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Bluetooth Headsets

Recycled guns give these headphones heft and a cause

Concerned about gun violence? So is the Swedish company Yevo, which is doing something about it.

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Yevo's Bluetooth headphones.

Ian Sherr/CNET

A Swedish company, Yevo Labs, is building its latest headphones with material from an improbable source: guns.

The headphones themselves are pretty standard Bluetooth earbuds, based on the company's previously released Yevo 1 design. It's around the edges that things get interesting. The accent metal is less polished than the mirror-finish chrome-like plating you'd find on its onyx-, ivory- or jet black-colored $249 headphones.

The carrying case, which also doubles as a battery-powered charger, is heavy. Like a power tool. And the metal it's made from feels rough, industrial. Yevo plans to sell this version for $499 when it's released in the next few months.

"In a way, this is the most valuable material in the world," said Andreas Vural, Yevo's founder and president. "It's a firearm that may have taken someone's life."

This is a statement piece. It's a visceral reminder that this was made from something substantial. And it's completely unlike anything I've ever seen while covering CES.

This event, the largest in the tech industry, with more than 180,000 attendees expected this year, is the place where Microsoft's Xbox video game console was first announced in 2001, where we learn what the latest TV tech will be and where we found out our shower might listen when we're singing

But I've never seen something so unusual as a piece of everyday tech made from a firearm.

Guns in particular were thrust into the forefront in Vegas after a gunman took aim at an open-air concert here in October, killing 58 people and leaving more than 500 wounded. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. These horrific events have become so common that around the time of the massacre in Vegas, a report found that the US in 2017 was averaging one mass shooting per day.

And while CES has become home to technological advancements from around the world, smart firearms rarely make an appearance. When it comes to guns more broadly, the annual Shot Show will draw about 65,000 people from across the firearms industry to Vegas when it begins later this month.

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Andreas Vural, founder and president of Yevo Labs, wearing his headphones made with metal from recycled guns.

Ian Sherr/CNET

Vural, who flashed a smile when we first met, became more serious as I sat opening and closing the gun metal case. Its predecessor, which came out last year, has been a hit, Vural said, with demand consistently outstripping supply. He declined to offer hard sales data. That headphone charging case looks like a supersized lipstick tube or a carrier for a nice pair of reading glasses. The headphones are concealed in a compartment that slides out and then back in, with a satisfying click to indicate it's closed. It's pretty lightweight too.

The model made from guns is coarse by comparison. It almost seems unfinished. The bit that holds the headphones slides out feeling like it's grinding against the metal, which Yevo bought from a Swedish initiative called Humanium. In addition to its weight, the Humanium-metal headphones also cost five times more to make. Yevo is using it to make both the accent metals around the edge of the headphones, as well as for the outside case.

Everything about this gun metal device says it isn't a piece of tech meant to disappear into the background of my everyday life.

"We want to bring more awareness" to the issue of gun violence, Vural said. And a portion of sales will go back to Humanium as well.

Tech for good

Yevo may be the first company making a product with a recycled gun, but it's part of a trend in the tech industry. Companies are beginning to build technology with attention paid to more than just the design and price.

Apple, for example, publishes an environmental report card for each of its products, telling customers what type of pollutants are in them. And nearly all the paper used in its product packaging is either recycled or from "responsibly managed" forests.

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Apple's Liam recycling machine holds an iPhone before going to work.

Apple

Apple also has a goal of making iPhones from 100 percent recycled materials someday. To do that, it's testing ideas like a machine called the Liberate iPhone Auto-Disassembly Machine (or Liam), which breaks down older iPhones so parts can be reused. Apple's also using recycled materials for soldering some older-model iPhones.

"We put an incredible amount of money into designing the best products in the world," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said when first announcing Liam in 2016. We "put that same amount of energy into thinking about what to do when they can no longer be used."

PC giant Dell, meanwhile, has begun using recycled plastics, diverted from ending up in the ocean, in packaging for its high-end laptops. Surprisingly, the company says it's helped drive down costs.

"There's a broad perception that sustainability costs more," said Oliver Campbell, who heads up Dell's packaging team. "We're proving that when it's done correctly it actually costs less."

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Dell's packaging tray for PCs, made in part with ocean plastics.

Dell

He added that Michael Dell, the company's founder and CEO, pushes his teams to be more sustainable, but to do it in a way that either keeps costs the same or better. That way, it's more likely the company can adopt those efforts across its business.

Dell's begun finding uses for some of the materials that can be recycled from computers. For example, it's begun using recycled gold in some laptops and servers. During CES, the company announced that recycled gold would also be used to create a jewlery collection with actress Nikki Reed.

But there's more companies could do, said Kyle Wiens, head of the tech repair website iFixit. While it's good that companies are being more thoughtful about how they can reuse products or divert them from landfills, recycling and reuse needs to take a bigger role.

"It should be factored into the design upfront," he said.

Meanwhile, Vural said he's hoping his headphones will get people to think differently about the products they buy, and how much power they have as consumers to push for positive change.

"For us, it's an amazing feeling taking something that negative and creating something positive out of it," he said.

First published Jan. 9, 9 a.m. PT.
Update, Jan. 13 at 5 a.m.: Adds details about Dell using recycled gold in laptops, servers and a jewelry collection.

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