At the end of any election campaign, we are always faced with the dilemma of what to do with the election signs, or corflutes.
If we're lucky and have exercised foresight during the design stage, they have been printed with content that's sufficiently all-purpose to be used again in the next election. For example, the generic Vote 1 Greens style, or signs for a candidate who intends to run again (if they have been printed without mentioning the electorate, or a campaign-specific slogan).
But what about the ones that won't ever be relevant again?
Some printers that offer election sign printing services will take existing corflutes and print new election artwork on the blank side.
This can be up to $1.50 to $1.60 per corflute cheaper than a standard new corflute print, as you're not paying for the materials, only the printing.
Critical to this option is that you store any corflutes intended for reprinting flat on top of each other, not leaning or on their edges. If they develop any curve at all, they will not be able to go through the print rollers properly.
Printers will generally not offer cleaning as part of the service. If the corflute is dirty, they will either reject it or just print over it. In many cases, this will work out OK as it takes a pretty serious mark to show through the new ink. However, it's obviously better if the print surface is clean. A quick wipe down with a lint-free cloth is often all that's needed, or a cloth dampened with methylated spirits. For really serious marks and stains, wipe over with acetone.
Your State office might already know the names of printers who offer this service or check with your local election sign suppliers. It is recommended that you seek guidance from your local printer relating to their criteria for acceptable corflutes and the preparation/cleaning of corflutes for reprint.
Construct A frames
For the 2016 federal election campaign, Sandgate/Redcliffe Branch developed a self-standing A frame to both reuse old corflutes, and provide a more economical option than building timber or buying metal A frames.
To make an A frame, cut an old corflute in half across the middle. Make a neat fold longways down the centre and on each edge, and join each end of the folded edges to the lower edges of your new corflute with a short cable tie. (Unlike the picture, it's recommended that you make sure the printed surface of the old corflute faces the ground.) Then stitch the top edges of your new corflutes together with two or three short cable ties, weigh it down with a milk bottle of water, a brick or a piece of heavy timber, and voila — cost effective and transport-friendly A-frame.
Construct tree guards
Some bush revegetation and creek regeneration groups are willing to use old corflutes as tree guards. Some smaller Councils may be open to using them too in their street planting or revegetation projects. Contact your local groups or council to see what cooperative efforts can be undertaken! Who knows, you might also spawn a wonderful community revegetation project in which your branch can be a founding member.
To construct, fold into a three-sided triangle with the printed side inwards, and secure with short cable ties for larger tree guards, or cut in half and fold into three for smaller ones.
If the plant species involved needs more light than is able to get through the non-translucent plastic, consider cutting the corflute in half longways first, to produce short guards that allow leaves to protrude over the top. Obviously this doesn't work where the plant needs protection from grazing animals, but is still good for whipper-snipper or weed protection.
Offer to existing reuse organisations
Check if there's a Reverse Garbage or Freecycle group local to you, and look up Planet Ark's Re-use Centres listing to see if there are other groups in your area.
Offer to local gardening groups for reuse
Community gardens or other gardening groups can often find a myriad of uses for strong durable plastic, such as using for compost pile containment (held in place with stakes), or providing a shingle-style roof for garden sheds and storage areas.
Connect with sustainable building groups
People looking to build with pre-loved materials or seeking economic alternatives to standard building materials may be able to use corflutes in quantity, such as a Brisbane local who stacked old corflutes as a roof insulation material for her new chicken shed. Corflutes can also be used to make interesting light shades, as a quick search on Pinterest shows.
Offer to schools, disability groups or other community groups for reuse
Contact your local groups to see if craft or other activities they are planning, or can imagine, will benefit from the use of the hardwearing and flexible corflute material. Schools can also use the blank side of corflutes to create signage for their annual fete or other school events.
Corflutes can also be painted with chalkboard paint to become reusable many times as signs for community or sporting groups. Once painted with chalkboard paint, chalk markers can be used to make effective signs for school fetes, supporting sports teams, or for Greens stalls. This is also an effective reputation protection, ensuring that the original printed sign is no longer visible no matter where it ends up.
Many recycling facilities cannot take corflute plastic. This is because the recycling process for corflutes is different from the majority of standard packaging plastics, and most recycling facilities are not set up for the required process. There are still some options, however.
Corex Plastics Australia
Based in Melbourne, Corex offers a collection service in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland for industrial and regular quantities of corflute. While this is not an option for the small and irregular quantities most branches wish to dispose of, Corex will consider a one-off collection from capital cities in SA, NSW or Qld if branches pool their unwanted corflutes in one place and can confirm the final quantity.
Note that non-negotiable prerequisites are:
- the corflutes MUST be free of all foreign materials including vinyl or paper stickers, metal eyelets, tape, string, nails, staples, rope, zip ties etc., and;
- the corflutes must be consolidated into one location, stacked evenly and secured to pallets to ensure safe transit to Melbourne, with maximum pallet size being L 2.4m x W 1.2m x H 1.2m.
Meanwhile, branches based in Melbourne can drop off small quantities directly to the Corex facility. Again, the corflutes MUST be free of all foreign materials as detailed above.
Call Corex on (03) 9238 1300 and ask to be transferred to the recycling section to make arrangements for a local drop off, or to seek advice as to a possible one-off interstate collection (only available once quantity has been determined).
Corex confirms there would be no charge for them to take the materials, either for transit to Melbourne or direct delivery to their Melbourne facility.
Specialist plastic recycler Astron Plastics has facilities in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and again while they only provide collection services for industrial quantities of corflute, they will consider taking collection at their facilities of smaller quantities if arrangements are made ahead of time directly with the facility's operational manager.
Note that, similar to Corex above, there are prerequisites:
- the corflutes MUST be free of foreign materials, especially anything metal, and preferably all other foreign materials as per Corex above, and;
- the corflutes must be stacked evenly and secured to pallets for easy handling with forklifts.
Call (07) 3271 3338 for the Pinkenba (Brisbane) facility, (02) 9829 1999 for the Ingleburn (Sydney) facility, or (03) 9559 4270 for the Cheltenham (Melbourne) facility with details of your stockpile to make arrangements.
Astron also confirms there would be no charge, provided the corflutes are prepared and presented in accordance with the requirements listed above.
If concerned about where the corflutes might end up, consider using an indelible spray paint to mark the printed side with “donated for reuse” or similar.
Lenore Keough is Secretary of the Mount Coot-tha Branch of the Queensland Greens.
Image of boys by the water, ready to put their home-made boats made from old corflutes into the water for a race. Image by Adrian Price, CC-BY-2.0