Editor's Note: Tune in to CNN Saturday, June 8th, at 2:30 pm ET to see "The Next List's" 15-minute profile of cardboard bicycle innovator Izhar Gafni.
For years, people told him he could never do it. But with his own money, resources and what he describes as "guts feelings," inventor Izhar Gafni built a bicycle made almost entirely out of cardboard.
His cardboard bike took four years and six prototypes to make, and when it was finished Gafni's story and Vimeo went viral. Izzy, as he's called, became an Internet sensation. But "The Next List" team wanted to see Izzy in action -- actually making a bike from scratch on his own turf.
In a workshop on a small kibbutz on Israel's northern coast, we watched as Izzy, a self-described cycling enthusiast, worked his magic. Using the principles of Japanese origami -- literally folding cardboard over and over (with a machine he invented) -- and adding a secret concoction of glue and varnish, Izzy, who is self-taught, figured out a way to make cardboard rugged enough for us to ride. His craftmanship resulted in a light, waterproof and recyclable frame capable of holding cyclists up to 500 pounds. A full-size cardboard bike weighs around twenty pounds, and according to Izzy, never has to be adjusted or repaired.
"The tires are made of reconstituted rubber from old car tires so they will never puncture," he says.
Izzy says innovation is everywhere in Israel, but the aftermath, or production phase of an invention, is lacking. He and business partner Nimrod Elmish formed the Israeli company, I.G. Cardboard Technologies, and say they are determined to change that.
"This project, Izzy's cardboard bicycles, is a unique business model, and a real game-changer," says Elmish. "We will build these bikes using all kinds of funding, including government grants and rebates for using recycled materials. This will keep production costs down and will also create many jobs at local factories."
The end result: a bicycle made from $9 worth of cardboard, that will sell for around $60. But Izzy hopes the rebates for using "green" materials will enable them to distribute the bicycles for free in poor countries all over the world.
"The whole concept for these bikes is to build something so strong, you can throw them in a village in Africa, and come back next year to collect the damaged ones and bring new ones," he said.
Mass production of the cardboard bike begins later this year, and Izzy wants to take his technology even further, already working on cardboard wheelchairs and high chairs.