We’ve all see the photos of how marine life is affected by the continents of floating plastic in the ocean. Turtles strangle themselves, fish swallow oodles of indigestible material, and reefs die under the pressure. Well, one awesome group of people is doing something about it.
Off the coast of Catalonia, small fishing boats putter out into the ocean. In a few hours, they bring back netfuls of plastic waste alongside their usual haul of seafood. Thanks to an agreement with Catalonian port authorities, the Barcelona-based company Sea2see then takes that plastic and uses it as raw material to make recycled designer sunglasses.
For each pair of glasses sold, about 22 pounds of waste are collected from the ocean. What can be used for glasses is separated, and then the rest is sold to other companies to be turned into other useful things, like nylon thread. According to the company, over 90% of what the fishermen collect can be recycled. So far, this small effort spanning 22 ports is changing the world.
“Fishermen have had a bad reputation for contributing to ocean pollution by discarding their nets, so they are really proud to be a part of what we are doing,” company co-founder Francois Van den Abeele says, “The aim is that everything that goes out to sea comes back to shore, which has not always happened before.”
Abeele has not always been in the eyeware industry. Originally, he was a filmmaker. But he had a dream to create a brand that would have a social impact. After some thinking, he settled on eyewear. Why?
“Eyewear is a €100bn-plus industry with big profit margins. The whole product is made of plastic, which can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, and yet almost nothing is being done about sustainability.” Abeele explained in an interview, “Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil and gas, but a lot of fashion companies’ sustainability efforts are just greenwash.”
A Growing Movement
Sea2see glasses are now on sale in Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The Belgian deputy prime minister even wore a pair on stage at a UN conference, urging delegates to support sustainable companies like Sea2see.
Van den Abeele hopes to sell 25,000 pieces this year, expand the company’s waste collection efforts beyond Spain, and hopes to offer a wider range of products. So far, he’s been talking to authorities in Senegal about helping local fishermen there collect plastic waste. A percentage of all sales will go back to the local community, and the fishermen will get free pairs of glasses.
It’s business models like this that are truly going to have an impact on our future.
To learn more about what you can do to keep plastic out of the ocean, watch a video below: