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What is the future of sustainable sunglasses?

4 min read

What is the future of sustainable sunglasses?
As the weather gets brighter and we find ourselves reaching for our sunnies, George Chrysostomou examines sustainable sunglasses
The weather is changing and the sun is showing itself again. The hotter seasons are accompanied by a rise in summer wear sales, as consumers look for the latest trends in beach attire, shorts, hats, and notably sunglasses. It is after all vital that we protect our eyes from the glare of the sun and its harmful UV rays, and why shouldn’t we look good doing it?
"It is after all vital that we protect our eyes from the glare of the sun, and why shouldn’t we look good doing it?"
Fashion within the world of sunglasses is like a genre unto itself, with top companies looking for new ways to push the boundaries of traditional design. It’s one of the few products out there that can truly range from the bottom of the price scale to unexpected heights. But as consumers continue to put more value in sustainability and focus on fashion that can also help the planet, the magnifying glass has been placed on these eyewear products. Change has to happen in the industry, and it’s coming faster than you might have thought.

The damage sunglasses can cause

You might not have focused on it because of the health benefits wearing sunglasses will bring, but those plastic products are extremely harmful to the environment. The substances used to produce sunglasses are often non-renewable, and include fossil fuel oils and un-recyclable plastics, which continue to put a strain on our planet’s resources. Not only do sunglasses create huge amounts of waste, with millions found in landfills every year, but the process of forming these accessories is also highly polluting. 
Woman wearing sunglasses
A lot of waste plastic is actually created when forming eyewear, and the products themselves are shipped and packaged in further plastics. Most of these byproducts are again sent into landfill, rather than being recycled. These don’t break down as easily as biodegradable products, and contribute to the overflow of trash we’re facing. Even if metal was used in the process instead, it still presents plenty of challenges. Materials like lead and mercury are harmful for the environment and incredibly toxic. 
The sunglasses market is expanding, with an expected 2.41 per cent market growth every year, for the next few years. Our culture of buying cheaper sunglasses and throwing them away will only worsen with this increase in sales, and all of the previously highlighted issues will be aggravated. Don’t worry though, as there is plenty of hope for change within the industry. 

Innovation in the industry 

Innovation is coming to the sunglasses industry in rapid fashion. Research into renewable materials, and projects focused on recycling older products, look to ensure that some of these issues are being addressed. Companies are searching for ways to create quality eyewear with unusual substances, which add to the uniqueness of the design.
"Innovation is coming to the sunglasses industry in rapid fashion"
It’s thus becoming fashionable to sport sunglasses that were made with environmentally conscious methods, which stand apart from the rest of the industry. And while some of those products might be a little more expensive, they are longer-lasting, and crucially break down that culture of fast fashion which has already impacted the market. 

Pioneers leading the way

The manufacturing process is changing, and there are notable brands that are now leading the way, and pioneering in the shades space. These are fantastic case studies of how companies are embracing these challenges and finding unique methods to combat them. 
Coral Eyewear
Coral Eyewear is an amazing story of British innovation, with the company looking to recyclable products to forge their glasses. With over 640,000 tonnes of abandoned fishing nets in the ocean, Coral Eyewear saw this as an opportunity to utilise those waste products as the basis for their sunglasses. Their gear is not only sustainable, but the brand is actively making a difference in cleaning up our seas, protecting wildlife in the process! 
Bird Eyewear
Bird Eyewear has gone right back to the source in approaching these issues head on. The company is absolutely committed to only using sustainable raw materials, so much so that they have been named a B Corp; an organisation that has gone above and beyond to service the environment in its work. Its packaging is also recyclable and biodegradable, demonstrating its commitment to shifting industry habits. 
Waterhaul is also using sustainable materials in its fashionable sunglasses, and fishing nets are a part of that plan. But by extension, Waterhaul is also taking other fishing gear and turning them into super reliable, and strong glasses frames. With its huge recovery effort, Waterhaul is making a significant difference to the ocean’s ecosystem. 
Wildwood Eyewear and Eco Beach
Wildwood Eyewear and Eco Beach are also two industry pioneers to watch, who have begun a partnership in the UK market to bring their sustainable products to consumers. Wildwood Eyewear has started a recycling scheme which encourages buyers to return their glasses to the brand once they are finished with them, so they can be repurposed again. Eco Beach on the other hand is dedicated to producing sunglasses with organic and recycled materials, which are sustainably sourced, vegan and anti fast fashion. The use of bioplastics across the company also demonstrates a good alternative.
The fashion industry is going to continue to evolve as it looks to challenge itself to meet consumer demands surrounding the environment and our impact on it. While all of these sunglasses companies produce products that are stunning to wear and meet current trends, they are vitally also sustainable in their conception. So next time you pick up a pair of sunglasses, take a moment to think of where they’ve come from. 
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