Coming in 2021, the Garbage watch from intelligent clothing brand Vollebak, gives new life to electronic waste. Olivia Palamountain reports

It started with a very simple idea: what if electronic waste wasn’t garbage? With 50 million tonnes of the stuff generated every year, that’s a whole lot of material to play with.

The crazy bit? This “waste” actually contains many of the world’s precious metals – silver, platinum, copper, nickel, cobalt, aluminium and zinc – and even seven per cent of global gold, according to research from the World Economic Forum.

Vollebak is driven by a long-term ambition to build intelligent clothing and its latest innovation, the Garbage watch, which has been designed as part of the Wallpaper* Re-Made project, is no exception. Garbage Watch by VollebakFounded by twin brothers, designers and athletes Nick and Steve Tidball in 2016, the duo has solid form in ground-breaking wearables. 

They created the world’s first Graphene Jacket using the only material in the world with a Nobel Prize, released 100 Year clothing designed to outlive you, a Plant and Algae T Shirt grown in forests and bioreactors that turns into worm food, and a Black Squid Jacket which mimics the adaptive camouflage of the squid by reflecting every colour in the visible spectrum.

Vollebak has even created the Full Metal Jacket, a garment that protects wearers from Covid-19.

Increasingly concerned with how the intelligent clothing they design will be treated at the end of its life, the duo have turned this concern into creativity with the advent of the Garbage watch.

Launching in 2021, it has been designed to reframe an often invisible and hazardous end of the supply chain and make people think about the impact of treating their wearables in a disposable manner.

Vollebak will be documenting the journey of Garbage watch from prototype to product during the coming year, sourcing components from sustainable e-waste recycling efforts and sharing the story as it happens. e-wasteVollebak co-founder Steve Tidball explains: “We’ve taken an ‘inside-out’ design approach with the Garbage watch, making the functional inner workings highly visible in a similar way to how the Centre Pompidou is constructed.

“To avoid trashing our own planet, we need to start figuring out how to re-use the 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.”

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