by Meghna MehtaJun 26, 2020
Accelerating the green future of fashion with science and technology, the innovative clothing brand Vollebak has designed a prototype of a watch made from electronic waste. The 'Garbage Watch' employs toxic e-waste that would otherwise be burnt or buried, contaminating the environment either way. Vollebak unveils the initial prototype as it goes into development, and further for sale in 2021.
The mechanical timepiece, built with discarded motherboards and scrap computer parts, exhibits the untapped potential of e-waste. “Today, most of the 50 million tonnes of electronic waste that’s generated every year is treated like garbage even though it isn’t. Instead, it contains many of the world’s precious metals, like silver, platinum, copper, nickel, cobalt, aluminium and zinc,” explain Vollebak founders and brothers, Steve and Nick Tidball.
Studies have shown that millions of tonnes of precious metals used to make these electronic devices head straight back into the ground after disposal, while companies still spend loads of money to extract metals through intensive and polluting processes. The World Economic Forum discovered that seven per cent of the world's gold is in e-waste.
What if electronic waste isn’t garbage? What if it’s simply pre-assembled raw material that can be used to make new things? These questions fuelled the inside-out design strategy with the simple idea of reducing waste and reusing ‘stuff we already have’. “That’s why everything you can see on the Garbage Watch used to be something else – a motherboard from your computer, a microchip in your smartphone, or wiring from your TV,” adds Steve.
Similar to the design to Renzo Piano’s Centre Pompidou, Vollebak wanted to make the functional inner mechanisms highly visible, allowing wearers to witness the potential of e-waste first-hand. With the design, the twin brothers aim to reframe the unseen and hazardous end of the supply chain, making users reflect on their impact of treating apparel as a disposable good.
The London-established brand will be going from prototype to product over the next year, acquiring components from e-waste recycling ventures, and taking waitlisted customers on the journey with them. Apart from the Garbage Watch, the team is also investigating the overlap of clothing and technology through various other experimental projects.
Just like an operating system in a computer, the conductive bases of copper in the Full Metal Jacket and graphene in the Graphene Jacket can act as a platform on which other innovation can be added. In addition to ‘intelligent clothing’, the team is also considering ways in which clothing will become technology, taking responsibility for the afterlife of fashion. While their inventions are challenged by aspects of power distribution, the duo is constantly motivated by a long-term ambition to build intelligent and responsible clothing.
(Text by Ankitha Gattupalli, intern at stirworld.com)