opti 2022: Spotlight on sustainability – When cotton becomes a pair of spectacles

Spring is approaching and with it the special edition of opti. Finally, the international trade show for optics and design can take place again, without access restrictions, without a limit on the number of visitors, and without an obligation to wear a mask. When the optical industry meets in Munich from 13 to 15 May 2022, sustainability will be one of the key topics.

The focus is on sustainability at opti 2022. After the break due to the pandemic, specialist visitors will have three days to discover innovations in optics live once again, including a wide variety of green trends. “opti 2022 is a great opportunity for all of us not only to talk about sustainability, but also to show what we have achieved in that direction,” explained Andrea Morosi, CEO of Danor S.r.l. The Italian manufacturer of vegan sunglasses is one of the opti exhibitors who have committed themselves to sustainability out of conviction.

Natural materials, recycled materials and 3D printing

Spectacle frames made of natural materials, such as buffalo horn or wood, are the classics in terms of sustainability. Today, they are complemented by a wide variety of new products based on modern production processes, which incorporate the concept of recycling and include new approaches to materials.

“The opti in May 2022 is also an important event for us, to share precisely this idea with the industry. In addition, the trade show provides an excellent opportunity to present another sustainable milestone of NEUBAU – a unique collection with an exciting combination of sustainable acetate and titanium,” said Daniel Liptor of NEUBAU EYEWEAR. Since its foundation in 2016, the premium label has offered environmental awareness “made in Austria”.

Acetate glasses are now among the favourites of trendy and fashion-oriented manufacturers. Chemical processes and further processing produce so-called acetate sheets from cotton, which are used in the production of glasses. With Acetate Renew, all synthetic material waste that remains after production becomes the raw material for more sustainable cellulose acetate plates − consisting of 60 percent bio-based and 40 percent certified recycled raw material – through a special recovery process. This means less waste, and compared to conventional acetate, also 25 to 50 percent less emissions.

The topic of sustainability is also part of the 3D printing process. Here, bio-based materials are now being used, for example a polymer obtained from GMO-free castor oil. It not only comes from a renewable source of raw materials, but also enables spectacle frames to actually be produced using a zero waste method.

Another production process used in the field of optics is injection moulding. Recycled material is also used here. This can be frames made from more than 99 percent recycled plastics such as PET plastic bottles, or homogeneous sorted plastic waste that has been fished out of the ocean.

Holistic approaches in industry

Partly due to political pressure, but increasingly also due to voluntary commitment by businesses, the optics industry is progressively integrating sustainability into its corporate strategies. Sustainability is much more – not ONLY green, knows managing director Oliver Bartsch of the glasses cleaning specialist GLASKLAR. Industrial processes are changing, topics such as energy-efficient production, a low CO2 footprint, shorter delivery routes, minimising packaging materials or reducing waste during production are coming to the fore.

With industrial production, the focus is on significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and using electricity from renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric power. It is also becoming more common to invest in own photovoltaic systems. In production facilities for metal frames and spectacle components, innovations such as environmentally friendly electroplating technology reduce the annual water and energy consumption. Speaking of water: with the help of filtration systems and closed water circuits with reprocessing units, glass manufacturers reduce their water consumption to a minimum. In addition, waste products and abrasion residues that are produced when grinding the spectacle lenses are recycled.

However, not all waste and emissions can be avoided. But many in the industry are now compensating for their CO2 footprint by investing in climate protection. Stefan Kroll, managing director of Optima Pharmazeutische GmbH near Munich, emphasised: “All emissions arising from the production of our Lipo Nit eyecare range and our business activities, including materials, energy consumption, transport, etc., are offset by emission certificates. The internationally recognised climate protection projects behind these certificates not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but at the same time also provide development aid for local people.” Thus, sustainability is not just limited to activities such as planting trees. Likewise, a sustainable corporate strategy also involves creating a work culture that is social and inclusive.

Using sustainability to appeal to customers

“Do good and talk about it” also opens up new potential for image enhancement and customer appeal. Even smaller traditional optician businesses have recognised this, and are thereby positioning themselves successfully against competitors such as chain stores and online retailers. By the way, sustainability is a nice topic to supplement the storytelling of the optician around their goods and services. “Apart from the eyes of our customers, we also have an eye on the environment. We prefer recommending durable, sustainable and regional products, which we distinguish with a special price label and QR code for more information. Since 2018, we have run our company on a climate-neutral basis; since 2020, we have asked our main suppliers about their supply chains, materials, pollutants and allergens, energy consumption and sources, quality standards and working conditions,” said Bernd Angst, owner of Optik Angst in Deisslingen, Baden-Württemberg, about his commitment.

Incidentally, two editions of the opti FORUM XT webinar series have also shown that climate protection can be a revenue-boosting feature, through a number of best-practice examples. Those who have missed the previous editions of the knowledge transfer series can catch up using the archive at https://www.opti.de/opti-forum-xt/. Transparency with regard to recycling of raw materials, energy consumption, but also with regard to supply chains and their sustainable working and production conditions: chambers of craft trades and chambers of commerce and industry are now also pursuing this trend with corresponding advisory services for interested businesses in the trades.

Exhibitors and offers at a glance

At the opti 2022, when the industry finally meets again in person, a whole range of exhibitors, from big players right through to small start-ups, are placing sustainability at the centre of their offer. There is an up-to-date list of these companies and all other exhibitors that will present themselves to the specialist public from 13 to 15 May in Munich, and are well worth a visit, at www.opti.de/ausstellerverzeichnis/en.

Safety and well-being in the foreground

opti 2022 will take place subject to the coronavirus rules applicable during the event, presumably without access restrictions, without vaccination and testing rules, and without a limit on the number of visitors. The legal obligation to wear a mask has also been lifted, but there is a mask requirement for basic protection. Measures including generous planning, increased, regular air exchange and intensive cleaning at short intervals will also ensure a feeling of safety and well-being for all participants at the spring opti. Admission to the trade show is contactless, and tickets are available exclusively online: www.opti.de/tickets/. Further information is available at opti.de/en.

Note: Words not by MGAM, this post is part of a collaboration with Opti 2022