Core77 Design Awards
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Launched in February 2021, Eco Eyewear's new Eco Ocean collection of optical and sun frames are made from recycled ocean-based plastic and marine litter such as nets, ropes and trawls from the maritime industry. The goal driving this collection is to help keep the ocean clean for generations to come while showcasing how plastic waste can be turned into a resource that has the ability to be used over and over again. Eco Ocean uses recycled material on a large scale, with the aim to reach a world-wide audience consisting of consumers that may have not otherwise encountered or sought out ocean clean-up organizations.
The Eco Ocean collection consists of bold yet easy-to-wear frames that are lightweight and super comfortable with a smooth, matte finish in ocean-inspired shades. The colour palette displays a variety of chalky, muted shades that are developed to be reminiscent of the ocean and give the collection a sophisticated aspect. The matte finish gives the solid-coloured material a more exclusive look that has proven attractive to many customers, and a wave-shaped hinge hints at the story behind the frames. Additionally, each frame comes in a case made from recycled PET fabric.
The Eco Ocean eyewear collection is a leader in impactful design due to its ability to reuse ocean plastic in its purest form while delivering a light weight, comfortable and stylish frame. The only material added is a small amount of pigment and 1-2% of process stabilizer that ensures that the material can be recycled again after its life as a frame. We have been able to maintain quality without adding virgin material through a robust testing process. It was important not to compromise on quality or surface finish so that the frames hold up against standard frame materials. Choosing sustainability should, according to us, never be a compromise on quality or style.
This new collection allows consumers to make sustainable choices and make a small difference for a good cause. Our hope is that spreading awareness will inspire other products, creating a ripple effect of positive change where everyone benefits. There is also the benefit of the ocean clean-up itself; we have teamed up with the NGO Waste Free Oceans to source the material, and we also sponsor additional clean-up missions to make a bigger and faster impact. Together with Waste Free Oceans we have collected reused more than 30 tons of marine litter.
Eco Eyewear's new Eco Ocean collection of frames gives ocean-based plastic waste and marine litter from the maritime industry a new life. We believe that change comes by motivating people to make better choices and in this case, thousands of consumers who may not normally be involved in ocean clean-up efforts get to contribute in their own way by getting a pair of glasses. At the same time, we get to raise awareness and spread the word, creating a ripple effect of positive change. Our hope is that the Eco Ocean collection will inspire people to view waste as a resource that has no place being littered around our planet, but rather should be valued and utilized over and over.
In addition to inspiring change, another goal with Eco Ocean was to make a sustainable collection that is accessible to as many people as possible in terms of overall aesthetics and comfort as well as a competitive price point. This was made possible through efficient and large-scale manufacturing and industry know-how. Furthermore, we aimed to attract not only the consumers who want to show off that they wear frames from ocean waste, but also the people who just want a pair of good-looking frames. This meant refining polypropylene, a fairly basic plastic, derived from old ropes to match other frame materials in quality and style. It took a lot of work and countless test rounds to make this material work for eyewear without compromising on finish, colors, shape, etc.
During the creation process we went to great lengths to use the highest possible content of recycled plastic. In the end, all that had to be added was a small amount of pigment and 1.5% of process stabilizer. Polypropylene requires the process stabilizer to prevent it from degrading due to the heat in the melting/injection process. This is necessary to make it possible to recycle the frames again in the future. It is important to us that the frames are not only recycled, but also recyclable.
We first wanted to make sure we partnered with a reliable supplier to source the material, and ultimately decided to use the material sourced by Waste Free Oceans who conduct regular ocean clean-up missions. Waste Free Oceans works with local fishermen who collect fishing nets, ropes,trawls and other marine litter from the ocean. These items then get checked, cleaned, cut, dried, and prepped. After that they get extruded into the plastic granules that in turn are injection-molded into our Eco Ocean frames. Together with Waste Free Oceans we have collected more than 30 tons of marine litter.
After securing our supplier, research was conducted on possible ways to manufacture the material in order to achieve the best possible material properties suited for eyewear frames. We found that the ideal manufacturing process was to receive the material in pellet-form and injection mold it for good precision of shape. This method was chosen over sheet-form because it produces the least amount of waste in the production process. This also suited our existing know-how in eyewear manufacturing. The main challenge was achieving a high-quality level of the material and a well-balanced colour palette without using virgin material. For the first tests, the material was much too soft to be durable enough as eyewear. We found that the solution was to add a small amount of calcium to the material in order to increase hardness while maintaining high flexibility in the material. This took approximately ten test rounds to perfect the amount of calcium added to avoid spots or impurities that can create weakness in certain points. We also adjusted the design to allow for slightly thicker dimensions, which turned out to have aesthetic advantages as well.
Additionally, we found that the surface coating was initially too soft, prone to scratching, and generally too sensitive when inserting glass lenses. We tried several surface coating methods since Polypropylene is generally difficult to coat. It turned out that the material requires a much longer drying time than our regular Biobased material before coating. After allowing for a longer drying time, we ended up with a very good scratch-resistant matte finish. In terms of colouring the material, the first tests included simply painting the frames after the injection molding. This did give a hard surface, but was not satisfactory as the paint had potential to shave off after long-term use. Also, the paint contained toxic substances and decreased recyclability of the frames. Instead, we decided to add pigment to the master batch before injection. Since we were starting with a green base rather than white material, it took many trial and error mixing tests before we ended up with our desired color range.