Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Sept. 27, 2022

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Vancouver-based Cyber Acoustics turning industry on its ear

Headphone manufacturer hopes recycling program changes industry, inspires competitors to cut waste

By , Columbian staff writer
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Headphones sit on a table before they are sorted and recycled. They will be disassembled and sorted by material before recycling.
Headphones sit on a table before they are sorted and recycled. They will be disassembled and sorted by material before recycling. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When Steve Erickson and his partner bought their Vancouver-based company, Cyber Acoustics, they realized just how many headsets they ship to customers. Then they thought about where all those headsets went when they didn’t work anymore.

“We realized most of them are in garbage cans,” said Erickson, chief operating officer. They decided they needed to do something about that.

Cyber Acoustics started in Vancouver in 1996. The owners had been a part of Labtech, one of the first companies that made speakers for PCs. That company was sold to Logitech and the men founded Cyber Acoustics. In 2020, the company was purchased by Steve Erickson and his partner. It’s still based in Vancouver, although production is done overseas. Much of the company’s administration and its North American warehouse distribution center are located locally.

Erickson said the company now focuses on providing headsets in the education sector. It is already one of the top suppliers of headsets to U.S. schools. The products, he added, are built for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“We’re trying to make them indestructible,” Erickson said. “We want to make sure when the kid bites on the cord or when they take their headset and throw it against the wall, it doesn’t break.”

Cyber Acoustics’ recycling program launched in August 2021 to help schools properly dispose of old products. But the company works with any qualifying business that wants to recycle its headsets.

Businesses or schools simply fill out a form on Cyber Acoustics’ website, requesting a box to be sent to them. Cyber Acoustics pays for shipping and there’s no cost to participate.

The program needed to be efficient so that schools and customers could easily return any brand of wired headphones, headsets or earbuds to the company to be recycled.

As of April, more than 800 pounds of material has been delivered to Cyber Acoustics’ recycling partner. Once they arrive, the headsets are ripped apart, separated by material and each material recycled.

The recycling program is not expected to make money.

“We believe all tech companies have a responsibility to take steps to protect our planet, so while we do incur some costs for the program, we absorb it as part of our normal business operations,” said Susie Hayne, a company representative.

Erickson hopes his company’s recycling program brings awareness to the fact that things like headsets need to be reprocessed back into manufacturing and other uses. It seems to be doing just that.

“We’re starting to see a few competitors start to make some noises about this,” he said.

The world generates as much as 50 million tons of electronic and electrical waste each year, according to a report from the United Nations.

“I think that more and more people will start to get on board because it is a big problem,” Erickson added.

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