“Waste is only waste if we waste it,” says designer will.i.am, who created a recycled version of Beats headphones.
Being able to fabricate your own objects on the fly is an amazing technological development, with applications for fashion, medicine, sports and practically every other field under the sun. But what if it could move our material culture forward in a way that didn’t just involve manufacturing more plastic?
Since 2011, Coca-Cola and The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am have been collaborating on a project called Ekocycle, producing a recycled version of the Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and a New Era baseball cap. But in this era of makers, mere status symbols have given way to creative empowerment, and there’s no better symbol of this than the rise of the 3D Printer.
The Ekocycle Cube is stylish take on the 3D Systems’ touchscreen-controlled Cube 3 printer, which was its first model to use recycled plastic. This version is smaller, and can print objects up to six inches in size, with a 70-micron resolution – and it can only print with a special 25% recycled filament, meaning you’d better be committed to the recycling project. Priced at $1,200, it’s roughly in the midrange for a 3D printer.
Despite will.i.am’s enticing pitch that implies that you can print from your own discarded bottles, making filament at home hasn’t quite advanced to that level yet, and you’ll still have to buy cartridges for this machine. The ones that ship with it are said to contain three plastic bottles’ worth of post-consumer material, and in what is perhaps a nod to the Coca-Cola brand colors, you can get the filament in black, white, red or natural shades. The printer also comes with blueprints for rings, guitar picks and phone cases – but you could even print your next pair of kicks on it.
Will.i.am is philosophical about the process of crafting “beautiful objects” out of waste: “All good things must end, but an end can be a new start.” Hopefully there will soon be even more innovative ways to bring consumers into the product cycle like this.