote bags

An old vinyl banner advertising the Regional Connector Transit Project about to undergo transformation. Photos: Maya Myles/Metro.

Vinyl banner for Regional Connector.

Travel around Los Angeles and you’ve probably seen a Metro banner or two. Metro creates these banners to promote Metro projects, such as alerting people to our construction sites, or informing customers of our programs.

The banners are made of materials strong enough to withstand Los Angeles’ harsh sunshine. But what happens to the banners when they’re no longer needed? Instead of being dispatched to the landfill, we’ve begun turning many of the signs into resuable tote bags as part of Metro’s sustainability efforts.

The Banner to Bags program was born in 2017 when Kyle Lefton, a former Metro Environmental Compliance and Sustainability Department fellow, was pondering ways to reduce trash. Diverting vinyl from landfills helps keep landfills from filling up.

While vinyl can be recycled, the process isn’t always cost effective — the reason few companies offer these services. A better practice is to take the vinyl and turn it into something else that can still be used. In addition, by turning the vinyl banners into bags, Metro can purchase fewer new items to give away at public events.

“By turning these banners into bags, Metro is able to reduce the environmental impacts from the extraction and transport of materials, avoid vinyl waste in our landfills and impacts to air, land and water quality. This is one small way that Metro is innovating solutions that make LA County a more sustainable place to live,” said Cris Liban, Chief Sustainability Officer.

In order to turn the banners into bags, Metro currently works with CR&A Custom, Inc. CR&A is a certified Local Small Business Enterprise. While they began as an apparel company, they transitioned to large format printing in 2005. One of the reasons CR&A was able to work with Metro was because they already created reusable bags and other items out of vinyl banners.

Carmen Rad, owner of CR&A Custom, Inc.

“We have printed some amazing graphics, and many of the banners have really beautiful, artistic designs. It seemed a shame to throw them away,” said Carmen Rad, owner of CR&A. “A lot of investment is made into creating these graphics  so why not use them again? So we offered to turn the banners into bags.”

Employees and contractors contact Metro when they have used vinyl, and CR&A arranges to pick them up, cleans them and produces the bags. Each bag takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes to produce. The design of the bags was created in-house by Metro, but each bag is as unique as the banner it’s made from. There are currently three sizes available: small, medium and large.

As of this time, Metro has created more than 10,000 bags! The goal is to make more, the reason that Metro is expanding the Banner to Bags program to include our construction projects. The completed bags are provided to Metro staff to hand out at public events, such as community meetings or events where Metro staffs a booth. Metro is also looking into expanding the program to include other materials, to continue to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills.

If you’re interested in getting one of these bags, be on the lookout at events Metro is participating in!

10 replies

  1. I have one and I love it. And when my church had leftover banners I duplicated your idea and made more bags and some other items. Thanks for your innovation and keeping the banners out of the landfill!

    • Hi NickL,

      The banners also need to be durable enough to withstand our weather conditions without needing to be replaced too often. Staff is also looking at comparable products that are more sustainable as we continue the shift towards greener practices.

      Thank you,

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  2. Cool. It’s not unlike when you auctioned off those old rail signs a while ago – except that it sounds like you’re giving these away.

    Will recipients be able to know where each banner was originally hung? If not, it might be fun to figure that out for ourselves.

    • Hi Pat,

      It’s unlikely we can pinpoint where each banner originated from, but based on the message/design, it shouldn’t be too difficult to guess!

      Thank you,

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  3. Why not print less banners? Or absolutely no banners that don’t serve a safety issue. Less waste of materials and money spent. Make them into tents for the homeless.

    • Hi TimGee,

      Many of the banners are part of our advertising program that support local businesses during construction. While I personally agree we could create less, the banners really help the businesses when it’s difficult to see storefronts due to construction fencing. Some of the banners also act as windscreens to prevent construction dust/debris from being blown into nearby neighborhoods.

      Thank you,

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  4. These expensive to create bags eventually will end up in landfills. Better to stop making huge wasteful banners in the first place.