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Upcycling Solutions for Political Trash

A Brazilian project provides instructions on how to dismantle campaign signboards and turn them into DIY furniture.

Political campaigns generate all kinds of garbage—fliers, yard signs, empty promises. But at least promises don’t litter the streets long after the races are over. Every year, state institutions, grassroots organizations, and crafty individuals battle the scourge of leftover campaign materials. In Brazil, this past election cycle produced thousands of political sandwich boards that still lie scattered across the country.

“There are countless sandwich boards for several candidates, irregularly scattered throughout the city, clogging sidewalks, disturbing the circulation of pedestrians, and polluting public roads,” says Marcos de Sousa, editor of Mobilize Brasil, an organization that promotes sustainable urban mobility in Brazil.

Many of these signs have been posted up illegally and most of them will end up filling garbage dumps, adding to the already hefty volume of waste that is produced every year. But they really don’t have to—most of these political materials are completely recyclable. Mobilize Brasil has paired up with J. Walter Thompson, a New York-based advertising agency, to devise the Projeto Mobiliário Político, or the Political Furniture Project. Enlisting the expertise of architect and designer Mauricio Arruda, they designed five pieces of furniture that could be constructed from the discarded political campaign boards.

“It is an exercise in recycling that seeks to look into a problem as an opportunity,” said Arruda in a statement. “It's an attitude that reflects a more conscious citizen, concerned not just about consumption, but also about the sources of raw material and how to dispose of what we consume, even becoming a recycler and co-author of the design process.”

On their site, Arruda and the upcycling campaign have provided tutorials with instructions on how to dismantle the boards and turn them into DIY coat racks, stools, towel horses, side tables, and coffee tables. This exercise not only subverts the boards’ original purpose—political pandering—but also reclaims the public space that the boards’ occupied. Political boards, after all, don’t just visually occupy space, they’re ideological incursions as well. In that way, fashioning them into neutral, dependable furniture is as much a political act as creating them in the first place.

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