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Every frame we produce, pack and ship has a negative impact on the environment; that’s a given with any product. All our frames have acetate in them, from the temple tips on metal frames to full acetate. It’s a material often used for glasses, made from wood pulp and cotton, mixed with polymer plasticisers — yes, that's plastic.
To reduce our single-use plastic consumption, we’re developing more frames in bio acetate. The polymer plasticisers are replaced with biodegradable ones, which makes the acetate biodegradable once you take out the lenses and metal parts, like hinges and screws.
We know what you’re saying, what about the metal frames? At the moment, we’re still researching ways to make these specs more sustainable and we’ll let you know more as soon as we do.
In 2017, we discovered that packaging made up 50% of our footprint. So, we removed the cardboard box around the glasses case, stopped using paper bags 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, too.
Finally, that cleaning cloth you rub your lenses with every day? We switched from microfibre cloths to recycled PET (fabric made from recycled plastic bottles). Unfortunately, they contain microplastics, so we’re also researching into lyocell or other natural fibres to use in the future. It’s a slow process, but we’ll get there.
And because we’re always looking to the next development, the money we saved by eliminating all unnecessary packaging is now being invested in research towards more sustainable materials.
We don’t like single use packaging and we know you don’t either. That’s why we stopped ordering paper bags and give out multi-purpose tote bags instead. 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.
The problem with acetate is that 50-80% of the material is wasted before it even becomes a pair of glasses. This challenge is a big one, and we’re taking baby steps (they’ll get bigger) to solve it.
Right now, we're all about upcycling. We’ve partnered with Reflow and other partners to do more to recycle our acetate and lenses. Our first idea was to make keychains from the leftovers, but we’re also exploring more practical ideas, such as using it to build store furniture (read our Company page for more info).
For lenses, we 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.