Three billion units every year – that is the volume of the market for glasses. Interest in the environmental aspects of the trade is rising, and the pioneering company EoE Glasses is launching a new eco collection. The frames are both recyclable and biodegradable.

Without the help of glasses or contact lenses, many people would be forced to live in a blurry and undistinctive world. Most middle-aged people need reading-glasses, and almost everyone uses sunglasses to protect their eyes from UV light. Glasses have a long history, beginning in the late thirteenth century when someone got the idea to join two lenses together. The result was a simple instrument to see things up close. The first lenses were convex; shortsighted people had to wait a couple of centuries longer before glasses with concave lenses became a reality.

”As pioneers, we are launching an eco collection of glasses which we call In Flore Esse”, says Emilia Lindmark, CEO of EoE Glasses. ”Of course, the frames are good-looking – but they are also completely recyclable and biodegradable”.

A globally expanding industry

The global market for glasses has a volume of close to three billion sold units annually, and it is expected to keep growing. The number of people that are in need of some kind of visual aid is increasing, and the demand for glasses, lenses and sunglasses is rising steadily. Glasses and sunglasses are the most important segments, but approximately one third of the products are contact lenses. One of the factors which affect the market development is a growing awareness of the importance to check ones eyesight regularly. Fashion, lifestyle and identity factors are becoming more important as well.

eoe1Spectacle frames can be made of many materials, such as plastic, nylon and metal. The frames need to fulfill certain functional requirements, and many people want frames that are light, robust and comfortable. The way they look is also important; both a developing vision defect and changing fashion can motivate a change of eyewear – so glasses are relatively costly consumables.

Environmental aspects becoming important

The manufacturing of glasses impact the environment, and so does the discarded glasses. In later years, the industry has begun to introduce a life cycle perspektive. The company Luxottica, for example, offers detailed information on the environmental impact of certain products in a document called EPD (Environmental Product Declaration). The EPD is independently verified and registered, and provides a transparent and comparable life cycle assessment.

The environmental impact can be reduced by the choice of materials. Frames made of composites of plastics and bio-based materials maintain the properties of plastic frames (light, flexible, etc.), but the incorporation of natural materials reduce the carbon footprint. Recycled materials offer similar benefits, and there are also eyeglass frames made entirely of natural materials such as wood.

”It is important to us to make a contribution to sustainable development. The frames in our eco collection are designed in northern Sweden and hand made in the Italian Alps. They are recyclable and biodegradable”, Emilia Lindmark says.

In Flore Esse

”We are using cellulose acetate for the frames. It is a thermoplastic, prepared from wood pulp. To make the frames more environment friendly, no phthalate plasticizers are added; we are achieving an equally strong and flexible plastic by prolonging the tempering process instead”, Emilia says.

”The material is certified according to ISO 14855, an international standard which specifies the biodegradability of plastics. The frames are rigorously tested, and has been approved by Organic Waste Systems, OWS. OWS is one of the world’s leading institutes for eco product testing. Their test results show that the material is fully biodegradable according to the European EN 13432 standard”.

”The eco collection is a product of the company’s interest in social entrepreneurship. It is inspired by the flora of northern Sweden, and the individual frames are named after plants: tansy, saw-wort, chickweed wintergreen – flowers we hope will remain for many generations to come”, says Emilia Lindmark.

The article was published in September 2016.