Pay a visit to any local fishing town and you will find plenty of discarded fishing nets that are long past their useful life. What happens to those nets? A lot of them are simply tossed away and forgotten about. But some are now being recycled and turned into things like skateboards and frisbee discs. Some are even being used to make sunglasses.
A fishing net will not offer much eye protection in and of itself. In its natural state, its usefulness as eyewear is less than negligible. But grind those nets into pellets that can be fed into an injection mold machine and you have something. What used to be maritime waste can very easily become a pair of designer shades – or anything else made from plastic, for that matter.
Sunglasses made from recycled fishing nets are by no means dominating the modern market. But there are a small handful of companies making a go of it. Their goal is as much about reducing waste and saving the oceans as it is making money. And yes, the two goals are compatible.
Sunglasses and Recycled Plastics
At Olympic Eyewear in Salt Lake City, Utah, loads of plastic frames arrive from manufacturers on a regular basis. The frames are not remarkably different from those used by the biggest names in fashion eyewear. Indeed, plastic is plastic. But there is a growing trend among smaller eyewear designers to use recycled plastics.
Plastic is a long-lasting, durable material with a seemingly limitless number of applications. One of the challenges of plastic is that it decomposes very slowly, if at all. That is why there is such a push to recycle as much plastic as possible. Rather than throwing it into a landfill where it takes up needless space and contaminates the environment, recycling gives us an opportunity to put discarded plastics back into play.
The fishing nets being transformed into sunglasses are a great example. One California company new to the sunglasses market in 2013, has already collected approximately 220,000 pounds of discarded fishing nets from Chile. The nets are thoroughly washed before being shredded into usable pellets.
Recycled Plastics Are Just as Good
Would you even stop to wonder whether your sunglasses were made with recycled fishing nets if no one told you as much? Probably not. The fact is that recycled plastics are every bit as good as their virgin counterparts. As long as recyclers utilize the right processes and take care about what they’re doing, a pair of sunglasses made from recycled plastic will be just as durable and attractive. The average consumer will not even know the difference.
The only difference between recycled and virgin plastic is cost. Recycled plastics may cost a little more depending on the source. But even then, cost is not prohibitive to making good sunglasses. When you consider that some of the most expensive fashion brands cost upwards of $350-$500 per pair, a smaller designer could afford to use recycled plastics and still charge less than the big names.
Next time you’re thinking about buying a new pair of sunglasses, you might want to consider brand above and beyond just the names you recognize. Buying from a brand that demonstrates some measure of social consciousness may be right up your alley. Then again, perhaps not. It’s okay either way. There are enough different brands out there to satisfy every customer.
In the meantime, there are plenty of old fishing nets to be had. Maybe more of them will be turned into designer sunglasses at some point down the road.