Are There Biodegradable Parts in Mechanical Keyboards?

April 10, 2024

Can you imagine mechanical keyboards that decompose over time? Biodegradable mechanical keyboards and components will definitely decrease e-waste and relieve the capacity of our already overfilled landfills.

For now, there are no biodegradable keyboard components as they are all made of plastic and metal. But as technology advances, we will surely see eco-friendly components used in various parts of the keyboard. 

Let's have a glimpse at this shift toward sustainability in technology.

How Do Mechanical Keyboards Contribute to Sustainability

I am an advocate for eco-preservation and environmental protection in everything we do and in everything we buy. Yes, that includes the seemingly mundane act of buying and using a mechanical keyboard. Have you ever wondered how choosing a mechanical keyboard can positively influence sustainability? 

  1. Durability: Mechanical keyboards are more durable than their membrane counterparts. The switches used in mechanical keyboards are rated for 50 to 100 million keystrokes before they wear out. This reduces the frequency with which keyboards need to be replaced, thus lowering electronic waste.
  2. Repairability: Many mechanical keyboards are designed to be easily disassembled and repaired. You do not need to discard the entire keyboard due to a single malfunctioning component.
  3. Materials: Some mechanical keyboards use more sustainable materials in their construction. For example, there are keyboards made from recycled plastic or sustainable wood.
  4. Customization and Modularity: Mechanical keyboards are customizable, allowing users to personalize their keyboards to their preferences. Users can swap out keycaps, change switches, or even modify the keyboard's firmware. This encourages users to keep their keyboards longer since they can continually refresh and update their devices.
  5. Energy Efficiency: Mechanical keyboards can be designed with energy-efficient features such as low-power sleep modes or efficient LED lighting systems, reducing their overall environmental impact.
  6. Recyclability: Mechanical keyboards are often more easily recyclable than membrane keyboards because they have fewer integrated components and fewer glued parts. 

Biodegradable Components in Mechanical Keyboards

The idea of biodegradable components in mechanical keyboards is a revolutionary one. Mechanical keyboard components such as plastic keycaps and metal switches are not biodegradable; however, there have been efforts to introduce biodegradable or environmentally friendly materials in some parts of mechanical keyboards.

  1. Keycap Materials: Some manufacturers are working on keycaps made from biodegradable or more environmentally friendly materials. Keycaps made from bioplastics or biodegradable polymers derived from renewable resources like cornstarch or sugarcane may become available in the future.
  2. Case Materials: The outer casing of mechanical keyboards can sometimes be made from sustainable or biodegradable materials. There are bespoke and custom cases made from bamboo, wood, or recycled plastic.
  3. Packaging: While not a component of the keyboard itself, manufacturers are increasingly using biodegradable or recyclable packaging materials to reduce the environmental impact of packaging waste.
  4. Switches: Although the switches themselves are typically made from metal and plastic, some manufacturers are exploring alternative materials or manufacturing processes that are more environmentally friendly. For example, there are efforts to develop switches with reduced use of rare earth metals or with more efficient production methods that generate less waste.

Enter the Abacus from Pentaform

Pentaform’s Abacus keyboard

Pentaform is a new company that is venturing leaps and bounds in eco-conscious manufacturing and technology. Its new product, the Abacus keyboard, is a revolutionary real game-changer in sustainable computing. This biodegradable keyboard, compatible with Windows 10, comes at a very affordable $150. Its core engine is a quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor, which draws minimal power usage of 2 watts. That translates to 31-kilowatt hours per year, similar to the energy consumption of a light bulb.

But that's not the defining character of the Abacus. This keyboard is about contributing to a greener future. How? The external casing is made of an eco-friendly decomposable polymer. Its internal parts are designed for repair and recycling.

Despite its eco-conscious design, the Abacus doesn't compromise on performance. The Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor comes with base and boost speeds of 1.44 GHz and 1.84 GHz respectively. It is more than capable of handling basic tasks like web browsing and document creation.

Pentaform co-founder, Joon Sang Lee, explains that the Abacus "considers the planet as one of its prime beneficiaries." 

Will There Be Biodegradable Mechanical Keyboards in the Future?

Is a fusion of technology and sustainability feasible? It's certainly possible that we may see biodegradable mechanical keyboards in the future as the demand for more sustainable products continues to grow. This possibility is very likely as advancements in materials science and manufacturing processes are discovered and implemented. Several factors could contribute to the emergence of biodegradable mechanical keyboards:

  1. Technological Advances: Ongoing advancements in materials science could lead to the development of biodegradable materials suitable for mechanical keyboards. Researchers may discover new bioplastics or other sustainable materials that meet the durability, performance, and safety requirements of keyboard components.
  2. Manufacturing Innovation: Manufacturers may invest in innovative production methods that enable the cost-effective mass production of biodegradable mechanical keyboards. These methods could include 3D printing, injection molding, or other techniques optimized for sustainable materials.
  3. Consumer Demand: Consumers may prioritize sustainability when choosing products as environmental awareness continues to increase. Manufacturers that offer biodegradable options could gain a competitive advantage in the market, driving further adoption of these keyboards.
  4. Regulatory Pressures: Government regulations or industry standards related to environmental sustainability and electronic waste management could encourage manufacturers to develop biodegradable keyboards.
  5. Collaborative Efforts: Collaboration between manufacturers, researchers, and environmental organizations could hasten the development of biodegradable computer peripherals. 


Is it possible for your mechanical keyboard to be environmentally friendly? Yes, it is!  Exciting innovations such as Pentaform's Abacus project are on the horizon. 

We should applaud these advancements and persist in advocating for greener technology within our reach. Each keypress has the potential to contribute to a more sustainable future.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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