Environment

Ocean Cleanup debuts its first sunglasses made from plastic waste

Ocean Cleanup debuts its first...
The Ocean Cleanup sunglasses are priced at US$199 apiece
The Ocean Cleanup sunglasses are priced at US$199 apiece
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The Ocean Cleanup sunglasses are priced at US$199 apiece
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The Ocean Cleanup sunglasses are priced at US$199 apiece
The Ocean Cleanup team at work retrieving plastic from the water
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The Ocean Cleanup team at work retrieving plastic from the water
The Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat with the team's recycled plastic
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The Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat with the team's recycled plastic
The Ocean Cleanup's new sunglasses also come in a case made from recycled components of the first trash-catching system, and a pouch made from recycled PET bottles
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The Ocean Cleanup's new sunglasses also come in a case made from recycled components of the first trash-catching system, and a pouch made from recycled PET bottles
View gallery - 4 images

As part of its mission to tackle plastic pollution in the marine environment, The Ocean Cleanup project plans to sell goods made from the waste it recovers to fund its ongoing operations, and has just unveiled its very first product. Each pair of Ocean Cleanup sunglasses are made with plastics hauled in from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and are designed to be easily recycled themselves once they reach the end of their life.

After years of development and testing, the Ocean Cleanup Project finally set sail for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch towards the end of 2018, looking to use its giant floating booms to passively gather plastic waste in the area. Its first batch was hauled back to shore at the end of 2019, with the team then calling an end to a successful first mission.

The Ocean Cleanup team at work retrieving plastic from the water
The Ocean Cleanup team at work retrieving plastic from the water

The waste it collected throughout that mission has now been sorted, washed and compounded into certified high-quality plastic, which was used to build sunglass frames. These are paired with polarized lenses and stainless steel hinges, with the parts designed to be easily disassembled and recycled again at the end of their life. The glasses also come with a case made from recycled components of the first trash-catching system, and a pouch made from recycled PET bottles.

The Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat with the team's recycled plastic
The Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat with the team's recycled plastic

Using proceeds from the sales of these sunglasses, The Ocean Cleanup plans to fund its forthcoming missions to clean plastic waste from the marine environment. The group estimates that each pair sold will enable it to clean up an area spanning 24 football fields from the garbage patch, and if it sells every pair made from this first batch of recovered plastic, it will be able to clean 500,000 football fields worth of plastic.

That sure does sound impressive but somewhere between 5 and 12 million metric tons of plastic flow into the ocean each year, with that rate expected to triple in the next two decades, which equates to a whole lot of sunglasses. The Ocean Cleanup team will of course be very aware of this, but as a manifestation of its efforts so far and an example of a “circular” economy for plastics, its new eco-friendly eyewear isn't a bad place to start.

The glasses are priced at US$199 apiece.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup

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6 comments
Nelson Hyde Chick
It can't cost that much to manufacture sunglasses, so wouldn't they sell more of them if they were priced more reasonable, and thus use more of the discarded plastic?
aksdad
If they parked their cleanup ships off the coast of China and any poor Third World country they can pick up gobs of waste for cheap. Those countries have almost no waste management laws and infrastructure and generate the vast majority of waste in the oceans, something like 95 to 99 percent. Western nations have forbidden dumping at sea for many decades and prevent solid waste from entering waterways.

Interesting that pictures of non-microscopic waste in the open ocean always feature fishing nets and floating debris accidentally washed off ships. If you could get those poor countries to be wealthy enough to develop pollution control laws and proper waste management, ocean plastic would rapidly disappear. But ban plastic straws and plastic bags if it makes you feel virtuous even though it does nothing to reduce plastic in the ocean.
mikewax
$199, clearly they're not planning on making them commercially viable. But isn't that the point?
Aross
And what happens at the end of life of the new products made from the recovered plastics?
christopher
You'd have to be brave to risk wearing those things! Fukishima has been spewing out radioactive debris for a decade now - last thing you want is plastic peppered with those particles right on your face.
ljaques
i applaud The Ocean Cleanup for their attempts to remove the world's ocean plastic pollution, but the price of these glasses is something only a rich person would/could afford. Few people will spend that kind of money on brownie points.