How the eyewear industry sees a sustainable future in plant-based materials


The eyewear industry has long since embarked on its green revolution. Photo: AFP

All sectors are working on solutions to reduce their environmental footprint, as is the eyewear industry, which is doubling down on initiatives to achieve this.

Often singled out for its impact on the planet, the fashion industry is trying to reinvent itself with less polluting materials, more virtuous production processes, and even new approaches such as second-hand shopping or upcycling.

Even waste has become a raw material in its own right in the race to drive down environmental impact, allowing the industry to make something new out of something old, or out of something once neglected.

And if these initiatives often involve ready-to-wear and accessories, the eyewear industry is also part of this broader shift, with brands trying gradually to replace plastic, a material that can take centuries to decompose in nature.

Read more: How sustainable fibres are struggling to make an impact in the fashion industry

This is an issue that many in the industry have already taken on board with the launch of new alternatives to plastic, particularly focusing on plant-based materials.

For the Autumn/Winter 2020 season, the Amaury Paris brand launched its biodegradable lemon-based eyewear, which promise to be compostable in just over 90 days.

Meanwhile, the Wood Light label presented sunglasses, this time made from wood and Volvic volcanic rock chips.

These are just two initiatives among many others that show that the green revolution is well and truly underway in the world of eyewear.

Is bio-acetate the future of eyewear?

From wood or stone to lemon – or rather citric acid – castor oil, corn and even algae, many natural resources are being used to make eco-responsible eyewear.

Most of these materials are also used in the fashion industry, especially for sneakers, bags and other traditionally leather goods.

But if there's one material that's been everywhere in the eyewear sector in recent months, it is bio-acetate, which differs from ordinary acetate by the fact that it is biodegradable and made from renewable resources.

It therefore meets the new requirements of the sector, and considerably reduces the time it takes for our glasses to decompose.

On this point specifically, the times advertised vary considerably from one brand to another, but they're still far from the multiple centuries required for plastic frames.

French brand Moken, known for its ecological wooden glasses, has just launched a new collection of 18 frames that it guarantees to be "100% bio-compostable".

These are made of bio-acetate, sometimes in combination with natural materials, and supposedly decompose in 120 days upon contact with compost.

Upcycling waste

Some in the eyewear sector are also gradually turning to recycling, offering frames designed, for example, from recycled steel.

The Eco Eyewear brand goes even further with its Eco Ocean range, which features frames made from plastic collected from the oceans by fishermen and local communities, in collaboration with Waste Free Oceans.

The plastic is then recycled to create eco-friendly frames.

Read more: Jeans used to be fashion's most polluting items, now they are more sustainable

Whether it's with sustainable or biodegradable materials, or even recycling, the eyewear sector has well and truly begun its transformation to reduce its long-term impact on the planet.

This is further reinforced by the proliferation of frame restoration services, designed to give a second life to worn out or damaged glasses frames. – AFP Relaxnews

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