Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Sustainability upcycles PCC’s banners and more for greater good

Photos by Heidi Stanley, story by Misty Bouse.

Two hundred pounds of vinyl banners were saved from the landfill by making these multipurpose bags.

Two hundred pounds of vinyl banners were saved from the landfill by making these multipurpose bags.

This spring, thanks to the student-funded Eco Social Justice Grant, retired vinyl banners across all campuses have been repurposed into an assortment of 150 upcycled cooler, tote and bike bags. The collaboration between Portland Community College Sustainability, Student Life & Leadership, and Marketing departments, salvaged nearly 900 square feet of material for reuse with Ecologic Designs, a certified B-Corporation based in Colorado, whose employees earn a living wage recycling and upcycling materials into new products sewn in the U.S.

“I love being able to keep nearly 200 pounds of hard-to-recycle vinyl banners from the landfill and it’s a bonus that they turn into these cool bags we can use all the time,” said Recycling Program Coordinator Jade Menchaca. “It is important that we focus on reuse of materials rather than disposal and I am so glad that the college is emphasizing this where possible.”

Repurposed vinyl banners -- totes and cooler bags.

Repurposed vinyl banners — totes and cooler bags.

Likewise, Kendi Esary, director of Student Life & Leadership, said, “Upcycling and reusing is a major priority for our students who were very excited about funding this initiative. We’ve expanded this focus within our Sustainability Leadership & Basic Needs program. We’re now collecting and recycling, or rehoming, textbooks, ink, batteries, plastic film and glass containers in our Basic Needs Hubs due to student demand.”

By upcycling these banners into bags that will be used for prizes and special giveaways to those who participate in sustainability programming, the college has saved harmful chemicals from being released into the environment through off-gassing; prevented soil contamination; and conserved virgin materials that would’ve gone into making new bags. This initiative supports waste reduction and sustainable materials management goals in the college’s Climate Action Plan.

For more information on the college’s sustainability practices, visit the Sustainability webpage.