You may already recycle your bottle of Diet Coke, but soon you will be able to buy will.i.am-vetted products made from those recycled bottles. Coca-Cola and the the musical artist are partnering to make a line of products called Ekocycle. The concept behind the company is to give recycled products a hip image to make them more appealing to young consumers. We can expect to see a full line of clothing, gear, and furniture from the company in 2013.
Ekocycle is a passion project for will.i.am. He first pitched the idea to Coca-Cola in 2010 during the Black Eyed Peas tour stop in Atlanta. “You would take the technology that makes plastic and make a thread out of it to make jackets and shoes and glasses and watches,” will.i.am told Billboard Biz. But the key to his idea was then partnering that sustainability brand with other popular brands to create a demand for recycled products. Will.i.am envisioned a world in which “the people are demanding the product they love to be made out of sustainable materials.”
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“If you think about (recycled) products now, none of them are cool,” he later told the Associated Press. “You have to bring some art and fashion sensibility into this technology that turns a bottle into something cool.” Will.i.am brought some of that sensibility to Ekocylce’s first commercial (in a YouTube video above), which will be airing Wednesday during the Olympics. (The Olympic Games are sponsored, in part, by Coca-Cola.) The commercial features a song and voice over by will.i.am and previews some of the stylish products—a bag, a chair—that Ekocycle will create from recycled materials.
But the hip will.i.am image comes with a high price tag. The first Ekocycle product—a pair of headphones by Beats, a popular high-end brand from rapper and music producer Dr. Dre—will retail for $349. In comparison, Beats’ other headphones cost anywhere from $199.95 to $399.95 on BeatsByDre.com. An Ekocycle hat by New Era will cost $32.
The processes necessary to incorporate reusable waste into another product are expensive. As a result, recycled products tend to be pricey. But Ekocycle hopes that the star power of will.i.am and partnerships with high-end brands will sway customers into thinking green…and dropping a little extra dough. Coca-Cola will lend a helping hand as Ekocycle launches; they’ve committed to contribute $1 million to the project over the next five years. And Coca-Cola has even said that it will donate its portion of the licensing profits to recycling and community improvement groups.
Each Ekocycle product will sport a logo that says how many recycled bottles or cans were used in the making of that product: three plastic bottles for every pair of Beats headphones, for example. The goal, says Bea Perez, chief sustainability officer at Coca-Cola, is not to immediately make a massive dent in reducing waste—the volume of recycled materials they use is not that high yet—but to transform the way young consumers think about recycling. With celebrity endorsements, that plan just might work. “We wanted something that could be innovative and break through the clutter,” Perez told Billboard Biz. “If we did it alone it wouldn’t work, but if we do it with someone like Will that can inspire a youth movement to make change, that was more powerful than anything else. It was Will being personally involved and having that vision that excited us more than anything else.”