PAPER CHASE

06.27

Israeli Inventor Builds Cardboard Bikes

Around the world, people are putting garbage and cast-off materials to productive use. Behold the cardboard bicycle!

Cardboard, empty plastic bottles, and used car tires. To most these items are nothing but trash. But to Izhar Gafni, they are the future. Those three recycled items are all it takes for Gafni to build a revolutionary and low-cost new form of transportation: simply called the Cardboard Bicycle.

A mechanical engineer in northern Israel, Gafni is best known for designing the award-winning pomegranate peeler and juicer now used by Pom Wonderful. An avid cyclist, Gafni had wondered if there was a way to build a functioning bike with alternative materials; what he found was incredible. When folded several times, similar to origami, cardboard had legitimate structural strength. With this technique, Gafni created several iterations of his Cardboard Bicycle, the last of which met his primary criteria: functional and aesthetically pleasing. Fire-resistant, water-resistant, and capable of supporting up to 400 pounds, the commercially viable bicycle (it costs only $9!) is made of nothing but recycled materials.

Fire-resistant, water-resistant, and capable of supporting up to 400 pounds, the commercially viable bicycle (it costs only $9!) is made of nothing but recycled materials.

With a highly successful presentation at the innovation convention Ideacity, a 2013 Best Inventions Award from Popular Science, and recognition from CNN, Gafni’s Cardboard Bicycle is now getting some serious attention. Various venture capitalists and investors have offered significant cash in return for equity, but Gafni believes their values are financial-centric, not socially motivated. Instead of taking the easy money, Gafni’s company, Cardboard Technologies, launched a crowd-funding campaign through Indiegogo. He hopes to raise $2 million to finance the building of a production line. For those that contribute, gifts ranging from miniature origami replicas of the bike to the actual bike (once it starts rolling off the production line) are available.

An idealist at heart, Gafni believes that his new bike design will not only offer cheap and reliable transportation to Third World countries but can be produced locally and thusly create jobs for the poverty stricken. As the saying goes: garbage in, bicycles out.