Design graduate Tom Meades making a global noise with waste plastic speakers

A Brighton company founded by graduate Tom Meades is pioneering the use of old e-bike batteries to power portable music speakers made from waste plastic.

Tom co-founded Gomi just after graduating in 2017 with 3D Design and Craft BA(Hons), using Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund his vision of turning waste plastic food shopping bags into chic high-spec portable Bluetooth speakers – powered by old e-bike batteries from mainland Europe. These were the world’s first consumer tech product made from, and completely powered by, waste products. Each speaker creates new life for around 100 recycled plastic bags.

Now Gomi has done a deal to repurpose 50,000 battery cells from 1,000 e-bikes owned by US company Lime, the first time the San Francisco-based bike and scooter hire firm has created a partnership to use its old batteries in new consumer products. To help fund this latest development, Gomi has turned again to Kickstarter for a campaign running to the end of March.

Speaking about his time studying at Brighton, Tom said: “The course was fantastic in pushing me to explore working with many different types of materials and processes, from handmade craft ceramics to digital design and product-engineering software. The course also helped develop challenging ideas on the world today and how we can use design to shape the future world tomorrow.

“On 3D Design and Craft, the course concentrates more on the research and development of the person’s interests. This was very helpful for me in finding my real passion – to redesign consumer tech to be sustainable. But there is no pressure to follow any strict path, just find your best path.

Tom Ainsworth, [Course Leader of the Sustainable Design MA and 3D Design and Craft tutor at the time], really helped me question every aspect of my work throughout my studies at Brighton and continued to give advice on my projects post-university after I graduated. The University of Brighton really is a fantastic place to study, and set me on the path to do what I love today.”

Plastic waste makes up 85% of the pollution on our beaches around the world, and every year the UK alone throws away 1.2 billion kilos of flexible plastics. Battery waste is also a growing issue worldwide, with over 3 billion batteries currently produced every year with no real drive to recycle or reuse them. With global demand for lithium ion batteries forecasted to grow 10% a year between now and 2025, the waste pile of batteries will carry on getting bigger.

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