Can Eyewear Be Sustainable?

Consumers in all kinds of industries are increasingly interested in positive environmental change and believe that companies and brands bear the bulk of the responsibility. Studies even show that consumers are willing to pay more for sustainably-made products. Companies respond to consumer demand, and these changes extend to eyewear. 

Some companies are changing their manufacturing processes by finding new ways to show consumers that glasses can be more environmentally friendly. In an industry with rapidly changing style trends, this particular trend could be here to stay.

What Are Glasses Made Of?

Visual impairment is something humans have always had to contend with, and it is a disability most of us face at some point in life. Despite improvements in medicine and eye care, the need for visual aids isn’t likely to go away any time soon. People need glasses. Although most of us wear glasses, people generally have no idea how glasses are made, the materials involved, or how wasteful the process can be.

Prescription lenses are, of course, made from glass. Cutting and grinding lenses for eyewear produce glass waste, but this is easy to recycle. Frames are usually made from metal or plastic. Metal is also easy to recycle, but plastic waste is different.

Plastic frames are made from blanks cast in dies. The blanks have to be sanded and shaped to create different frames, this results in plastic waste. Most of the waste comes from the plastic cut out of the frames to fit the lenses.

How To Make Eyewear Sustainable

Eyewear can be made and used more sustainably. Several companies are moving toward greater sustainability in the manufacturing process. Others encourage consumers to be more sustainable in buying and using frames.

For instance, some companies promote the use of bifocals and progressive glasses. These are lenses with more than one prescription. Instead of purchasing two or three different pairs of frames for their various prescriptions, they can get them all in one, saving on plastic waste.

Eyewear manufacturers, brands, and retailers are making the industry more sustainable in several other ways:

Leaning on Metal 

Metal is more sustainable than plastic because it is easy to recycle. Some companies are focusing solely on metal frames. These frames can be reused and even turned into 3D printing filament to make more frames or other metal products.

Using Recycled Products 

Another source of materials for frames is anything recycled. Some manufacturers make eyeglass frames from recycled plastic, nylon, polyester, and even wood.

Using Biomaterials 

Frames can also be made from materials that are more sustainable in the first place. Bamboo is more environmentally friendly than plastic because it requires fewer resources and less energy to produce. Bio-acetate is also increasingly popular in eyeglass frames. This is a biodegradable plant-based plastic material.

Reducing Supply Chain Waste 

Any industry can be made more sustainable by looking for areas of waste. This means analyzing the entire supply chain, from raw materials to products on retail shelves. Reducing waste goes well beyond the frames to include energy used during manufacturing, transportation of raw materials, and more.

Sustainable and Renewable Practices

Manufacturing and materials are not the only ways eyeglass companies improve their sustainability efforts. Many now embrace and encourage practices that keep frames in circulation longer. Circularity is a growing trend in several industries.  

Lens Reuse

Some retailers and brands offer customers the option to have frames repaired to discourage throwing them away and buying new glasses. Some companies will even replace frames when a customer wants a new style. Consumers can also reuse their frames by replacing outdated or scratched lenses. They can reuse glasses frames by putting sunglass lenses in them.

Charitable Contributions

Another aspect of circularity is charitable giving. Many retailers and eyeglass brands will take used frames from customers and pass them on to non-profits. Consumers can do this on their own as well. For example, the Lions Clubs International Foundation takes frames and glasses and distributes them to people in need in the U.S. and abroad. Giving eyeglasses a second life is an important aspect of sustainability. While it has long been a practice with clothing, circularity is beginning to rise in the eyeglass industry.

Go Green with Glasses

Sustainability is a growing priority for people, especially younger generations. It’s the way of the future and necessary for the planet. Manufacturers, designers, and retailers are responding to the need, which means anyone who needs glasses, which is most people, can be part of the positive changes.

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