Glasses and Our Environment

The implications of glasses on the environment has always been on my mind. If you are not aware, in the UK we have had a very sensational summer so far. As in the temperature has been over 25c to even over 30c constantly, and at one point it was over 40c. Absolutely crazy hot temperatures for the UK.  I have never seen grass here so yellow and dry, it has got that real desert vibe.

This post is sparked by my visit to the natural history museum when I took my two daughters there. They had an entire exhibition on our planet and the environmental challenges we are facing. One part of the expo which really caught my attention was the facts on the fashion sector and how damaging it is to our planet. This got me thinking about our industry, the optical industry.

The Cost of Fashion from The Natural History Museum

The Cost of Fashion from The Natural History Museum

Is Acetate Planet Friendly?

Acetate is one of the most popular choices of plastic to use for glasses and yes it is cotton based BUT cotton uses so much water to grow. Then we need to think about what chemicals are needed to turn the cotton based fibres to plastic blocks to cut the glasses from. What happens to the chemicals? How are they disposed of? Acetate frames are cut from a big block acetate and so much wastage is involved with the process so how can this be reduced? If it cannot be reduced then how are they disposed of? You see what I mean, so many unanswered questions because even I never get given the exact answers because no one wants to talk about it in great length.

Apart from acetate, what other environmental implications may the optical industry have on our planet? Not everyone may be aware of this but every new frame comes with a plastic dummy lenses and when the lens glazing house put your prescription lenses in, the dummy lenses usually go straight in the bin. Now days, more companies are using bio-degradable dummy lenses which is great. However, not enough companies are doing this, so the wastage is still high.

Is there a Solution?

These few things I have mentioned in this post, I think are just scratching the surface of how the optical industry impacts the earth. Is there a real solution to this problem? I think to start with, companies should slow down the production of frames, educate consumers that it is about buying a quality frame and not a cheap frame. The very disposable attitude that is fuelled by the “buy one get one free” promotions doesn’t help. If you need glasses, there are brands out there that are eco conscious, both in what they do and how they produce their frames. Or you can pick alternative materials such as metal and rimless frames which might be worth considering too because there is no frame to them. Therefore, less materials used so less wastage and just less of everything overall.

What do you think a potential solution could be?