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This week at Toner Giant, we thought we’d venture into a new area of graphic design and print: an area that crosses boundaries, both creatively and politically. The subject up for review is one that effects our present situation and our near future. Today however, we go 70 years back in time to see how World War Two recycling posters effected how people practised ‘smart-living’ and went about their day-to-day lives.

We take a look at the posters, not just as artefacts of creative design, but as a reflection of the nation’s attitude and willingness to make a change! At Toner Giant, we always love the challenge of getting something new out of an old topic, so read on as we recycle some old ideas, and you never know, you may get a new angle on home-recycling!

The posters.

'Grow your own food' ad campaign

First of all, the posters. It wouldn’t be a Toner Giant article if we didn’t comment on print design now, would it?

Now you have to remember, these were futuristically modern, cutting-edge designs in the 1940’s – and I’d say they’re still very aesthetically pleasing and accessible today – and to walk past one of these would grab your attention immediately. With no Television*, smartphones or internet, a brightly coloured poster would jump out at you against the bleak backdrop of wireless radio and awful British weather. These posters were the YouTube and Twitter of yesterday, and they certainly spoke to people the same way media does today. But it’s not all skin-deep beauty, the effectiveness of these designs was translated into a real message for the 1940’s public. It was these designs that helped spur along the recycling effort on a visual level every day.

The nation was growing their own vegetables, recycling steel, paper and other materials. There was a sense of togetherness in society and that everyone was doing something for the greater good, and this was what made recycling so effective in World War Two; it became a lifestyle, not just something we thought about when we opened the bin.

But could nice-looking posters and trendy typefaces win a nation over today? I don’t think so, and the main reason is an obvious one: the war.



The War.

You had a reason to recycle as many materials as you could when posters and the government were saying it was going to bring us victory. It’s a bit more of an actual threat and therefore a real motive! The whole, ‘make do and mend’ and ‘stick together’ attitude of wartime Britain meant that there was generally a more collective mindset, and people were willing to give things a shot if it meant they’d get back peacetime, as well as their husbands, fathers and brothers!

paper recycling ad campaign

This is something we just can’t relate to today, as multiple recycling campaigns are telling us to do something that a lot of people don’t really understand or maybe they just don’t know why we should do it. Of course everybody knows that burning waste and disposing of plastic bags is bad, but are they really thinking of the actual effects and associating that thought with their everyday actions? Probably not, but again, when you’re getting bombed and your food and luxuries are being taken away, the reality of things become a lot more apparent. This is not to say that Recycling would stop a war the same way it would stop environmental damage, but it was used as a threat in which to act against, and I think that we’re so far away from an actual threat effecting our day to day lives, that the average person doesn’t feel the need to act against it.

So what next? Bring back World War Two posters?

Well, not exactly. As much as we think retro-recycling posters would make a cool addition to any wall, maybe it’s not the answer. Maybe the answer is a mindful connection to the effects of improper waste disposal, but how? We don’t want to scare people, or bombard them with unnecessary threats. If we don’t however, then no progress will be made.

scrap metal recycling ad campaign

At Toner Giant, we really care about the environment. We ship large quantities of ink and toner cartridges across the UK each year, and the effect this has on the environment is important to us. Approximately 55 million cartridges are disposed of in landfills each year, and this is amazing considering that 100% of an ink cartridge can actually be recycled, with not one bit of it going to waste – even the container shouldn’t end up in a landfill! Also, get this: ‘Recycling 10,000 tonnes of waste creates 36 jobs. Burning the same amount of waste creates just 1 job’ – it’s shocking facts like these that make us stop and think, ‘wow!’

Imagine the great changes we could make if we all got together and helped work towards a brighter future!

Recycling cartridges should be easy for everyone and we’re trying to create a more convenient, user-friendly approach to recycling cartridges. Currently, many recycling schemes available today only accept select brands or cartridge models, and this can make the whole process quite difficult. A future where recycling ink cartridges is as easy and care-free as putting plastics in the right bin, is one we want to be a part of!

What would you do if you were in charge of recycling propaganda in 2013? Let us know below in the comment box! Alternatively, head over to out Facebook, Twitter or Google+ pages!

Next week: Toner Giant’s Top Recycling poster designs!

*The BBC had to take massive cuts during WW2 and most services were ceased. On top of this, a TV cost the price of a small car today, so they weren’t common in the majority of homes until a decade later.

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