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Sign Shop Waste: Illusion of Ecology

Discussion in 'Think Green!' started by Biker Scout, Apr 22, 2014.

  1. Biker Scout

    Biker Scout Very Active Member

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    Since I got started in this industry some 20+ years ago, even as a broom pusher and trash taker-outer I've noticed the exorbitant amounts of trash that a small sign shop can produce. It's always bugged me... the endless silicone paper that seems to always flow over the dumpster. The large boxes and cardboard tubes. The scrap vinyl, paper masking and clear vinyl masking. Behind the curtain, it's a real issue and daily chore for a moderately busy shop to have to contend with. I honestly don't even think you can legitimately recycle silicone liner paper with regular paper. Can you? What about all that gooey masking? I'm willing to bet that nearly all sign shop's trash just ends up in the landfill.

    Which kind of brings to light this industry push to become green, as if it's some kind of badge we can proudly put on our front windows as soft advertising about how eco-conscious we are. Look, our inks have no odors, or we use branded things that say "eco" and we all sing kumbaya at break time and small forest critters break out in song every time we break down a cardboard box and put it in a pile destined for the recycling center. But if our so-called eco-conscious customers could look into the production area during a busy shift, they'd see horrible, horrible things that would make them screech the tires on their Prius and head to some other enchanted land of solar fairies and wind powered dreams.

    So, my question is this: How do you guys contend with your trash? Does it bother you the amount of waste that's produced? Do you make an effort to reduce the size of your trash? (Tear it up, shred it, break it down, roll it up, get it wet?)

    I've had this idea for about 5 years to create a sort of Franken-Mulcher that sits over a 55 gallon trash can. Were we can at least reduce the amount of paper trash down to one bag. I mean the amount of trash bags we go through is kinda obscene. Also, in my current industrial complex, we don't have shared dumpsters anymore. Management has placed locks on them, as they are now designated just for small office use. Any of us that have roll-ups, warehouse space, industrial space etc are left to our own garbage collection. A few tenants have their own smaller dumpsters that they pay for, and when I first moved into the complex I got an earful about using one of them. I didn't realize I couldn't throw out my trash in the only dumpster for a block. Just figured it was for the row of businesses. So that leaves us with having to haul off our trash every few days. I don't mind so much, as it's forced me to make a concerted effort to sort and recycle. After all, we are "Eco Mouse, llc" :Big Laugh

    So this trash thing has brought my idea to the forefront out of necessity, and was wondering what everyone else thought about their refuse?
    cardboard-tube-coffee-table.jpg
     
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  2. player

    player Major Contributor

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    I agree the waste is crazy.
     
  3. rjssigns

    rjssigns Major Contributor

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    We are fortunate to have a mill about 5 minutes from the shop. All paper and cardboard products go into their bins. There are no restrictions posted on the bins. The mills only product are cores.
     
  4. letterman7

    letterman7 Very Active Member

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    Recycle what you can. Cardboard goes to recycle here. Vinyl scraps get balled up as small as we can make 'em and tossed. Paints and inks, whatever is left over or waste, gets set into a container and brought to a buddy with a recycling condenser. He gets the solvents pulled out and I get a dry cake to toss. Plastic scraps, coro, plexi, etc, get cut up and put into recycling. Probably not the best thing to do, but I figure I'll let the recycle facility sort it out of they can't use it. Same with the vinyl backer papers, though those make good firestarters on a winter night. Any wood products like MDO get cut into small pieces to use as fuel for the fireplace. HDU... another story. Most scrap of that, unfortunately, gets consigned to the dumpster.
     
  5. SqueeGee

    SqueeGee Active Member

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    There is a facility in our area that does "single stream recycling". Basically they sort the trash for you and recycle what they can. It's somewhat controversial in that some say that the recycling percentages are not as good as advertised. Frankly, we can't justify the cost to manually sort and handle it ourselves. Everything goes into one dumpster and hopefully they do a good job of sorting it. A 4yd dumpster with weekly pickup runs us $60/month.
     
  6. player

    player Major Contributor

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    If you put materials that are not recyclable in the wrong bin it can compromise the whole program. If someone is making products out of recycled paper, the silicone from the release liner could cause the new product to fail, which is worse than just chucking the liner in the first place.
     
  7. custom sign center

    custom sign center Member

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    According to one of the workers at our local dump, just about everything I have ever brought down there as far as substrates are recyclable including the liner.

    I often give drop off substrate and vinyl scrap to Habitat for Humanity or local Churches... they are always happy to have it and make great use of it.
    Honestly the only thing that ends up in the garbage is the transfer tape and weeded vinyl which you can compress down.

    I feel the industry is as "Green" as YOU make it. We certainly don't need any more regulation that only causes it to be more costly to do business and cost the customers more.

    When you really start looking at some of the so called "Green" things (like Windmills) and you research the process it takes to produce something "Green" you find that "Brown" is a better description.
     
  8. Shadowglen

    Shadowglen Member

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    I have been using speed press frames for years because I like them and they work well for me, and the bonus is I have saved miles and miles of wasted trans-mask by using them too. Tubes and boxes get re-purposed as rollers and holders of banners for customers. Still have tons of waste in weeded vinyl and backing paper though.
     
  9. Christian @ 2CT Media

    Christian @ 2CT Media Major Contributor

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    We use our backing paper for packaging or donate them to local schools for art projects.

    Our scrap vinyl gets used down to the smallest size in our machine, and the weeded vinyl gets tossed typically.

    Our Rolls and Boxes get used for packaging or transport, the excess gets recycled.

    Our ink carts get turned in to Staples, who sends them back to HP.

    Our substrates get used down to the smallest point then recycled.
     
  10. Pat Whatley

    Pat Whatley Major Contributor

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    Bob will be chiming in any minute now to belittle you as an inferior specimen.
     
  11. SqueeGee

    SqueeGee Active Member

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    Hahaha! I'm surprised he hasn't already - probably busy ironing his jean jacket.
     
  12. gabagoo

    gabagoo Major Contributor

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    I save all large backing paper for packaging and I have a deal with one supplier who picks up the empty cores to reuse. The clear liner from 3m vinyl I save for my screen printer who uses it to shoot film.
    A 4 yard container fills up fast with basically paper debris (which no recycler wants) and when it gets to the top I flip the lids open when rain is called for and let mother nature scrunch it down so I can put more in. If no rain in the forecast I sometimes after washing my car just hose it down and it drops about 2 feet. I have 5 -5 gallon drums of waste ink sitting in a steel cabinet and still have not found anyone who takes it away for you..... tried the kitty litter thing, but that just seems so environmentally wrong.
     
  13. Christian @ 2CT Media

    Christian @ 2CT Media Major Contributor

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    I don't know about your neck of the woods, but when we had solvent machines we could take it to any autoparts store and they would mix it with there waste cleaner barrels as they are pretty standard solvents. Or Safety Kleen will set up a contract to pick up the waste whenever you want for a fee of course.
     
  14. Biker Scout

    Biker Scout Very Active Member

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    I think we can make a strong case for direct to substrate flatbed printers, using LED UV lighting a good green solution for printing. Secondly, I forgot all about the Speed Press, that's a great idea for applying vinyl instead of rolls of masking. I think the silicone release liner paper could be shredded. And obviously plenty of places will take brown cardboard, or even the cores. I'm betting someone in your town would want the cardboard core/tubes. I'm thinking craigslist in the free section. I sometimes wrap customers prints around or in them... but they still end up occupying quite a bit of space, and I feel guilty for throwing them out. Perhaps, because it's the kid in me that still thinks they can be used for something awesome.
     
  15. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

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    We had to go to a 2 dumpster set up a while ago, one for general trash and one for cardboard/plastic/paper recylables. When we started I gave them samples of some of our waste to find out which it went in. Vinyl and vinyl liners can't be recycled. They don't take coro either which surprised me. We tried a recycling program for acrylics/lexan/coro but didn't generate enough to qualify.
    I agrre about the increase in the amount of waste. When we painted signs we could get by with a single garbage can for all the waste we had.
     
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