Recycled Glasses Are Helping to Save Our Planet

Tipton Glasses

What are we going to do about the problem of too much garbage in the world? Landfills everywhere are filling up and “virgin” resources are increasingly scarce due to increasing population and the increasing modernization of countries, which requires more of these resources.

 

Beijing and Shanghai together produce over 38,000 tons of garbage everyday. And the average American produces about 4.5 pounds per day. That’s about 706,000 tons per year. But the worst offender is Canada, producing more garbage per capita than any nation on Earth.

 

Universal recycling might be an option. But even if it were feasible, products would have to be as good as new brand name products or better to get consumers interested. This blog is about how the recycling of one product: eyeglasses can be turned into a successful social business while reducing waste. It won’t solve the world’s trash problem, but it serves as an example of what can be accomplished with a little creativity and a desire to solve the slow building trash crisis.

 

Recently, several companies have sprung up that produce mostly to completely recyclable glasses. This blog profiles three of those companies.

 

The most successful brand to date is Eco (Earth Conscious Optics), selling both optics and sunglasses that are 95% recycled. What makes Eco different from other brands is that they’re the same as typical glasses, made from stainless steal and plastic. You couldn’t tell from looking at them that they’re recycled. Other companies have had trouble doing the same. This is because, while plastic that can be recycled is abundant, finding recycled steel is quite difficult.

 

Eco is able to do that because it’s a brand of Modo, a successful, international designer of glasses brands. They have the resources that only highly commercially successful companies command.

 

The company was founded in 1990 and after almost 20 years of success, founder and CEO Alessandra Lanaro wanted to find a way to give back. So he created Eco. It was very difficult to get the frames up to 95% recycled material. After 8 months of manufacturing audits, Modo became the first (and still only) consumer company on Earth to receive the Environmental Claims Validation from Underwriters Laboratory, a trusted consulting and verification company. “It was expensive, time-consuming – and worth every penny” Lanaro said.

 

Modo goes even further. For every pair of eco glasses sold, they’ve committed to having a tree planted through Trees for the Future. They’ve planted close to 800,000 trees so far. The only wasteful thing is the packaging. “No way around it” Lanaro claims.

Inside the box, an envelope encourages customers to donate their old pairs to One Sight, an organization that gives old frames to people in Africa and Southeast Asia who don’t have access to a doctor.

 

Eco glasses are widely available for purchase in the USA and online.

 

Two other small businesses have had similar ideas. Tipton Eyeworks of Budapest, founded in 2004, has a clever idea. They recycle vinyl records into new glasses frames. Vinyl is normally associated with records but can have many uses. Everything from alarm clocks to water piping to blood bags are at least partly made with vinyl.

 

The first series of frames were made from communist era vinyl salvaged from Budapest flea markets. They could still be played 50 years later and the vinyl was still good enough to be repurposed.

 

The frames have a distinct look and feel. They’re big and thick and only available in black. Each one comes with unique grooves depending on the records the frames were made from. The frames won’t be for everyone, but they look good and for the time being thick glasses are fashionable. And they’re certainly unique. I kind of wish I had a pair.

 

Another company, LinkSkin, is based out of Singapore and founded in 2007. Of the three companies, LinkSkin goes the furthest to create a recycled product. It was the world’s first eco friendly eyewear and showed that recycled glasses were possible. The frames are made without screws or hinges because those kind of recycled things are hard to come by. Instead, the pieces are snapped together. In addition to being made from recycled products, the glasses itself are recyclable.

 

Eco shows how big business can become a social business, which is nice to see. LinkSkin is a small business that’s trying to be competitive. Tipton Eyeworks is the most clever company because they’ve found a way to turn a desire to solve a social problem into a business advantage. Vinyl records are cheap, easy to come by, and don’t have much value to most people. Tipton has turned those records into a product that people would want to buy and is helping our environment. That’s what social business is all about.

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