Chances are you have a shelf of CDs collecting dust somewhere. A design studio partnered with one of the biggest names in music to make them useful.
Pentatonic, a design and tech company that focuses on creating products within the circular economy, has partnered with creative collective I am Other, founded by Pharrell Williams, to create a line of reusable, portable cutlery sets out of the early 2000s staple.
Plastic waste is a huge problem. An estimated 40 billion individual plastic utensils are produced every year, according to a Pratt Institute study supported by the Plastic Pollution Coalition. And most of those single use utensils end up in landfills, beaches, or oceans. Less than 14% of plastic packaging overall gets recycled, according to the NRDC.
The cutlery set, called the Pebble, holds everything you might need for a meal away from home: a knife, fork, spoon, chopsticks, and a straw. Each of the utensils pivots at the connecting point between the handle and the top part so it fits compactly within a pebble-shaped case. The case also has an attached lanyard so you can easily bring the set with you. It comes in a few variations: multicolored, black, and the latest edition, gray, made in collaboration with New York design firm Snarkitecture. There’s also a Pebble Pocket that will fit in your pants pocket.
“Pharell’s introduced hundreds of millions of CDs, so for us to introduce that to a different category was great,” says Pentatonic co-founder Jamie Hall via videoconference. The CDs aren’t just a creative, full-circle way to repurpose materials. They have a functional purpose. CDs are made of polycarbonate, a tough material often found in car headlights that makes the Pebble case difficult to crack.
Of course, even recycled plastic is bad for the environment. Pentatonic, however, is hoping to avoid any undue waste by launching a trade-back program that will make it a “material-free” product, as Pentatonic co-founder Johann Boedecker calls it. How so? The Pebble will include a chip that users can scan to initiate a trade-back process so you can return it to the company when you’re done. You’ll get store credit, and they’ll turn it into something new. Think of it like a can deposit, but within private enterprise.
“The main problem with the vast majority of consumer products is that they have not been designed with end of life in mind,” adds Hall. “They’re not designed to be disassembled and taken back. What happens? They just sit in people’s closets.” Just like those old CDs.