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Over 50% of our frames are made from acetate — wood pulp and cotton, mixed with polymer plasticisers — yes, that's plastic. Improving this is an ongoing battle.
That’s where bio acetate comes in: the polymer plasticisers are replaced by biodegradable plasticisers. This makes the acetate biodegradable once you take out the little metal parts, like hinges and screws.
Bio acetate is one option, but it's not the perfect solution. At the moment, choice is limited, but we're actively working with our suppliers to develop more colours in bio acetate.
In 2017, we discovered that packaging made up 50% of our footprint *facepalm*.
To improve, we removed the cardboard box around the glasses case, stopped using paper bags in our stores and started to recycle all paper and cardboard used in stores and HQ.
We also gave our glasses case a makeover: it used to be made from an oil-based polyurethane (PU) and included harmful metals, but now, it's made from water-based PU and is completely metal-free. It’s more compact and lighter, saving shipping weight and costs. Win-win!
Finally, that cleaning cloth you rub your lenses with every day? We switched from microfibre to recycled PET (fabric made from recycled plastic bottles). In the future, we’ll make the cloth from lyocell; a fabric that is produced in a closed loop.
We don’t like plastic bags and we know you don’t either. That’s why we use multi-purpose tote bags. Here’s a fun fact: they’re all made from organic, fair trade cotton (from 2019).
Even better: from 2020 they’ll be produced from 100% recycled cotton. The ink we use to print the bag is water-based, leaving no chemical nasties in the water when you wash it.
For each new frame design, we need a prototype, to perfect the shape and fit before production. Our suppliers in Italy and China used to make them, so they had to be flown to our HQ in Amsterdam. This was a slow process, not to mention the impact it had on the environment.
We now produce our protos in-house, using a 3D printer — a ten for innovation and we feel cool when we use it. The filament that acts as the ‘ink’ in the printer is also recycled. Less plastic, less harm.
This waste challenge is a big one, and to be honest, we're nowhere near solving it. Right now, we're all about upcycling.
We recently collaborated with circular music festival DGTL to create Refract: an art installation using 15,000 ‘end-of-life’ lenses (from returned glasses and in-store placeholders). Refract was first displayed at DGTL in 2019 and will travel around to various locations (by land), to raise awareness for circularity. Catch a glimpse here.
The problem with acetate is that 50%- 80% of the material is wasted before it even becomes a pair of glasses. We’ve partnered with Reflow to research ways we can do more to recycle our acetate and lenses. The first solution was to make keychains from leftover acetate, but we’re also looking into more practical ideas, such as using it to create store furniture. We'll keep you in the loop.