Electronics are a massive environmental problem. Tossing tech products like speakers, cellphones, and computers resulted in an estimated 49 million metric tons of waste this past year. While recycling helps mitigate some of that waste, gadget makers have begun experimenting with new materials that can make products more sustainable from the start.
Teenage Engineering, the Swedish design studio known for its playfully minimalist designs, worked with Sweden’s Rise Research Institute to create an experimental version of the OD-11, a small cube speaker, that now sports a cabinet made from a recyclable material called holocellulose.
Research scientists at Rise developed a composite wood without additives like paint or dye, which gives its bright white color. Working with the designers at Teenage Engineering, they molded the material into a cabinet that wraps around the speaker in a perfect cube.
Holocellulose looks like a bleached particle board. According to the scientists, the flecks don’t turn yellow or lose their brightness over time. Its purity is the key to its reuse, the team claims, but it’s important to remember no speaker is a poster child for sustainability. Inside, the OD-11 is built with notoriously hard-to-recycle materials like metal and glue—but making a recyclable cabinet that also happens to look very cool is at least a start.