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In Vietnam, man turns e-waste into music players

In Vietnam, man turns e-waste into music players

Thursday, March 21, 2024, 11:03 GMT+7
In Vietnam, man turns e-waste into music players
Architect Lam Thanh Tung meticulously crafts the cover and frame of the La Madame music player. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre

Architecture, technology, and audio harmonize into a symphony of innovation, culminating in the transformation of e-waste into exquisite, one-of-a-kind music players.

Meet Lam Thanh Tung, a 37-year-old architect and lecturer at the University of Architecture in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tung's dedication to architecture, technology, and audio is unwavering, even in the face of challenges.

While architecture is his profession, his commitment to technology and audio is his lifelong pursuit.

Infusing his passion and creativity into these endeavors, Tung has crafted his own line of music players called 'La Madame,' entirely sourced from e-waste.

La Madame music players

Tung's innovative approach not only highlights his talent but also addresses the critical issue of e-waste recycling.

By transforming discarded electronic materials into functional and esthetically pleasing music players, he exemplifies the potential for sustainable design solutions.

Through his work, he not only creates beautiful products but also raises awareness about responsible consumption and waste management.

His devotion to merging architecture, technology, and audio serves as an inspiring example of how creativity can contribute to environmental sustainability.

"I created La Madame because I want to recycle e-waste that is difficult to dispose of and also to craft a fitting ornament. It would feel 'extremely sour' to profit from handcrafted music players," explained Tung.

For him, La Madame represents both a passion project and a career-driven environmental mission.

Architect Lam Thanh Tung adds a personal touch by drawing on the speaker grilles of each music player. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre

Architect Lam Thanh Tung adds a personal touch by drawing on the speaker grilles of each music player. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre

Tung is responsible for the entire process of crafting a La Madame music player.

From sourcing suitable components to designing the player model, creating molds, and assembling the sound devices, he meticulously undertakes every step.

"My music players are handmade, so they may not achieve the same level of perfection as commercially manufactured products. And no two leaves are alike," Tung remarked on his creations.

This sentiment is echoed by many visitors to exhibitions displaying his handcrafted music players.

Vo Trung Dung, a Vietnamese-French citizen who now lives in Da Lat, a resort town in Vietnam's Central Highlands region, praised Tung's initiative for "recreating sounds from recycled components," deeming it highly commendable.

According to Dung, Tung's transparency about the materials used in crafting the music players is crucial.

Without such transparency, few would know that he repurposed discarded sound components from automobiles to create these high-quality, esthetically pleasing music players, which serve not only as functional devices but also as decorative pieces in households.

"His products are not far behind those of big brands. Tung's handmade music players are environmentally friendly and highly personalized. In Europe, such products often fetch exorbitant prices," noted Dung.

To demonstrate the craftsmanship behind his handwrought music players, Tung willingly disassembles finished products during exhibitions to show visitors their inner workings.

He emphasizes the simplicity of the products, soldering the circuit boards and crafting the wooden frames himself.

Tung also designs a variety of shapes for the music players, ensuring they complement different household spaces as decorative items.

Regarding the types of electronic waste used in crafting these music players, Tung clarified, "We primarily utilize in-car audio systems from the 2010s, car door speakers, and broken electronic components that would otherwise end up in landfills.”

Architect Lam Thanh Tung proudly highlights his handmade music player creation. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre

Architect Lam Thanh Tung proudly highlights his handmade music player creation. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre

Bringing memories into every music player

To say that Tung has given e-waste a second life by creating music players is accurate, but it barely scratches the surface.

Each of his music players carries with it a treasure trove of unforgettable memories.

He fondly recalls the days when luxurious Japanese cars adorned with CD players from famous brands would gracefully glide through the streets.

However, in Vietnam, the trend shifted due to the widespread desire for upgrading audio systems to incorporate electronic screens.

Consequently, many car owners discarded their original audio setups.

This disheartened Tung, who saw an opportunity to repurpose these abandoned CD players and door speakers into music players for reuse or resale, thereby addressing a significant portion of e-waste.

Tung spent nearly a year exploring how to turn this idea into reality, but progress stalled.

It was not until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced him to halt work for several months, that Tung revisited the concept.

"I tinkered with piles of e-waste every day until I finally pieced together a fully functional music player. Yet, I hesitated to consider selling them," Tung recounted.

Creating a few for personal enjoyment would not suffice to tackle the multitude of discarded car audio systems.

Most car modification shops routinely strip and get rid of the original audio setups before customizing vehicles.

Tung admitted to feeling unfamiliar with the sales process, compounded by the handmade nature of his products, which diminished his confidence in entering a market dominated by established brands.

"It occurred to me that handmade audio devices would be more captivating if they were unique, personalized, and capable of narrating their own tales," Tung mused.

Thus, Tung began infusing his music players with narratives.

For customers in Da Lat, he adorned the speaker grilles -- typically crafted from cloth, wood, or iron -- with depictions of local landscapes or renowned figures synonymous with the highland city.

He conveyed other stories through color schemes tailored to products destined for Nha Trang or Ho Chi Minh City.

And for special orders, he meticulously etched unique narratives through drawings or laser engravings.

Despite their imperfections, each of Tung's music players tells a story.

They serve as testaments to consumer culture, encapsulating how individuals engage with their surroundings, reflecting the designer's personality, and conveying messages from their buyers.

Lam Thanh Tung's handmade music players captivate the interest of residents in Da Lat City. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre

Lam Thanh Tung's handmade music players captivate the interest of residents in Da Lat City, Vietnam. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre

Handwrought speakers enter commercial market

By 2022, the speakers crafted from recycled materials by architect Tung had reached such a level of quality that he began commercial sales.

Tung has chosen not to disclose the exact number of speakers sold to date.

However, he revealed that car modification shops are now selling him discarded electronic components wholesale, a departure from their previous practice of either giving them away for free or vending them at nominal prices.

In anticipation of future speaker models, Tung has been diligently stockpiling junked components for later use.

Nguyen Huynh Nam, a student from Da Lat University, expressed excitement upon hearing the sounds emanating from Tung's recycled speakers.

"If Tung hadn't mentioned that the La Madame music player was made of recycled materials, I wouldn't have known and would have assumed it was a mass-made product," remarked Nam.

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Mai Vinh - Kim Thoa / Tuoi Tre News

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