Recycled Cycling: The Cardboard Bike

Image credit: Giora Kariv/Vimeo

If a cardboard box is strong enough to hold all your old books, photos, clothes, and mementos, then what can't it do?

That's what one bike-enthusiast-turned-environmentalist from Israel asked, prompting him to develop a fully-functioning bicycle made entirely from recycled cardboard, Good Business reported.

It all began when Izhar Gafni walked into a bicycle shop and overheard someone talking about a canoe made out of cardboard.

"I went home and then it sort of disturbed me," Gafni said in a documentary about the invention. "This canoe made of cardboard is sitting in the back of my head and I couldn't let go, and suddenly it just struck my mind: Why not make a bicycle out of cardboard?"

Gafni sought the advice of three engineers, all of whom told him it simply couldn't be done.

But with the encouragement of his wife, Gafni refused to give up.

"She looked at me and gave me that look and then she said, 'I know you. If you're not going to try it, you're going to drive yourself crazy. And then you're going to drive me crazy. And then you're going to drive the entire family crazy - so just go ahead and try it,'" Gafni said in the documentary.

And try he did - for three years.

"My first operational prototype, it looks like a hybrid between a packaging box and, sort of, bicycles. So it was a package with wheels pretty much," Gafni said. "Then I realized it has to look like a real bicycle. … And so then the real challenges started."

Gafni eventually used the idea of Japanese origami to inspire his designs.

"If you fold it once, then it doesn't become twice the strength, it's over three times the strength," Gafni said. "So I took it from there and basically did the same thing with cardboard."

After years of experimenting, Gafni finally proved wrong everyone who said he couldn't do it.

The bicycle, set to hit the market next year, can carry riders who weigh as much as 485 pounds, according to Good Business. A layer of coating keeps the material from breaking down and makes the product look more like a finished bike than a pile of cardboard.

But the price may be the most impressive aspect of the invention. It costs just $9 to $12 to manufacture the bike and will sell for $60 to $90.

According to Giora Kariv, the filmmaker who created the documentary featuring Gafni and his cardboard bike, this is more than just a neat invention - it will open doors for people across the globe.

"It's going to be a game-changer in the bike world," Kariv told Good Business. "Like Henry Ford, who made the car available to anybody, this bike is going to be cheap and available to any child in the world, including children in Africa who walk dozens of miles to school everyday."