The Finnish design company Avian, in collaboration with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Aalto University, has developed a headphones prototype made from fungus and other biodegradable materials.
The headband is made of 3D-printed bioplastic from yeast-produced lactic acid and the earcups' padding comes from a hydrophobin, foaming protein produced by fungus and plant cellulose. To give the earphones a more appealing look the design company used a faux-leather finish sourced from fungus for the earcups and the mesh covering the speakers is made out of biosynthetic spider silk that is produced by microbes.
The headphones don't contain any of the essential electronic components, but show the potential to substitute plastic casing through bio-engineering.
Considering that about 50 million tons of electronic waste are generated each year, of which most are not recycled, could this signal the potential for a significant decrease of plastic waste from electronic gadgets?
The prototype is part of a trend of companies responding to consumers' increasing demand for more environmentally friendly alternatives. Apple is among them, recently announcing plans to use recycled materials in their manufacturing process.
Is consumer interest enough of an incentive for such innovations to scale? Could reputational risk be another driver?
Even though this bio-engineering trend could help to decrease the amount of plastic waste, what about the electronic waste?