Friday, 22 August 2008

Banners flown in Sydney’s streets have been given a new lease of life. The used banners are now being transformed into carry bags, the first of which were snapped up by visitors to the City’s recent Live Green festival.

Council’s senior project co-ordinator Kath McLaughlan said the banners to bag project, a partnership between Council and Marrickville’s Reverse Garbage, was a successful example of turning waste into a resource.

‘A stockpile of City of Sydney banners had been growing and growing,’ she said. ‘They are a fantastic resource but we just didn’t know how to turn them into a reusable item.’

Reverse Garbage is a non-profit cooperative that collects industrial discards for resale. Projects manager Mary-Jean Newton explained that while most people are keen recyclers, many still struggle to come to terms with how to reuse certain materials.

After brainstorming ideas ranging from outdoor pillow covers to horse pyjamas, Reverse Garbage eventually settled on cutting and sewing the 4.5 metre by 1.5 metre banners to produce practical and durable shoulder bags with straps.

Volunteers were originally sewing the bags by hand, before Willy Suwanto offered the services of his embroidery and design business, Bordir. ‘We wanted to keep it local and with the Live Green festival fast approaching, we are so lucky we found him,’ Ms Newton said.
Charged with the massive task of making the first batch of 3000 bags, Mr Suwanto said the project gave him butterflies in the stomach. ‘I thought it would take one and a half to two months but we were still going right up to the end,’ he said. Mr Suwanto had two people sewing the bags and said it was possible to make ten bags from each banner.

Giving back to the community is not new to Willy Suwanto. He has visited hospitals and taken children with disabilities on motorbike rides.

The first batch of bags were made from the city’s old 2030 banners, displayed around the CBD earlier this year, and distributed free at Live Green. Each bag featured a tag declaring: ‘I used to be a City of Sydney banner’ with a vintage date.

‘We still have lots of banners, we’ve had them for years and they are still for sale, but they don’t go out as fast they come in. It’s great that council has taken the intiative through its waste educators to get a project like this going,’ Ms Newton said.

More than 1600 street banner poles are positioned throughout the city, at locations on George Street, Martin Place, Macquarie Street, Oxford Street, Taylor Square, Williams Street and Kings Cross.