Sustainability and environmentalism are now key issues in purchasing decisions by consumers.
From the plastic bag ban in supermarkets, to Keepcups for coffee, and even Nike’s sneaker made from rubbish found in the office, the trend has ramped up with a ferocious speed.
One startup which has seen success in addressing the issue is eyewear retailer, Dresden Optics which takes plastic waste from Australian beaches and repurposes it into affordable glasses frames.
Founded in 2014 by GoGet co-founder Bruce Jefferys and Sensorium Health’s Jason McDermott, the startup has gone on to roll out eight stores across Australia and recently launched in Canada.
Dresden Optics plans to open another eight stores this year.
In June, the business raised $4 million from global investment bank Investec’s local emerging companies fund to support the firm’s overseas expansion and automation of its manufacturing process.
The investment adds to the initial $4.8 million in capital Jefferys provided to get the business off the ground, and a $2.7 million grant from the Australian government’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund.
But what makes the spectacle startup different is that there are no women’s, men’s or kid’s frames, rather modular parts in four sizes, a numerous colours that can be customised based on individual needs.
Once the customer has chosen their design, the glasses are then measured and cut with their prescription in-store. No waiting times.
The simplified offering means the business can keep costs down and provide consumers with a set prescription glasses for a ultra competitive price of $49.
But what will win over most consumers is the ethics behind the business: a two-pronged approach of providing affordable prescription glasses to anyone, and making an impact on the environment with recycled materials.
According to Dresden, by 2050 there’ll be over five billion people worldwide who are unable to see clearly without glasses.
Instead of making them a fashion accessory, the company want to make them more accessible by creating “a new experience for people who wear glasses” by providing flexibility, functionality and convenience.
So where does the recycled beach waste come into it?
The company has used everything from milk bottle lids and plastic keys from a discarded keyboard to fill their moulds to make the frames.
And they don’t care if their are slight impurities in the product.
“We’ve got 16 regular colours in our range,” they say. “But between every run, we’re looking forward to some happy accidents.
“The industry standard is to purge before ingredients go in for the next batch, which means kilos of waste at every change. That’s not Dresden. Those in-between colours become specials in an ever-changing and unpredictable ‘blackboard’ menu.”
And Jefferys told Business Insider the company is all about “trying things quickly”.
“Our first go at ocean plastics was as simple as going down to a local beach and collecting a bunch of different plastic marine debris,” he said.
“We cleaned and granulated the variety of plastics we’d found and injected them into our glasses mould. This yielded some beautiful frames but we weren’t thrilled with the durability.
“Next, we were approached by an aboriginal National Parks ranger in Arnhem Land in the far north of Australia. He asked us if we’d like to try making frames from the numerous discarded fishing nets which regularly wash up on their community’s beaches. We found that the nylon the nets are made of is incredibly flexible and durable – perfect for our frames. We ran through the same process of cleaning, cutting up and testing. The colours are fantastic! We’re currently working out how to pelletise the nets so we can mould them on a larger scale.”
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