Student trawls £50k to make spectacle frames from recycled fishing nets
Never mind Specsavers! Planet saver is the target sobriquet for a young entrepreneur from the University of East Anglia in Norwich set to launch a range of spectacle frames made from recycled fishing nets.
George Bailey’s vision is to remove plastics harming marine life and human health from oceans around the globe. He could net a small fortune in the process!
His brainwave is branded Coral Eyewear, a range of frames made from ghost fishing nets that have been abandoned at sea and would have otherwise remained in the marine ecosystem for hundreds of years.
The 19 year-old has secured £50,000 from the university to launch what is thought to be the first-of-its-kind range of glasses and sunglasses frames early next year.
Bailey has partnered with a company which already source fishing nets and other plastics to produce fabrics for brands such as Adidas and Stella McCartney.
With the initial launch in January 2020 there will be six optical frames and a range of sunglasses.
The designs are described as timeless styles to ensure that the products aren’t ‘fast fashion’ items, which add to the problem Bailey is trying to solve.
Bailey has already been approached by a number of large retailers who want to stock the product in their stores as well as independent opticians and individual consumers.
It is estimated that 34 million people in the UK have an eyewear prescription and nine million eyewear frames are produced in the UK each year.
The global industry is growing at two per cent due to lifestyle changes, ageing populations and increased screen time. And with people more conscious about the impact of the products they buy, Bailey hopes his eco-friendly product can make a difference.
He said: “I’ve been inspired by the big characters in climate change like David Attenborough and it all helps to build awareness around plastic waste. But what I’d like to come across, is that everyone can make a difference; you don’t have to be a big TV personality. By just making a few small changes like your choice of glasses you can make positive impact.”
It is estimated that 640,000 tonnes of ghost fishing nets, mostly made from nylon, have been dumped at sea which result in the accidental capture and killing of dolphins, turtles and other marine animals.
World Animal Protection estimates that one abandoned net entangles and harms 30-40 marine animals each year. But it’s not just their effects on marine animals. The nets break down over time into tiny fragments, otherwise known as micro plastics.
Dr Andrew Mayes, an expert in micro plastics from UEA’s School of Chemistry, said: “We are only just beginning to understand the levels and distributions of microplastics and their potential to stress organisms and harm ecosystems.
“Any initiative that takes plastic waste out of the ocean is good for the environment so I hope this business venture proves to be a great success.”
The Coral Eyewear frames are made by melting the plastics and using an injection mould to create the frames. The work is done in a family-run factory in Italy and will be shipped to the UK using sustainable transportation.
“Most people tend to change their frames once a year and it is hoped that the quality of these frames will mean this happens less often,” says Bailey.
“However if people do need to change the lenses or would like a different style, colour or finish, they can send the frames back to us to recycle.”