The four-dollar umbrella is a miracle of modern engineering: It does the absolute minimum necessary to withstand rain, with nothing extra that would, for example, withstand wind. And so a small gust turns it into a pointy sculpture, just large enough to not fit into a public trash can.
This is annoying enough for the umbrella consumer, but how many umbrellas does that mean end up in the proverbial landfill? Nine hundred million, according to Italian entrepreneur Federico Venturi, who sourced the number to Italian magazine Focus Italy. Nine hundred million a year.
But Venturi has a solution. It’s an umbrella made of plastic and named for a uniquely smelly tree: the ginkgo. Here’s a video:
Over email, Venturi tells me his company is in the final phase of development and that every single component will be made of polypropolene, "including the yarn on which is made the canopy and the the yarn used to make the sewing; also the clips used to close it."
This means that, in theory, it could be a true cradle-to-cradle recyclable, where all the material can be recovered and turned into another ginkgo umbrella.
For the moment, though, while polypropelene is technically recyclable, it’s the dreaded plastic #5. Most American cities, at least, don’t accept it (although Whole Foods does.)
More important though, you can’t even buy the ginkgo umbrella yet. The maker needs funding first. If the company hits $30,000 in its Indiegogo campaign, you can get an umbrella; if it hits $200,000, the company will set up a true cradle-to-cradle chain.