More people than ever are discussing the health of our planet and what we can all do to sustain it. In a world where the fashion industry casts a long dark shadow as the second most polluting industry on earth, many fashion houses are adopting more sustainable manufacturing practices including relooking raw materials and adopting compostable, biodegradable packaging.
Belgian startup w.r.yuma – founded in 2015 by Sebastiaan de Neubourg and named for Yuma, AZ – is looking to make a change and a difference. “The future is circular,” de Neubourg, told SnapMunk. “Waste is only waste when wasted. The future of fashion is circular and 3-D printed.”
“Plastic is total design failure, once produced it never dies,” de Neubourg continued. “We are on a mission to reduce plastic waste by 3-D printing quality sunglasses. We need a radically new way of thinking about the future of waste. We are yuma, the future of waste.”
Not a Fashion Insider
De Neubourg is not a fashion insider and would like to keep it that way. By looking at sunglasses from an engineering perspective he saw a product that could simply be built better – and by using closed loop/circular economy thinking, be beneficial to fashion conscious consumers as well as the planet.
“W.r.yuma is built on the conviction that sustainable fashion should at least be equal in quality and certainly not more expensive than conventional fashion,” de Neubourg emphasized. “We wanted to start a conversation about the ‘circular economy’, which is focused on local manufacturing and recycling. It’s a way for everyone to make a very small contribution to reducing the vast amounts of plastic that is filling the world’s oceans.”
3-D Printed Eyewear Increasing
3-D printed glasses are becoming more prevalent in the eyewear industry. Startups like the Dutch company Roger Bacon Eyewear, U.S. based SpeX and the German scope for design are all offering consumers customizable 3-D printed frames. Store owners are also profiting from this approach with several companies offering digital fitting booths where the frames are only printed after selection, thereby keeping costs down.
W.r.yuma is a pioneer in terms of using recycled plastic in what the company describes as a zero waste process which combines the high tech of 3-D printing with the high touch of polishing and hand assembly.
The w.r.yuma process begins with the production of filament for 3-D printing. “Our supplier grinds down dashboards and transforms them into filament, though we are also using recycled PET bottles, refrigerators, bamboo, and wood. We are also exploring biomaterial options, such as algae,” said de Neubourg.
The addition of bamboo or other wood fibers gives a wood-like effect to the frames. Premium cr39 Mazzucchelli lenses are then cut and the hinges fitted with Teflon-coated screws to ensure sturdy frames.
Circular Economy Design
In contrast to a linear economy which is a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production, a circular economy is an economy that promotes greater resource productivity and is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out while minimizing negative impacts.
In line with circular economy thinking, w.r. yuma products are designed for disassembly so they can be easily taken apart for recycling. Future plans include glasses made from algae, recycled fishing nets, and coffee or beer packaging. The idea is that consumers to be able to return their old w.r.yuma sunglasses so that the company can recycle, design and make a new pair.
“You will get to wear the latest style and receive exclusive discounts,” said de Neubourg. “The longer you hold on to your current pair, the higher the discount. We need a bit more time to get the logistics sorted out, so stay tuned for when we launch this service.”
Production will begin in 2017, with the startup currently focusing on building their social media assets ahead of a crowdfunding campaign. “We don’t want to be just a manufacturer; we prefer to be a community, in which clients are active participants,” de Neubourg said. “To get people interested, we are therefore working with celebrities and are planning a fantastic marketing campaign with the Dutch The Better Future Factory. Together, we will be trawling festivals and 3-D printing promotional glasses from waste and empty cups. The quality of these festival edition sunglasses won’t be fantastic, but it will definitely send a message.”
“Be the first to wear our glasses and join our mission towards closed loop sunglasses. Together we can be the first to bring circular economy design to the eyewear industry,” de Neubourg concluded.
Gail is a Chicago-based food scientist who writes for leading US and European food and technology publications. A devotee of all things shiny, electronic and buzzing, with a passion for building on-line communities and conservation, she is an entrepreneur and founder of a sustainability and social media startup who moonlights on weekends as DJ Moongirl on Moonalice Radio. Clients range from rock bands and media companies to high-tech startups.
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