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Urbanears show we need more products made from trash

OPINION: This week Urbanears revealed a new product and a change in step. The Boo and Boo Tip true wireless feature a word that’s often used to scare people, and truth be told, the issue the earphones highlight is a scary one.

Climate change has been one of many subjects on people’s minds this past year, and despite the Cop26 conference making (figurative) waves, several months on it doesn’t feel as if there was or has been enough action behind the positive-sounding words and motions officials were making.

I wrote at the time about what tech companies had been doing to reflect the quite literal changing climate, and since then Trusted Reviews has also adopted its own stance on the subject, hoping to shine more light on sustainable practices.

So it’s with hope that companies are showing urgency in tackling their own processes and challenging their designers to think in different ways, and we’ve seen products over the year that carry that ethos.

One of the things on my mind is that most of these changes in approach relate to products that carried a premium price. It’s easy for Apple and Bang & Olufsen to crow about sustainable practices when they are selling products in the region of thousands of pounds. It’s affordable products where these changes are likely to be felt most, considering that makes up the brunt of products people buy.

At £69, the Boo and Boo Tip fit that remit and are made from quite literal trash – recycled plastic and junk. Repurposing this type of waste that would likely be on a barge to be dumped on some far-flung destination is, I think, key to making a dent. Urbanears aren’t the first ones, House of Marley has been doing it for some time, but more is needed.

Of course, it would help companies made fewer products and extend product life cycles, but we are seeing more of the latter. Portable music players from Sony have always had an option hidden in their menus of only charging to 80% to preserve battery and extend the product’s life, and so do both Adidas and Urbanears’ headphones – two brands that operate within the expertise of Zound Industries.

And with the likes of the WF-1000XM4 using recycled newspaper pulp for the packaging and Sony then going a step further by using recycled materials to make the LinkBuds, these are the forward-thinking approaches we need. Trash is king, and ironically, we ought to be using a lot more of it.

In another Sound and Vision column I mentioned headphone brands taking a different approach to design and headphones feel like a market ripe for this innovation. A great example is Urbanista’s Los Angeles headphones that can absorb sunlight to charge its battery, which is certainly helpful in this time of rising electricity bills.

There’s more that can be done, but it does feel like the headphone market at least is beginning to move in a direction with some purpose. Waste not, want not is the proverb to adhere to in this time of energy crises and climate change. Let’s hope 2022 sees words backed up by genuine action.

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