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In our last article, we touched upon the effects of World War 2 recycling posters on the wartime public, and whether or not the circumstances could transfer to the present day. Carrying on from that – and as promised – we’ve decided to bring you our top 5 recycling posters. Each of these unique designs has a great purpose and message to help awaken the minds of millions of people, making them aware of the dangers of wasting materials and what great benefits recycling can give us. At Toner Giant, these messages have resounded strongly with us, and we couldn’t be more enthusiastic in our goal to bring forth awareness of recycling.

In this article, however, we will be coming at it from a different angle; a design angle. We’ll still be recognising the importance of the message, but in our industry, we can’t deny that we love visual design and print. In fact, when putting together the last article, it was somewhat impossible to resist going off on the aesthetic aspects of the posters! So here it is. In full and uncensored: The Toner Giant Top 5 Recycling Posters!

1. ‘Because You Can’

'because you can' recycling ad

This striking yet simple poster design from Joanna Lowy hits you in the face with its direct message and bold colours. First of all, we notice the ‘pop culture’ visual references to all our favourite foods and brands: ‘Peroni, Coke, Heinz Beans, Red Bull.’ There’s something in the choice of these brands that really connects with the 21st century person. Perhaps it’s because these are such prominent and powerful brands, or maybe it’s the ‘throwaway’ culture associated with the big names. For example; boozing outdoors at a summer festival or having a red bull on the go. I think the modern lifestyle represented by these brands is what really hits home the message; it couldn’t be further away from a green-thinking approach. Today we feel so out-of-control of the world and everything moves at a rapid pace, we heat up a quick ‘micro-meal’, down a can of red bull and head out to our 28-hour shifts at all-night bars. Joanna Lowy gives us great confidence and grounding with this peace by telling us ‘we can’.

You can see the complete collection here.

2. ‘Plastic Carry Bags’

plastic carrier bag recycling ad

This next untitled piece – which I’ve dubbed ‘Plastic Carry Bags’ – was posted on by designer Sarita Walsh. There’s a whole collection in this series, and they beautifully display a very serious message. The futuristic minimal design shows a very clear approach to the subject matter. What’s fascinating about this design, is its neutrality; it’s not bold or brash, not in-your-face or loud. It’s different. It’s utopian. The colours and type tell of a future state where recycling is a matter-of-fact affair and second nature to humans, who simply go about their day-to-day lives utilising it as an element of well-being and survival.

The way the facts are stated: ‘…decompose in 15 to 1000 years’, is as though this future human just logged into a space-age computer and scanned in a plastic bag to find out it’s recycling value. The image of the bag with the ‘1k years’ content only backs this up, hoping for a future where we all know the true values of materials and waste, instead of carelessly forgetting these important facts.

You can view the series here.

3. ‘From Waste Paper to Munitions of War’

WW2 paper recycling ad




This third and final image comes from World War 2 and the people’s brilliantly upbeat morale. Again, as I mentioned last week,the message is direct. It is very clear here where your paper would have gone: to munitions of war. In this case, from a recycling point-of-view, we can’t really compare it to modern-day propaganda. From a design point-of-view however, this is a very powerful poster. The woman in the picture is part of a new breed of factory-working munitions experts, and she is showing us the reality of the times, the explosives are simply a part of her life and that’s that.

The choice red text  against a black and white background is quite striking, this leads us to believe that this is a very serious poster, and we can begin to read it in a different way; taking home the important message and not being distracted by glamorous images and designs. This isn’t to say the designs are imaginative, because they are; they’re just done so well for their particular purpose that they let the message stand out and project meaning onto the reality of the image.

Unfortunately we don’t know who designed this, and it seems that many web sources are also without a reference to an artist, but you can find this online in most World War 2 poster galleries.


Inspiration through design.

These design show that a seemingly difficult message can be portrayed in many ways when taking a creative approach to things. After all, it has always been art, music and literature that has been able to successfully bring across messages that otherwise couldn’t be heard. These innovative designs will certainly leave us with something to think about at Toner Giant, and we hope you can take something away from it as well.

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