Post Election Innovation

recycled election posters4

Like it or not, election posters are part of our lives. Whether it’s Local, General, European, Referendum or Presidential Elections, the one constant is the thousands upon thousands of posters that appear quickly but linger for weeks, and sometimes months, after the vote has been decided.

These large pieces of flat plastic are often stored by candidates for further use but more usually they get processed and recycled. Most are handed over to Dublin City Council, who melt them and turn them into pellets to be reused in such things as garden furniture and wheelie bins.

But what of the strays? Although there are hefty fines for candidates whose posters end up as litter, the ones that get away in the clearing-up process often end up lying around front gardens, alleyways and ditches all over the country. However, more and more people are now seeing this as an opportunity.

Individuals and groups all over the country have found new and interesting uses for them, and many are now receiving posters directly from the candidates or simply going out and gathering up what they can find. The Fourth Dodder Sea Scouts are one such group. NewsFour spoke to scout leader Geraldine Smith about what they do with the posters.

“They’re really useful for us; we have an organic garden and use cut-up posters as borders and for markings in the beds,” says Smith. The FDSS also use the posters as supports for netting, and even lined the shelves of their greenhouse with them.

The main reason they wanted them was to make a massive cash saving on their 80th anniversary celebrations. Smith tells NewsFour that, “amongst other things, we’re putting on an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia for it; we need to mount the pictures and other items, and to buy the mounting board to do it would have cost us a small fortune. The posters are perfect, and the candidates were only too happy to give them to us.” The exhibition ran from the 16th to the 31st July in the Sea Scout Den, Derrynane Gardens, Ringsend.

James O’Brien of Donnybrook found an ingenious use for the posters; he spent the week leading up to the last election picking up any posters he could find, and is now using them as durable and replaceable flooring in his garage and garden shed. He tells NewsFour, “I work on my car in the garage, and the concrete floor was near ruined with oil and grease. I’d looked into buying something that would last, as cardboard gets destroyed too quickly. It was my 11 year old son Pascal who had the idea to use the posters.”

O’Brien found them ideal for this purpose, and tells us they were easy to cut and thus fit around his existing cabinets, so there was no need to clear out the spaces completely; he simply stuck them together from underneath with strong carpet tape, and has a whole stack of them set aside as replacement panels. “They saved me a good few hundred and I felt like I was doing my bit by collecting them.”

One very inventive person also using the posters is 17 year old Oisin Carr from Sandymount, who is using them to build a garden shed. “I had a friend who was the son of a TD who was retiring at the time, four to five years ago, and we thought we’d be able to use his old election posters to make whatever, which at the time was going to be a giant fort in his garden,” he says. “Unfortunately, we never got our hands on the posters, but the designs I had were in the back of my head somewhere. Seeing some posters at a recycling plant recently reminded me, and the designs for a fort turned into this kind of outdoor room”.

Carr, who is considering careers in mechanical engineering or game development, already has advanced plans for the structure, and says he will be building a prototype soon. When asked about other ideas for reusing this abundant resource he tells us, “I was looking at how chairs or tables could be made out of them, but really they’re not easy to work with.

A dog kennel was another idea. The main problem is they’re strong in only one direction, and very hard to cut in the other direction. Really, what interests me is being able to work on different problems every day. I could never work somewhere where you do the same things year in year out”.

So the next time there’s an election, we can start seeing the dreaded post-election posters as materials for something useful, rather than merely eyesores and litter. As James O’Brien says, “If more of us picked them up there’d be less of them lying around.”

Pictured above and below: Some innovative uses for old posters.

By Steve Kingston