The Circular Economy Club (CEC) would like to welcome it’s latest member w.r.yuma, the first company in the world to 3D print sunglasses from plastic waste. Today CEC brings you the insights of the brand by its Founder, Sebastiaan de Neubourg.
The startup is launching their crowdfunding campaign this summer to be the first organisation to bring the circular economy to the eyewear industry.
Customers can swap their glasses for a new pair and receive either a discount on the new pair or a limited partial refund. “We want our materials back because we believe that waste is only waste when wasted” says Sebastiaan.
The combined weight of all people on earth is about 300 million tonnes, which is also the yearly global production of plastics; of which only a small percentage is recycled. A significant proportion of this plastic waste ends up in our oceans; if we continue business as usual our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050 (by weight).
w.r.yuma’s Founder states “We clearly have a problem with plastic waste, I believe however that this pollution is a symptom of a deeper problem. As we have never been more connected in our mobile lives, we have also never been more disconnected from the products that we buy, eat or wear. We know very little, if anything, about who made our t-shirt and where the materials in our jeans come from or where our old shoes go to after we have done wearing them.”
“It is this emotional disconnection that I believe breeds indifference; we simple are not aware about the impact of the choices we make.”
At w.r.yuma they want to start a conversation around these issues, and help the user reconnect with the story behind our products and make them part of our circular closed loop. “We do not only want to show where the materials come from and where they go to after use, but also show the people who help close the loop through their work (be it at a recycling plant, our micro factory, post-office, …). As consumer you become aware that you form a small, though crucial, part of this cycle and are in fact more of a partner than an end-user.”
How w.r.yuma got started
Before starting w.r.yuma, Sebastiaan worked as a business consultant on circular economy design. Combining his studies in engineering and business he helped start-ups build zero waste business models. “During these 5 years I had the opportunity to work with many motivated entrepreneurs that were experimenting with inspiring new ways of building sustainable businesses. I understood that these pioneers were shaping the future with their ideas as no-one yet quite knows how a circular economy will look like.”
Fueled by the energy of these entrepreneurs and motivated by the opportunity to radically rethink and experiment with new sustainable business approaches and innovative technologies, Sebastiaan quit his job and started his own enterprise in the Autumn of 2015.
What makes the brand circular
Sebastiaan believes that “a circular economy is about something more than recycling. If we want to go beyond the current dysfunctional linear economic model, we have to ensure that we also recycle the materials that we receive back from our customers.”
To do this, the brand involves the customers in an early stage and give them the responsibility and incentive to return the glasses to them at their end of life. Customers receive a discount on their next purchase or a partial cash refund. To make this process as easy as possible we ship via small boxes that fit inside a standard mailbox. This drastically reducing the costs and reduces the environmental impact from the last mile of transport.
The glasses are designed for easy disassembly in mind; so no glues or toxic dyes are used. Once disassembled, the frames are shredded and converted again into 3D printer filament using as little virgin material as possible. The main ingredient for the frames, recycled PET bottles, are again Food Contact Safe after recycling.
How is it to apply circularity to fashion?
“I think fashion is a great place to accelerate the circular economy, the current industry’s linear fast-fashion causes large environmental impacts due to its heavy resource use, polluting production methods and sheer size. Fashion is also a very accessible and publicly visible; fashion tells something about who we are and, more importantly, about who we want to become; making it a powerful leverage point for change.
I think there is a real advantage for new start-ups in circular fashion. As established brands struggle to trace back and understand the complex supply chains behind their suppliers it can be very challenging to change existing working methods. New starters will have an advantage because they can ask the right questions and implement the right procedures from the start. Also they will likely by more successful in in establishing a coherent and transparent brand image, rather than changing people’s perception of an existing brand legacy.”
The eyewear brand have not yet found a way how to re- or even up-cycle the coloured sunglasses lenses made from polycarbonate. Since the quality of polycarbonate (CR-39) used in the lenses needs to be very high in order to make new lenses, it’s unlikely that recycled materials can be used for this. Therefore, they are looking into different solutions.
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