A British sustainable design business is set to upcycle battery packs from Lime e-bikes and e-scooters and turn them into slick portable Bluetooth speakers.
Based in the creative hub of Brighton, England, Gomi has been upcycling plastic waste for several years. In 2018, the company released the world’s first portable speaker made from non-recyclable trash and powered by 100 percent reclaimed battery cells (each unit holds the equivalent of 100 plastic bags worth of non-recyclable plastic, the team says), and since then have added portable chargers and wireless mag chargers to their arsenal.
Now, Gomi is working with Lime to produce portable speakers using the same plastic repurposing method, but also powered with rechargeable second-life batteries from the micromobility company’s e-bikes. The 25W speakers, which can be paired with each other for a stereo effect, will be available in different colour schemes — Birthday Cake, Black Mono, Blue Ocean, and of course, Lime Green — and will be sold through Kickstarter. Each speaker costs £99 ($137) for super early birds then increases to £149 ($206) for general sale.
Gomi co-founder Tom Meades told Mashable that he reached out to Lime at the end of last summer following the success of the company’s chargers. Having made impact in the UK market since 2018, Lime represented a likeminded sustainably-focused business opportunity for Gomi — its electric scooters and e-bikes are modular, meaning their parts can be swapped out or repaired, and the materials that make up the vehicles can be recycled after they stop functioning. However, Gomi’s project intends to give the fleet’s core batteries a second life as they are.
Andrew Savage, vice president of sustainability at Lime, said the partnership allowed Gomi “to breathe new life into our batteries,” which would otherwise be recycled. “We are always looking for ways to improve the sustainability of our service and are eager to work with innovative companies like Gomi to find second life opportunities for parts of our vehicles across the world,” he explained.
Right now, Gomi has 50,000 battery cells from Lime’s Balham and Walthamstow warehouses in London, which is enough to make 12,500 speakers— Meades said Gomi hopes to have them all made by October, with delivery before Christmas.
So, how exactly does Gomi upcycle Lime’s batteries? The battery cells are removed from the e-bikes and e-scooters, which are then cleaned and tested for charging capacity. If the cells pass, they’re made into battery packs for Gomi’s speakers.
“Basically all of the packs on bikes, they need to be durable, so they’re in these stainless steel containers, which means that all the cells are protected and waterproof so they don’t get any damage in that way. We then have to take apart the stainless steel shells and push the cells out,” explained Meades. “Then you’ll see almost like any battery pack like Tesla has or even vapes have, they all have 18,650 cells. They’re all lined up, then you have to take them out, and we test each one to capacity. We clean it up, we have to fully charge it, and then fully discharge it. From there, we test each cell, know which ones you can use and which ones you can’t use, and then assemble it into our own battery packs, vacuum seal it, make it waterproof again.”
Like Gomi’s other products, the marbled exterior of the speaker is made with recycled plastic packaging waste deemed non-recyclable by UK councils. With 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans every year, this is a welcome innovation.
Meades said Gomi’s goal is to demonstrate that consumer tech can be both fully circular and high performance, with a strong, desirable aesthetic. And it’s here, Meades continued, that they’re able to be even more innovative with sustainable design — by working with an effect that the rest of the industry tries to avoid: marbling.
“In the plastics industry, that’s the least desirable thing, marbling. So what they’ll do is when they recycle plastic, they’ll really, really try to make everything a pure white colour, which means that a lot of plastics can’t be recycled because they’re not that pure white colour, they can’t get to that,” he said.” So we embraced that and thought, actually let’s make it marble, maybe that could look cool, people might like that. And that meant that we could use more waste streams, mix them together, and they kind of had this Jackson Pollock style abstract painting style, and people really liked it.”
Gomi isn’t the first local sustainable design company Lime has teamed up with in the UK. Since November, the micromobility giant has been working with UK recycling company First Mile to turn shredded tyres into playground surfacing, shredded bike frames into production steel, and non-ferrous metals (metals that don’t contain iron) into aluminium products like drink cans. Lime has aggressively pursued its environmental goals globally of late, pledging to be net zero by 2030.