Coca-Cola recently teamed up with environmentally minded designer Wayne Hemingway to introduce an umbrella made from recycled plant-based PET bottles. Available just in time for fall, the umbrellas are a statement on the viability of the plant based plastic that the Coca-Cola Company introduced in 2009 (ironically for bottled water). The bottles are now rolling out en mass in England, and since they’re made from 22.5% plant material and another 25% recycled plastic they have a decidedly smaller environmental footprint. The ability to recycle the bottles into an umbrella is a great demonstration of how new products can be designed to have less impact from the beginning to the end of their lifecycle.

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The limited edition umbrella, which goes for £10, takes its design cue from Brazilian sugarcane, the material which the bottles are partially made from — a nice little reminder of the material’s origin. Amazingly, a whole umbrella can be produced from just five bottles – the PET plastic is melted and spun into a yarn.

CocaCola’s PlantBottles avoid the dreaded problem of recycling contamination. William McDonough, co-founder of Cradle to Cradle, refers to the issue in his writing on monstrous hybrids — most plant-based plastics are actually worse from an environmental point of view, as the raw materials cannot be recycled.

The umbrella is demonstration of how PlantBottle can be reused in a higher quality product. We’re not quite ready to call this a Cradle to Cradle design as we don’t know if the umbrella itself can be recycled, but the design is a clear indicator of how low-impact materials can serve multiple uses and improve products while reducing their environmental footprint. Coca-Cola claims that if you recycle one of their new bottles it will reduce its carbon foot print by 40%, so keep that in mind next time you head to the recycling bin or out in the rain.

+ Wayne Hemingway

+ PlantBottle