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These Portable Bluetooth Speakers Are Absolute Garbage (Literally)

For many of us, the allure of technology and convenience has caused us to ignore the preservation of the planet. But now, one startup is attempting to be more sustainable — without sacrificing connectivity.

Gomi, a UK-based design studio, has based its entire ethos on producing beautiful technology from things we throw away. Although plastic wasn’t even invented until the late 19th century and widespread use didn’t occur until approximately 1950, we’ve managed to do a lot of damage in that time. Data from 2017 revealed that 6.9 billion tons of plastic has become waste, with 6.3 billion tons of that waste never ending up in a recycling bin. Trash dumpsters are already serviced at 60% fullness or less, on average, meaning that we’re wasteful in a multitude of ways.

And then, of course, there’s the plastic that cannot even be recycled. In many countries, including the UK, many flexible plastic products are not accepted for recycling. As a result, plastic bags, bubble wrap, and other items end up in landfills — or worse, become beach pollution. That’s where Gomi’s idea really came from: the plastics that cannot be recycled. With the startup’s vision, they’re now being repurposed as stunning Bluetooth speakers.

Each one of these speakers is made from approximately 100 non-recyclable plastic bags in multiple hues. Therefore, they have a unique and modern visual appeal. Not only is today’s consumer drawn to sustainability, but they also tend to like modular options, which provide more versatility. Gomi designers kept this in mind when creating their speakers, as they’re meant to adapt to the customer’s needs. Modular construction reduces construction time by up to 50% while improving cash flow, but modular design isn’t limited to industrial structures or residential buildings, like Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas–which spans 19,000 square feet with a mix of 30 shipping containers and 41 multifunctional modular cubes forming its perimeter. You might have modular storage in your home, for example, which can be rearranged to adapt to your needs. Many of these plastic storage components are made via the reaction injection molding process, where two liquid components are mixed and injected into a mold to chemically react and cure.

Gomi’s speakers aren’t made in the exact same way, but they’re constructed by melting down the plastic bags, compressing the material, and then molding the plastic into its final shape. Gomi has partnered with local wholesalers to source the plastic waste that might otherwise end up as pollution. The internal components, unlike the speaker housings, are comprised of wireless streaming technology that provides 18 hours of superior listening on one battery charge — a successful hybrid of both old and new.

As Gomi co-founder Tom Meades noted in a statement, “We were inspired by the cradle-to-cradle design process, thinking about our products full-lifecycle right from the beginning of our design process… With our Bluetooth speakers, we want to intercept a waste stream that would otherwise be landfilled or incinerated. Flexible plastics/LDPE is widely regarded as non-recyclable by UK councils, and so we thought this would be the perfect material to harness and show that through innovative design this can be valuable, and does not have to end up as waste polluting our environment. Instead, we can craft this material into desirable objects.”

The team is also working on a portable charging brick comprised of the same plastic materials and plans to offer free repairs and free recycling returns. The unique Bluetooth speakers are currently part of a Kickstarter campaign that’s made $15,000 of its near-$60,000 goal. That said, Gomi won a substantial grant from the Environment Now Programme last year for its project and has also received funding from the Santander Big Ideas Competition. Although not everyone will agree that a unique Bluetooth speaker is a necessary home accessory, one would hope that consumers would lend their support to an idea that utilizes otherwise discarded plastics and turns them into something far more beneficial than garbage: music.