NEW YORK - Should headphones made out of recycled trash ever cost $349? It depends on how cool they are.
In hopes of giving products made from recycled materials a little more cachet, musician will.i.am and The Coca-Cola Co. are partnering to make a line of clothing and gear called Ekocycle. The idea is to brand recycled products with a hipper image that resonates with young consumers.
"If you think about (recycled) products now, none of them are cool," said will.i.am, who is best known for his work with The Black-Eyed Peas. "You have to bring some art and fashion sensibility into this technology that turns a bottle into something cool."
The first Ekocycle product will be a pair of headphones by Beats, a popular and pricey line created by rapper Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine - both friends of will.i.am. The Ekocycle version will cost $349, which is on the high end of the range of Beats headphones.
An Ekocycle hat by New Era will cost $32.
The plan is to partner with a variety of other big-name designers to sell items including bicycles, shoes, handbags, glasses or even high-end chairs and tables. That means the items won't be cheap, despite the unpolished image recycled products often have. The first Ekocycle ad, with a voiceover and song by will.i.am, is set to air Wednesday during the Olympics, which Coca-Cola is sponsoring.
Already, products made out of recycled waste tend to be more expensive because of the process required to incorporate the materials. But will.i.am and Coca-Cola are hoping celebrity power and impressive brand names like Beats can overcome price barriers.
All Ekocycle products will be marked with a logo that tells people how many recycled bottles or cans went into the product. The Beats headphones, for example, contain about 3 plastic bottles.
The volume of recycled materials used in the products won't make a dent in reducing waste at first, notes Bea Perez, chief sustainability officer for Coca-Cola. But she said the idea is to get younger consumers thinking about waste and recycled products in a new light.
Coca-Cola declined to give details of its business agreement with will.i.am, but said it will donate its portion of the licensing profits to recycling and community improvement groups. Will.i.am is reviewing ways to contribute his royalties to educational charities.