Unwanted electrical equipment is the world’s fastest growing type of waste, commonly referred to as e-waste. Of the 30 million tonnes being disposed of each year globally, 15,000 tonnes is attributed specifically to headphones. Technological advances result in many pairs reaching the end of their useful life after only a short period of time and if minor breakages occur they are often difficult or uneconomical to repair. As they are comprised of a number of different materials, headphones also present a complex recycling challenge.
With this in mind, Gerrard Street founders Dorus Galama and Tom Leenders have produced a modular headphone with parts that can be easily replaced and upgraded. Offered through a subscription service, the headphones are designed to be sent through the post for easy assembly at home. As individual parts get worn or broken, customers can return the obsolete components for replacement, free of charge, with 85% of this e-waste being either reused or recycled.
This circular design model provides customers with a high quality, affordable headphone service (subscription starts from €7.5 each month) whilst allowing the company to maintain full control over production materials because it retains ownership of the product. It also provides the incentive for Gerrard Street to produce the most durable headphones it can in order to maximise income through extending use cycles. Furthermore, any headphones returned to the company are refurbished, with 1,500 pairs to date being saved from the bin.You can see these headphones and other objects that have been designed with sustainability in mind in MoDiP’s pop-up exhibition: Design to minimise environmental impact, 1st floor, AUB Library.
Katherine Pell, Museum Collections Officer.