They say one person’s trash is another’s treasure, and that’s exactly the premise of London start-up jewellery brand, Lylie’s. With the ambition “to mine e-waste, rather than our environment”, the brand makes jewellery from salvaged precious metals, recycled from materials contained within unwanted technology we throw away every day.
E-waste is defined as any household or business waste containing circuitry or electrical components. It has become an increasing problem due to burgeoning global consumer demand and lack of circular solutions. In the UK, on average, each person throws away 20-25 kgs of e-waste each year, which goes to landfill, is incinerated or otherwise languishes at the back of that kitchen draw you never open.
The circular economy is starting to be fully embraced by entrepreneurs who see the vast potential and value of waste streams. In 2016 over $20 billion worth of gold was thrown away as e-waste, which is not only a missed opportunity for recovery, but also means additional extraction, emissions and countless hours of hard labour are needed to bring precious metals from mine to market.
In a month where Burberry came under fire for burning $38 million worth of clothes, it is clear the luxury sector still has a long way to go in sustainability terms. However, while solutions like Lylie’s are just a drop in the ocean, they are promising and timely signals on the periphery of a reframing of the value of waste and the importance of circularity.
The success of the brand is also down to a shift in consumer attitudes, whereby buying goods with an ethical or environmental promise is becoming sought-after, and millennial shoppers (the fastest growing consumer group) are increasingly voting with their consciences.