Graphics & Signage

In both the UK and the US, around 80% of all textile waste goes to landfill or incineration. Less than 20% of textiles are recycled or reused. 

Event textile waste contributes to the traditional “linear economy” structure of ‘take, make, dispose’ and contributes to water contamination, continued oil extraction and toxic residue.

Single use

Events use fall-backs such as foamex or vinyl to quickly and cheaply brand an environment. Neither of these products are commercially recyclable and vinyl is particularly environmentally toxic.

Recyclability is grossly misunderstood which is a major contributor to unnecessary waste, particularly when it comes to textiles and signage. “Recyclability” or “100 % recyclable” labels do not guarantee that a material can be recycled in a given location.

Many of the marketing materials for graphics and signage fall under the ‘Technically Recyclable’ definition, which means that it is technically feasible to recycle in terms of separation, sorting, dismantling, and reprocessing, but collection and recycling infrastructure may not exist, meaning that products still end up in incineration or landfill.


Manufacture of textiles is extremely water intensive and polluting. Event graphics and signage often use coated textiles, which use plastics or synthetic resins to increase durability, weather suitability and prevent translucency.

Cotton and polyester are the most common types of event fabric and must be made fire retardant which use ecologically harmful chemicals to achieve this.

These types of fabric are incredibly difficult to recycle due to the chemical additions and aren’t always safe to repurpose into consumer products.

Get ideas for taking action below or benchmark your progress.

& Plans

What we can do...

1. Lighting & digital solutions

Designers, AV suppliers and set builders have an opportunity to offer creative solutions for environmental designs that use clever lighting combined with digital solutions to reduce single use graphic items. Remember to consider energy usage.

This can often save money in production and also in waste charges. Plus, creative designs are a talking point for guests.

2. Reusable graphics

Design graphics without dates and avoid event-specific branding (unless you have a scheduled repeat event).

Avoid printing sponsor logos directly onto graphic panels to reduce the risk of reprinting the whole graphic if sponsors change and to increases the capacity for graphics to be used again or repurposed post event.

3. Recycled materials

Wherever possible, opt for 100% recycled textiles and materials to curb harmful virgin-textile production and textile waste.

4. Choose your supplier wisely

Ask your supplier if they offer a take back service for old materials and graphics.

Where a supplier takes back materials, they’ll often have recycling solutions available. If they don’t, asking the question will at least indicate a market need and support business innovation.

5. Eliminate vinyl and PVC

Vinyl is a very useful material for floor signage, creating window displays, signage solutions and for covering up last minute print changes. It’s also an incredibly toxic single use material that should be avoided at all costs.

PVC-free vinyls exist, which are less toxic. However, they often have a different finished quality which may mean making decisions for the environment over the aesthetic. Where possible, avoid using single use materials altogether.

6. Manage graphic & signage waste

Create a plan during the design stage for how waste will be managed post-event.

The first question before designs begin should be ‘what are the recycling streams available?’ and what materials will suit this if they cannot first be reused or repurposed?

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