Circular umbrellas

April 22, 2022

The V&A has been working with ANTI, a company that uses discarded materials that would usually end up in landfill to create new products. Over the past few months the V&A has been supplying us with lost, discarded or broken umbrellas. These have formed the basis for two lighting products they sell from their website and – very soon – at John Lewis. 

There are around 1 billion umbrellas discarded worldwide each year. Today many of the umbrellas we buy and use are fairly cheap (around £2–20) and, consequently, are not designed to last. They perform a job for a short period of time and then they are discarded, perhaps due to one of the stretchers breaking, or they are lost.

Umbrellas are made of a variety of materials; plastics (the handle, the runner, end cap), metals (the stem, ribs, stretchers) and nylon (the canopy). As they are very difficult to take apart, they’re rarely recycled in their correct material groups. 

Three pictures showing how an umbrella frame can be used to make a lamp.
Part of the process – stripping back a discarded umbrella to make a lamp

ANTI strips an umbrella into its individual components, and manipulates the metalwork to form a six-legged circular base and articulating arm that uses the umbrella opening mechanism. The shade is made from 3D printed recycled plastic. The design has allowed something semi-disposable to become a beautiful product – designed to last for many years.

The umbrella is just one of many products we produce today with damaging linear lifecycles.  Circular design can provide solutions to many of the problems these products create – and capture valuable materials that would otherwise be landfilled.

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