If you are following me on my personal Instagram, over at @Jennifer_hikes then you already know of my latest obsession. Umbrellas!
And I am not talking useful, bright, keeping-you-dry type umbrellas. I am talking about the sad-looking broken ones, the ones trampled down on the high street, swept to the kerb by wind or awkwardly poking out of a bin with their metal frame bent and pointing in all different directions.
The current news have distracted us a little bit from our otherwise favourite topic, the weather. And before the recent craziness, we were all tired by the three massive storms that hit us back to back (and politely waited until the weekend before they’d roll around to cause the greatest pleasure possible). But what these storms left behind other than flooded basements and muddy paths were an awful lot of broken, stray umbrellas.
Most of them get picked up by the council on their usual rounds or are taken away when the bins are emptied. But what then? Where do they go? Are they recycled?
The sad answer is no. In Cardiff, umbrellas can currently not be recycled and go into the incinerator. You can, however, dismantle broken umbrellas and take their separate parts to the dump where they will then be fed into their respective containers and some parts will be recycled.
But what is even better than this are the organisations that have formed that rescue broken umbrellas from that fate. I have been in touch with and pleasantly educated by Sylvia from etoeto in Cardiff, who’s organisation does just that.
They have drop off points in Cardiff for broken umbrellas, you can see where they are here. They take the metal out or the umbrellas and give it to a local charity for recycling. And then the magic begins with the leftover fabric. Etoeto gives the broken umbrellas a second life. In combination with other materials, such as broken bike tubes or tents, Sylvia fashions new items out of the old. Pouches, pencil cases, cosmetic bags – all from what would otherwise have gone up in smoke in our incinerators.
By now we all had to accept the reality that only a fraction of all recyclable materials actually do get recycled. And that only for a limited number of times, depending on the material. So even though it is a noble effort in the journey to create a circular economy, there are better things to do before we recycle. And one of them is reuse and reclaim.
Etoeto is a beautiful example of how we can reuse an item that has lost its function in its first life, but that still has plenty of time left on this planet in its second round. Look at their lovely products:
So after learning all this, it has become my favourite pastime to go for walks and pick up broken umbrellas. It feels like I am on a treasure hunt every time and I absolutely love it! Next time you see a broken umbrella, helplessly flapping about on the sidewalk, you know what to do!