Condit has a rich and storied history in the world of exhibit fabrication, reaching back to 1945. The company offers a full range of design and fabrication services, and rental exhibit services, from its headquarters in Denver and satellite location in Chicago.
Among the various materials used to produce custom tradeshow exhibits, the company uses PVC and acrylics in a wide variety of applications such as three-dimensional graphics letters and logos, infill panels for its rental wall systems, display cases, and decorative finishes. Using a UV flatbed printer, the fabrication team also prints to full four- by eight-foot PVC sheets, as well as adds printed vinyl laminate graphics depending on the project.
Uniquely aware of the inherent waste in the trade show industry, the company began a journey nearly 20 years ago to innovate environmentally friendly solutions for its clients and partners. Offering a menu of green materials and practices, and improving material disposal practices are two examples that have been successful for Condit and its clients. One sustainability metric, however, was elusive: the feasibility of recycling PVC and acrylics used in their rental exhibit properties.
A great deal of Condit’s rental wall panel system and signage graphics utilize PVC or acrylic infills. They are either direct-UV printed and/or have Velcro and adhesive printed vinyl laminate applied, which makes them very difficult to recycle. “Once the rental property is returned, removing the Velcro is a labor-intensive operation that is cost-prohibitive for us and our customers,” said Donnie MacDonald, Vice President of Operations. “Plastic-based panels with remaining Velcro strips or adhesives went straight to a landfill, as we really had no other option.”
MacDonald learned about Vycom’s novel PVC Recycling Program while consulting with Mike Sherrod, Market Development Manager, Graphics and Sustainability. In this model, Vycom will take back and recycle printed and unprinted PVC sheets, as well as scraps and drops from finishing and fabricating. “The key part of the program is that Vycom accepts the PVC and acrylic sheets with Velcro, and takes care of removing it at their facilities,” said MacDonald. “Vycom’s innovative process allows us to recycle all panels without peeling old graphics, Velcro, etc., before disposal. In addition to greater recycling efficiency, this also allows for a larger percentage of acrylics and PVC to be recycled.”
Condit started utilizing the Vycom PVC Recycling Program in late 2021 beginning with training programs for team members to better understand the recycling pipeline for PVC. It has also placed several custom recycling bins around its manufacturing floor and warehouse to accommodate these specialized materials. Condit produces approximately 40,000 square feet of direct-to-rigid material prints, and about the same amount of applied vinyl prints per year. In less than a year using the program, the company has collected approximately 35 gaylords (equivalent to one-and-a-half 53-foot tractor trailers) of mostly PVC materials.
In addition to a reduction in dumpster fees, the ability to solve this long-time problem has the entire team feeling enthusiastic. “We are most happy to see the materials being reused and repurposed into something useful instead of headed to a landfill,” said MacDonald. “Everyone is very receptive to this new direction, and it adds no extra labor. Everyone – our customers included – is generally amazed that we can supply materials with graphics and Velcro still attached since that has been impossible in the past and we were forced to dispose of them in a landfill. It brings value to our clients, making us more favorable to work with, and giving us a competitive advantage.”